Alternative Therapies for the Head Injury Survivor

Traumatic Brain Injury Post Care

Traumatic Brain Injury, TBI, as described here: Any injury to the brain. The injury could be caused by an accident, assault, stroke, cardiovascular incident, etc.

This was written to assist the individual survivor, advocate or caregiver.

Obligatory disclaimer: The following is supplied for your information only, read it, research it and become knowledgeable. I am not a medical doctor I do not practice medicine, cannot and do not prescribe, I recommend that you decide, ask questions (the decision must be yours) and that you become knowledgeable.

What everyone with a TBI or advocating for the individual, must know and understand.

First, some basics, the medical crisis part of the TBI is over.

You, your loved one, relative or friend is now medically stable and can be discharged from the hospital. Ideally this means that the individual with the TBI is healthy enough to be released from the hospital and is not in danger of dying and this may be true. However, what possibly is taking place, is that the insurance benefits have run-out and the financial support to keep them in a hospital setting is no longer there. In any event the patient has been released, and if they are fortunate, will have someone that is able to help them so that they do not need to be discharged to a skilled care facility (nursing home). There are rehabilitation facilities, where a survivor can go to receive assistance from trained Occupational, Physical and Speech therapists, counselor, nurse, medical doctor (usually available part time), recreation specialist, job placement specialist and alternative therapies specialist.
These comprehensive rehabilitation facilities or programs also require the survivor to have some type of financial support. It is rare that an individual can pay for these places using their own resources. Home therapy is available, which also must be paid for.

The reality of today dictates that at some time, rehabilitated or not, the individual that has suffered the TBI is released into their life, with or without assistance to: work, care for themselves, perform activities of daily living (eating, cooking, brushing their teeth, bathing, etc.), be mobile, communicate, learn, go to school, be with friends, and much more.
Participate in as [normal] a life as possible.

What Now?

Safety is a concern for everyone and a major concern for TBI. Medical stability is the first concern and the degree of medical stability will determine how much and what physical activity can be tolerated, what food they can eat, how long they can be left alone, how much they can do for themselves and much more. The degree of medical stability should be determined by the doctor, nurse, OT, PT, and Speech therapists. They can be specific and can give you explicit guidelines concerning what can be tolerated and what should not be tolerated. Get all of the specific information you can in writing. Obtain copies of rehabilitation notes, hospital discharge summary and start studying to make yourself as knowledgeable as possible, about what has happen to you or the person you are taking care of, what may be happening, what can happen, what options are available. Research the prescribed medications that have been taken and are being taken, including possible side effects and interactions with other drugs or medications.

Becoming independent and as functional as possible.

An individual with a TBI must be encouraged to do as much as possible for themselves as soon as possible.
Understand that in most hospital settings a patient cannot and does not care for themselves. Outside of the hospital the TBI individual is not a patient and must re-learn to care for themselves, (as much for themselves as possible), and in some cases they will need to do more for themselves than before their TBI incident. Learning to be functionally independent is important in the recovery process. Being too much of a mother, doing more than is necessary for them is not helping. The least and most that you can do for an individual recovering and rehabilitating from a TBI is to show them that you care, create a safe environment, help them to learn and help them to do when necessary.

In my years as Behavior Specialist, Rehabilitation Services Coordinator and Alternative Therapies Specialist, I have found the following to be true of most TBI:

  • Most people with TBI can lead functional and rewarding lives of they receive functional assistance.
  • Most of the brain healing takes place within the first 18 months of a head injury; however, I have worked with individuals that have continued to improve for five years and more.
  • Options and choices are very important (as they are with everyone). Guided choices and options work well when convincing and communicating.
  • Most dysfunctional behaviors can be modified with the use of behavior techniques. I have written many behavior programs that have helped individuals to be functional at home, school and work. Behaviors are positive and may make sense only to the person doing them.
  • Most individuals heal the best (cognitively) when they are on the fewest medications.
  • Alternative therapies work, if used properly.
  • Advocates are important, to assure that an individual receives functional rehabilitation. Non-professional, intelligent, informed advocates and care givers can be effective, in helping TBI individuals to effectively and functionally re-enter their lives (get better).
  • Proper, specified nutrition is important to facilitate healing.
  • Brain and body chemistry both change after a TBI. This is caused by physical damage, chemicals (drugs) and the plasma amino acid abnormalities that exist after the TBI.
  • TBIs cause life changes and with effective help life gets better!
I will post a paper written by me on alternative and complimentary therapies for TBI that will speed the healing process and improve cognitive function and an introduction to behavior management. All of this is intended to get you started, make you more knowledgeable and put you more in control of your life. There is much more for you to learn about alternative therapies.

Alzheimer's and Mild Cognitive Impairment Information

  • Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) cause permanent life changes.
  • TBI damage to the brain can be so significant that the life changes are profound.
  • Alternative therapies can and do facilitate healing.
  • Alternative therapies are an important part of the treatment of TBI.
  • Alternative therapies are effective if used properly.
  • TBI recovery/rehabilitation is about brain and body chemistry, you can and will learn the basics.
An advocate is important, real knowledge is power and serves you well. Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) cause permanent life changes. It is important that individuals who have suffered a TBI have someone close to them that they can trust to assure they are receiving effective therapy for their injury. During the first days, weeks, months or years after suffering a TBI it is common for an individual to be confused, disoriented and not able to make functional decisions. Without knowledgeable, effective advocate support, the injured individual may not receive effective treatment.

Each year in the United States there are more than two million diagnosed TBI. If you are one of the unfortunate individuals, who has suffered a TBI you could experience deficiencies in: receptive and expressive language; anxiety management; walking and the use of upper extremities; learning; orientation to time and space; immediate, short- and long-term memory; safety measures and judgement. A person who has suffered a TBI might also experience: anger; frustration; seizures; changes in visual, hearing and kinesthetic senses; lack of awareness of deficits and more. It is rare for an individual who has suffered TBI to be able to return to their former life, as it existed prior to the incident.
  • Medical science has become proficient at saving lives. Medical science is not as good at maintaining quality of life.
A large percentage of TBIs can be prevented, because they are the result of dysfunctional life style choices related to cardiovascular disease. Strokes and other cardiovascular incidences that caused deficiencies of oxygen and nutrients to the brain result in more than 750,000 TBIs each year. Prevention is the best alternative treatment for cardiovascular-related TBIs.

Conventional health care chooses to treat TBIs the same way it treats other maladies-- with surgery and prescription drugs. A good neurosurgeon can save your life and repair some of the damage caused to the brain, which can help to lessen the severity of the post TBI-symptoms. Conventional trauma treatment modalities work well for most injuries, including TBI. The second of the treatment modalities, prescription drugs, can be much less effective.

Health care professionals that are experienced, educated and trained in the effective treatment of TBIs are not readily available. Facilities that specialize in the treatment of TBIs are also rare. Effective treatment can be found in supportive environments that offer a wide range of rehabilitation modalities: physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and cognitive retraining, alternative health and rehabilitation practices, counseling, community re-entry assistance, and a nurse and medical doctor experienced in traumatic brain injury rehabilitation; this is the therapeutic milieu. The therapeutic milieu places individuals who have suffered a TBI and have any of the wide variety of expressed symptoms and deficits, in a program that allows them to participate in rehabilitation with individuals who have some idea of what they are experiencing. If you have a friend, loved one, family member or are close to an individual that has sustained a TBI, help them find a doctor and therapy program, both of which have a successful history in treating TBIs. There is evidence that individuals with TBI can be effectively rehabilitated in a non clinical setting of they have an effective advocate.
  • Many prescription medications do not help the brain to heal or achieve "normal" functioning.
Hundreds of medications are available that can be prescribed in the treatment of a TBI. There are effective medications for the treatment of most individuals with seizures and if prescribed properly, there are medications that can assist an individual who is suffering anxiety management difficulties. I have not seen a successful conventional prescription medication for the treatment of memory, orientation or learning deficiencies. Many drugs used in the treatment of TBIs tend to dull or decrease cognitive function, inhibit learning, decrease and inhibit cognitive and physical energy and do not help the injured brain to heal. The fewer prescription medications used by an individual while recovering and rehabilitating from a TBI, the better. I have had clients that were being prescribed as many as 23 separate drugs. One recent client was being prescribed and taking eight separate medications to treat his high blood pressure. It is easy to understand why this individual had little energy and a non-expressive affect.
  • The more drugs an individual is taking the slower and less efficient and complete, will be their cognitive recovery.

Brain/Body Chemistry

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has published many articles that tell of the negative effect that drugs and chemicals have on intelligence and potential learning ability. It is common for the drugs prescribed in the treatment of TBI to have many of the same basic chemical properties as cocaine, heroin, amphetamines or barbiturates. One major emphasis in the treatment of individuals with TBI is to improve their cognitive or mental functions. Taking drugs that can negatively affect cognitive function, when the desired effect is the improvement of that function, does not make a great deal of sense.

Being healthy and receiving proper nutrition support are important in the recovery and rehabilitation from any injury, including a TBI. The proper utilization of alternative health practices can drastically reduce the probability of suffering a stroke and cardiovascular-related TBI. If you have the misfortune of experiencing a stroke, you will be truly fortunate, if someone close to you has read Racketeering in Medicine by James P. Carter, MD. This book tells of alternative therapies that are successful in the treatment of strokes. If you use the methods described in Carter's book, you can suffer fewer and less severe post-traumatic stroke difficulties. A TBI changes the way your brain and body produces important chemicals.

Many prescribed diets to treat cardiovascular disease are in the form of salt, fat, calorie and sugar/carbohydrate restriction. In the nine years that I have worked in TBI therapy, I have never seen a prescription for the use of nutrients that can help heal the brain and assist the individual in improving memory, orientation or learning. If cardiovascular disease is at the base of the TBI, the resulting prescribed diet can be ineffective in the actual healing of the cardiovascular system.

  • Hyper baric oxygen is an effective alternative tool in the treatment of a TBI.
If a stroke or clogging of a blood vessel in the brain is the cause of a TBI, treatments involving nutrients are more complex. It is common for stroke victims to be prescribed anticoagulant drugs (some times called blood thinners) to help prevent further blood vessel clogging. If these drugs have been prescribed, green foods must be avoided, because these foods can facilitate clotting. Green foods such as kelp, Chlorella, alfalfa and wheat grass are also effective chelators i.e., they have a cleansing effect on the cardiovascular system and help to prevent further cardiovascular incidents. Chelators help to rid the body of excess vascular deposits of calcium, metals and pollutants that can cause the formation of plaque and the subsequent build-up of blood vessel-clogging cholesterol. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the U.S. and the incidence of cardiovascular related TBI can be dramatically reduced through the use of these basis nutrients: B-complex vitamins, greens, vitamin E, Flax Seeds, EDTA (ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid) and exercise and not being fat. These basics will drastically reduce your chances of experiencing a cardiovascular disease related injury to your brain.
  • Nutrients can help the brain to heal and can facilitate the return of functional and possibly "normal" cognitive functions.
Individuals with a TBI experience peripheral plasma amino acid abnormalities.

If the TBI is the result of an accident, assault or brain infection, anti-coagulatants most likely will not be prescribed; in this case alternative therapies can be used more aggressively. One of the major activities that takes place within the brain is the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the "naturally produced" chemicals that cause memory to take place, a sense of well-being, learning, cognitive energy, motivation, a sense of pleasure, facilitate muscle use, coordination and more. Neurotransmitters are biosynthesized basically from nutrients: vitamins, minerals, amino acids and cholesterol. Drugs, chemicals, neurotoxins, infections and physical damage to the brain can and do inhibit the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters.

Rid the Body of Toxins

Ridding the body of toxins and establishing good blood circulation to the brain are both important first steps in the recovery form and healing of a TBI. A knowledgeable individual who works in a health food store can help you chose a good detoxification tea. Research starting each day with a serving of a good powdered green foods combination, mixed in a large glass of water. Drink this green drink in the morning and with dinner. Two of the important functions of these green drinks are: to oxygenate the blood and act too further detoxify.

Next, research increasing the availability of basic nutrients for healing; and a good start is an amino acid complex protein drink with vitamins and minerals, blended with skim milk or rice drink, real natural yogurt, lecithin granules, acidophilus and flax seed meal and taken with a good B complex, a multivitamin/mineral, coenzyme Q10, vitamin C complex with bioflavonoids and natural vitamin E.

Nutrients in liquid form may be the best in this instance, because liquids tend to be metabolized more efficiently and because they are being taken with fiber, quick absorption is important. Breaking large tablets into smaller pieces can also help nutrients and vitamins be metabolized and absorbed more quickly; taking these together can provide the basic nutrient balance necessary for brain healing and neurotransmitter production. If the TBI victim has just left the hospital or has just been released from an acute rehabilitation program, it is important to research taking this nutrient combination twice a day for 14 days; after that, once per day in the morning may suffice. Also, after two weeks you may be able to eliminate the acidophilus.

With the noon meal research taking one B complex, one serving of trace minerals, vitamin C complex with bioflavonoids, coenzyme Q10 and natural vitamin E. Again, these proteins, vitamins, minerals are being used as the basics for nutrient-based therapy.
  • Prescription drugs that improve memory and other cognitive functions may not exist.
If a deficit of memory is among the residual effects of the TBI, following are some herbs that can be of therapeutic value, research: Gotu Kola, Siberian Ginseng, Ginkgo biloba, Wild Oats, Fo-Ti, Peppermint Leaf and Rosemary leaf.

Amino acids are important in the production, availability and utilization of neurotransmitters and neuropeptides

Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter that performs several important functions in the brain, among which are helping memory to take place, facilitate muscle coordination, manufacture of cell membranes and metabolization of fats and cholesterol. An adequate supply of Acetylcholine is required for the impulses to take place between nerves, muscles and organs. Choline and Vitamin B5 are the major precursors for the natural biosynthesis of Acetylcholine. Logic dictates that these nutrients should be an important part of any TBI recovery program. Choline and B5 can be added to the nutrients taken with the noon meal. Acetylcholine is also available in supplement form and can be taken in place of Choline. Research both and decide which may be best for you.
  • Nutrients may be the only way to go in the actual treatment of memory and other cognitive function deficits.
Other nutrients that are important in the improvement of cognitive processes including learning and memory are, (research): DMAE (Dimethylaminoethanol), Phosphatidylserine, Vinpocetine, Pyroglutamate, Tryosine, Pyridoxine, Acetyl L-Carnitine, Galantamine. All of these nutrients are naturally occurring substances. Information on where to find and use them is readily available in bookstores and health food stores. Knowledge is the most important tool in helping an individual to recover from a TBI. Knowledgeable individuals in the successful treatment of TBI-related deficits can be found, but are rare. As an advocate, you will become knowledgeable and successful in the use of alternative therapies and the individual for whom you are advocating will be the better for it.

If anger management, anxiety, frustration or depression are some of the residual effects of a TBI, the following herbs are among those that will have therapeutic effect, (research): Kava Kava, St. Johnswort, Passionflower, Gotu Kola, Schezandra, Siberian Ginseng, Wild Oat Seed, Stinging Nettle, Calamun Root, Prickly Ash Bark. All of the herbs listed are natural and if used properly, can be very effective.

The following naturally occurring nutrients will also have a therapeutic effect in managing anger, anxiety, frustration, confusion or depression, (research): Pregnenolone, Tryosine, L-Phenylalanine, 5-HTP, Acetyl L-Carnitine.

Pharmaceutical drugs prescribed for the treatment of deficits in cognitive functioning may be ineffective. A drug prescribed to help an individual think more clearly and be less confused can be marginally effective and can also cause the individual to become more paranoid, anxious and agitated. Drugs to facilitate an improvement in cognitive reaction time can be amphetamines which can negatively affect intelligence. Drugs to treat seizures can cause an individual to experience a profound lack of cognitive energy and some anti-seizure drugs have been linked to cognitive functioning degeneration. Prescription drugs may not exist that can help to improve memory. Modern medicine does not have a good inventory of prescription pharmaceutical drugs that can effectively treat the symptoms caused by TBI. Doctors who will prescribe alternative therapies for TBI symptoms are very rare. Individuals who have suffered TBI need advocates that care for them and can help them receive effective treatment and therapy. Alternatives work well and will help. Become knowledgeable.

About this Contributor: Robert Brown, M.ED, ia a behavior specialist, teacher, rehabilitation services coordinator, and author. Brown has more than 10 years experience working with people with traumatic brain injuries (including stroke), 13 years post secondary teaching, 30 years experience studying, using and helping others to use alternative health practices.

Note from Robert Brown: I am experienced and successful in working with people that have suffered a TBI. I am knowledgeable of many of the (conventional) therapies and many alternative therapies that can be effectively used in the treatment of injuries to the brain. You can become a knowledgeable effective advocate for an individual that has suffered an injury to their brain. This is critical if the individual is you and you are advocating for yourself.

Suggested reading to get you started:

  • Prescription for Nutritional Healing
  • Racketeering in Medicine