When I was a teenager, I took karate twice a week. One year, my instructor got really into throws. Given that he never really taught proper falling technique, combined with the class having a lot of young people in it, it is not surprising that I ended up with a concussion.
It was one of those slow ones that came on after months of falling incorrectly on both my back and, in some instances, directly on my head.
One day, it caught up with me and I spent the summer before university with vertigo when I looked up, not seeing objects that were in front of me, and walking whenever traffic lights turned red. It was not a major trauma, and eventually the symptoms faded.
Moving to Whitehorse was like an eye-opener in just how frequently concussions could occur given the right environment. In one week, two people I knew were in fender benders and both had been concussed.
Shortly before, another friend and a co-worker’s partner were also concussed – one in a raucous game of “no contact” ultimate Frisbee, the other from slipping on ice in her own front yard.
Concussions are everywhere, and their effects are greatly disruptive. Even minor ones can get in the way of work, fun and even just managing your day. There seems little to be done other than to rest lots and pretend that you’re not missing out on all the good TV while you’re on a screen diet.
In a recent review article, Dr. Michael D. Lewis, president and founder of the Brain Health Education and Research Institute in Maryland presents emerging science that points to the possible benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for those suffering from concussions.
Omega-3s have long been recognized for their essential role in neurodevelopment and function. They are linked to everything from mental wellness to brain development in infancy and as a fetus. Their anti-inflammatory abilities have also been praised throughout the health science world. In short, they are needed for a healthy, happy brain.
Dr. Lewis’s review article looks at three brain injury cases including a mining accident, a motor vehicle accident and a near drowning. In all three cases, high levels of supplemental omega-3s helped to speed recovery and improve the outcomes from traumatic brain injury with no noticeable side effects.
At this stage, there have been no clinical trials as to the effectiveness of omega-3s for treating brain trauma. Dr. Lewis’s review is based on anecdotal cases and the scientifically demonstrated benefits of omega-3s for the brain. While the research is in its preliminary stages, whether you are suffering from a concussion or just want to help out your brain, you may want to up your omega-3 intake.
We can only get these wonder fats through diet – our bodies are unable to create them. With our standard Western diet, deficiency of omega-3s is widespread. Not only are we not getting enough of them, but we are consuming far more omega-6s. The ideal ratio is two to four omega-6s for every omega-3. In actuality, we are at a much higher ratio at around 15 to 16.7 omega-6s to every omega-3.
Omega-3s can readily be found in wild caught cold-water fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring, Arctic char and trout. It is also available in flax seeds, walnuts, chia seeds and hemp seeds.
Supplements are a great way to increase your intake and will have a higher content and quality than most foods. Look for high quality fish oils or vegetarian versions that are derived from algae oil and contain the omega-3 DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid).