This Is How You Can Manage A Concussion With Supplements & Vitamins

Rob Silverman Head Shot

The brain serves as the command center of the human body, managing the nervous system, sending signals to the body’s muscles, and receiving messages from the body’s sensory organs. (1) The brain’s white matter (the axons and dendrites of the nerve fibers) acts as the subway system of the brain, connecting different regions of grey matter and carrying nerve impulses between neurons.

Concussions are traumatic brain injuries caused by any sufficiently hard blow to the head. (2) The rapid movement of the brain can cause the neurons to tear and brain tissues to change shape, which can damage the brain cells.

Did you know?
Concussions can also cause changes to the metabolic and chemical makeup of the brain, which can affect the cells’ ability to communicate and even to function normally. This can lead to apoptosis (cell death), mitochondrial dysfunction, oxidative stress, and ultimately, cognitive impairment.

Side effects of a concussion

While concussions can cause immediate symptoms such as a temporary loss of consciousness, headaches, dizziness, and more, some effects can continue days or even weeks after the event.

This is called post-concussive syndrome and its side effects include:

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Decreased sense of taste and smell (rare) (3)

Natural remedies for a concussion

The brain is highly dependent on nutrients and energy. It is also extremely vulnerable to toxins and stress. Nutrition has an impact on brain health, but a concussion can disrupt the brain-gut connection. Proper nutrition can improve not only concussion health but also help manage concussion pain relief. Feeding your concussion the right way can mitigate many, if not all, of the above symptoms.

Did you know?
These two primary goals for post-concussion nutrition—healing the structural damage from the concussion while managing the pain to prevent long-term damage—can be achieved through natural remedies, including taking vitamins and supplements.

fish oil supplements in a clear bowl next to nuts, avocados, and fish on a board

Having a balance between the right foods and the right supplements can really improve your brain health.

Through treating patients in my clinical practice, I’ve found that taking supplements of the right vitamins and nutrients—in addition to eating the right foods—can go a long way towards improving your overall brain health and speeding up the recovery from the concussion.

Here’s what Dr. Silverman recommends.

Concussion management with the right diet

To start, Dr. Silverman recommends the ketogenic diet to support post-concussion syndrome as ketones have been found to prevent neuron (cell) death. On a keto diet, a person eats a diet comprised of about 75 percent healthy fats plus high-quality protein in moderation and restricts carbohydrates to less than 50 grams per day. Along with a keto diet, Dr. Silverman also recommends supplementing with the following:

  • Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs): A type of fat molecule found in coconut oil, MCTs are extremely beneficial for energy and fat-burning. The shorter chain length, compared to fatty acids, makes for a “quicker” pathway when metabolized, converting MCTs to ketones used for fuel. They also enhance ketone production.
  • Exogenous ketone salts: Ketone bodies, ingested in either mineral or ester forms, lead to elevated circulatory ketone levels. Beta-hydroxybutyrate, when bound to a salt to improve absorption, increases circulating ketone levels for at least one hour, acutely induces ketosis within 15 minutes, and signals cells to release glutathione–a master antioxidant which positively impacts the brain.

Creatine

Creatine has multiple benefits. It maintains the health of the mitochondria in the brain and improves the blood flow within the brain, improving both the short- and long-term effects of the concussion. Creatine gives the brain an immediate boost of energy that it needs to heal its cells and is especially known to improve post-concussion amnesia. (4) Creatine can be found in foods such as seafood and red meat. (5)

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids help with cell membrane health and act as a neuroprotective agent. They improve the integrity of the brain’s white matter and increase the volume of grey matter in the frontal temporal, parietal, and limbic areas of the brain, improving brain structure and function, especially in older adults.

Omega-3s also increase the brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF — which is a protein related to nerve growth — and decrease peripheral fasting insulin. (6) Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in foods such as fish, nuts (walnuts especially), vegetable oils, leafy vegetables, flax seeds, and flaxseed oil. Fish oil is a particularly good supplement for concussions. (7) It’s been shown to support the resolution of post-concussion symptoms and supports the decreased incidence of repeat concussions. Fish oil can support the survival of existing brain cells and can even promote the growth of new neurons and synapses.

DHA, or docosahexaenoic acid, is a type of Omega-3 fatty acid that is an integral part of the structure of the brain, especially the cerebral cortex. Supplementing DHA can reduce axonal and neuronal damage, apoptosis, oxidative stress, cognitive impairment, and neurotransmitter decline. (8)

mixture of bright foods

Resveratrol, an antioxidant found in grapes and berries improves the behavioral measures of locomotion, anxiety, object recognition, and memory.

Resveratrol

Resveratrol is an antioxidant plant compound that can be found in grapes, berries, red wine, and peanuts. (9) It increases blood flow in the brain, crosses the blood-brain barrier, reduces inflammation and post-traumatic neuronal loss, and improves the behavioral measures of locomotion, anxiety, object recognition, and memory.

Boswellia

Boswellia is an herbal extract commonly used in traditional Asian and African medicine. (10) It’s particularly beneficial for concussion patients who have a diffuse axonal injury (DAI). It reduces inflammation and enhances cognitive functions. (11)

Curcumin

Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, which is also called Indian saffron because of its common usage in Indian cuisine and its yellow color. Curcumin can improve cognitive function, boost BDNF, increase blood flow to the brain, changes the release of serotonin and dopamine (which are neurotransmitters responsible for keeping the mind at ease). It also supports the inflammation pathways to the brain. (12)

Did you know?
Curcumin is also a powerful antioxidant and thus supports cognitive processes, enhances the naturally available DHA in the brain, protects the brain from neurodegeneration, and helps regenerate brain stem cells.

Choline

Choline is an essential nutrient that can be found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. It protects and repairs damaged brain cells, especially glycerophosphocholine. It’s been shown in studies to significantly improve the mental faculties of patients with TBI.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps maintain neuron integrity, has anti-inflammatory effects, and supports brain cell survival. (13) It also decreases cerebral edema, which is brain swelling that is caused by the presence of excess fluid. Vitamin D can be found in foods such as fish, fortified dairy and grain products, and egg yolks, but can also be obtained through exposure to sunlight.

Zinc

Zinc decreases oxidative stress and increases wound healing. It also increases the brain’s resilience to traumatic brain injury. Zinc can be found in poultry, fish, and red meat.

Acetyl L-carnitine

Acetyl L-carnitine energizes the brain, increases the neurotransmitter levels needed for memory, focus, and learning, repairs damage to brain cells, and relieves depression. It’s naturally produced by the human body but often taken as a supplement to increase its effects.

Magnesium

Magnesium, especially L-threonate, can significantly enhance the density and plasticity of synapses as well as prevent memory decline. Magnesium plays a critical role in learning and in memory by increasing the durability of synapses and enabling the brain to make new connections. (14) It also increases the bioavailability of magnesium in the brain and in cerebrospinal fluid.

Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha lipoic acid lowers oxidative stress at the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and is a good source of antioxidants. It can be found in foods such as yeast, kidneys, liver, spinach, potatoes, and broccoli.

man smiling sitting on couch in living room

Knowing what you can do to optimize your health while dealing with a concussion can help you get back to normal, healthier!

Together with foods rich in fat and protein, these supplements can help heal post-concussion syndrome quicker. In particular, BDNF can be enhanced through exercise, turmeric, taurine, DHA, Alpha-lipoic Acid, strain-specific probiotics, prebiotics, and ketones. Inflammation can be reduced by taking DHA, Boswellia, quercetin, ginger, pro-resolving mediators, turmeric, resveratrol, and grape seed extract. Blood flow can be improved with antioxidants, resveratrol, and gingko.

The strong and undeniable link of the gut to the brain makes it essential that you optimize their nutrition to optimize your brain health. Eating the right foods and taking the right supplements not only speed up the recovery time but also limit the damage the injury can cause.

If you are a practitioner, consider signing up to Fullscript. If you are a patient, talk to your healthcare practitioner about Fullscript!


More about Dr. Robert G. Silverman

Dr. Robert G. Silverman is a chiropractic doctor, clinical nutritionist and author of the Amazon No. 1 bestseller “Inside-Out Health: A Revolutionary Approach to Your Body.” As the founder of Westchester Integrative Health Center, he maintains a successful private practice which specializes in the treatment of joint pain using functional nutrition along with cutting-edge, science-based, nonsurgical approaches. The ACA Sports Council named Dr. Silverman “Sports Chiropractor of the Year” in 2015.

Dr. Silverman is also on the advisory board for the Functional Medicine University, a diplomate with the American Clinical Board of Nutrition, and a diplomate with the Chiropractic Board of Clinical Nutrition. He is a seasoned health and wellness expert and has appeared on FOX News Channel, FOX, NBC, CBS, and CW affiliates, as well as The Wall Street Journal and Talks at Google. As a frequently published author in peer-reviewed journals and other mainstream publications, including Thrive Global, Integrative Practitioner, MindBodyGreen, Muscle and Fitness, The Original Internist, Thrive Global, NewsMax, and Holistic Primary Care journals, Dr. Silverman is a thought leader in his field and practice.

Connect with Dr. Robert G. Silverman
Facebook: @DrRobertSilverman
Twitter: @drrobsilverman
Instagram: @drrobertsilverman

  1. https://www.livescience.com/29365-human-brain.html
  2. https://concussionfoundation.org/concussion-resources/what-is-concussion
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-concussion-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20353352
  4. Nutritional perspectives. Concussion and nutrition: The potential of creatine, July 2016 https://www.academia.edu/33436681/Concussion_and_Nutrition_The_Potential_of_Creatine
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-creatine/art-20347591
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  7. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/types-of-fat/omega-3-fats/
  8. ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01903525 https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01903525
  9. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/resveratrol
  10. https://www.healthline.com/health/boswellia
  11. Payam M, Salman AF, Ali A, et al. The effect of Boswellia Serrata on neurorecovery following diffuse axonal injury. 2013;27(12):145 http://www.nrhb.webs.upv.es/wp-content/uploads/Proceedings-of-the-International-Conference-on-Recent-Advances-in-Neurorehabilitation-2013-ICRAN2013-v1.00.pdf
  12. Pandaran SS, Jacob D, Natinga MJ, et al. J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2016 Jun;36(3):236-43 https://cdn.ymaws.com/wisconsinchiropractic.site-ym.com/resource/resmgr/2018_fall_convention/silverman_concussion_web.pdf
  13. Horm Behav, 2012 April;61(4):642–51 https://www.academia.edu/9712655/Combination_therapy_with_vitamin_D3_progesterone_omega-3_fatty_acids_and_glutamine_reverses_coma_and_improves_clinical_outcomes_in_patients_with_severe_traumatic_brain_injuries_A_case_series
  14. Qifeng Sun et al. Neuropharmacology, Sept. 2016 Vol. 108, 426-39. Regulation of structural and functional synapse density by L-threonate through modulation of intraneuronal magnesium concentration https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27178134