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Healing Brain Injury with Omega-3s

Nearly 20 days after emerging from the Sago Mining disaster, lone survivor Randall McCloy began to awaken from his coma. Carbon Monoxide poisoning and brain hemorrhage topped a long list of injuries.

His emergence from the coma led to a lengthy recovery period and rehabilitation, which included the use of Omega-3 fatty acids to treat his brain injuries. After three months, McCloy was walking and talking.

Traumatic brain injuries can be marked by swelling and cell death. So far, studies in animals show fish oil has large potential for prohibiting cell death and triggering the brain’s own natural healing process and stimulating neuron growth. These are quite literally the building blocks of the brain. (See here.)

McCloy’s brain injury was unique in that his exposure to toxic gases while trapped inside the mine stripped myelin from his nerve cells. Myelin, which serves as the “protective sheath” around brain cells helps connect them to one another. McCloy’s neurosurgeon at the time, Dr. Julian Bailes believed “restoring his normal brain function was a long shot.” (http://edition.cnn.com/2012/10/19/health/fish-oil-brain-injuries/)

McCloy’s unorthodox treatment was based around extremely high doses of fish oil in an attempt to rebuild his brain, much the way a fetus in the womb builds its brain during prenatal growth. Considering that the brain itself is 30% fatty acids by weight, the simplest way to understand this experimental treatment is that the doctors were simply attempting to replace “ingredients” normally used in the building of a healthy brain.

While large-scale studies are still needed, there is strong data to suggest that Omega-3s can essentially “turn off” proteins that cause neuro-inflammation, while giving the brain its essential biochemical building blocks to re-build nearly all by itself.

Additional Reading

2 comments

  1. Jack says:

    Hello, I just came across the site and have found it very interesting and informative. A specific question related to omega-3. In the interview, the guest did not seem to address the issue regarding DHA vs EPA. Reviewing information related to this topic produces starkly contradictory recommendations. In particular, I had a child with intractable epilepsy and have even gotten somewhat conflicting recommendations from various neurologists. I appreciate it if you could weigh in or provide me with me resources to inform the care of my child.

    Many thanks,

    Jack

    1. Rhiannan Roe says:

      Hi Jack,

      Thanks for your message. And very happy to hear you’re liking the show!

      Regarding DHA vs EPA, as you probably know well, they have very different “jobs” within the brain – EPA regulating inflammatory response, and DHA promoting healthy cell structure and communication – meaning that for any healthy person, both are necessary for optimal brain health.

      Unfortunately, I’ve seen the same conflicting information specifically with regards to epilepsy patients. So while everything I’ve read has led me to believe that, in regular daily doses, both DHA and EPA have proven to be helfpul as treatment for epilepsy, I can’t comment on exact ratios.

      Dr. Michael Lewis – our Episode 32 guest (http://smartdrugsmarts.com/dr-michael-lewis-omega-3-fatty-acids/) – runs the Brain Health Education and Research Institute (http://www.brainhealtheducation.org/), which is an excellent resource for information on omega-3s and the brain. You can make contact through the site for more information as well.

      Hope that’s helpful!

      Rhiannan

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