Traumatic brain injury treatment (TBI) is a complex topic however, brain inflammation seems to be a common denominator among brain injury survivors.
Experiencing brain inflammation (also known as “brain swelling”) after a traumatic brain injury is virtually inevitable. Just like with many other health conditions, inflammation occurs as a way to help your body, although that doesn’t necessarily “feel” like the case. Understanding brain inflammation further can help those who have been victim to a traumatic brain injury on how to overcome such a condition and what may assist with a speedier, more positive recovery process. In this article, you’ll learn what inflammation is, why it occurs, the signs, how you can help reduce/treat it, and what it means for your recovery.
What Is Inflammation?
To understand Brain Inflammation more effectively, it’s best to breakdown what inflammation is separately. So, what exactly is inflammation? In a nutshell, inflammation is a bodily response to injury and is the body’s way of essentially “signaling” the immune system to boost the healing process. In many cases, inflammation is actually a good thing, as it heals injuries and fights off foreign bodily invaders. However, inflammation can also be a negative response, as it can cause many other disorders such as arthritis, cancer, diabetes, autism, and mental illnesses.
Webmd describes this “inflammation process” as the body’s white blood cells and substances protecting us from infections caused by bacteria and viruses.
When a case occurs where an inflammatory response is triggered, and there is nothing to fight off, this is when the immune system damages its own tissues, typically called “autoimmune diseases.” With that knowledge, it’s important to understand that inflammation can be both a bad and a good bodily process. For example, if you bump your knee, it might swell up. This inflammatory response occurs to try to heal or protect your knee. Usually, with some rest, ice, and elevation, the swelling goes away. But the brain inflammation that happens during the traumatic brain injury recovery process is an entirely different story – one that is much more severe than a simple knee bump. Brain inflammation after TBI is a very common traumatic brain injury recovery symptom.
What Is “Brain” Inflammation?
When inflammation occurs in the brain, it is typically referred to as brain swelling, or medically as “Encephalitis.” This can often be confused with “meningitis,” which is when the lining of the brain becomes inflamed. The symptoms for both of these conditions are quite similar, including tiredness, headaches, and even fever. When the brain swells, it’s doing its best to protect and heal your brain from injury. However, it can also quickly cause serious issues and is much more difficult to treat than other areas of the body.
What Are the Dangers Of Brain Inflammation After TBI?
Inflammation in the brain is dangerous because there is not enough room for the brain to swell in the skull. Pressure is significantly increased inside the skull, which can, in turn, prevent blood from flowing to your brain. Thus, your brain is deprived of the necessary oxygen it needs to function properly. Furthermore, swelling can prevent fluids from leaving your brain, making matters even worse. As a result, your brain cells can become damaged, and death may occur. Before you get too alarmed, though, read until the end of this article to determine the signs of brain inflammation and how to help deal with it accordingly, and you will find more traumatic brain injury recovery tips as well.
Signs Of Brain Inflammation After Traumatic Brain Injury
There will be physical signs that you have brain inflammation. These vary across individuals and sometimes depend on the injury. However, the most common signs of brain inflammation include:
Vision loss or vision changes
Nausea and/or vomiting
Inability to walk
You might experience one or several of these symptoms. Other more unusual symptoms can include hallucinations, seizures, and loss of sensation, which generally require immediate medical attention. Your doctor will diagnose you with brain inflammation based on an examination of your head, neck, brain, and blood.
How To Treat Brain Inflammation After A Traumatic Brain Injury
When there are minor cases of brain inflammation, these usually resolve by themselves within a few days with rest. However, for more extreme cases, treatment is needed immediately. The primary goal here is to ensure your brain is receiving plenty of blood and oxygen to function. To do this, most people will need both medical and surgical treatments. Doing this sooner rather than later can prevent brain damage and promote a faster traumatic brain injury recovery.
The most popular forms of treatment for brain inflammation include:
- IV fluids – prevent blood pressure from dropping too low
- Lowering body temperature – relieves swelling and allows healing
- Ventriculostomy – cerebrospinal fluid is drained from the brain to relieve pressure
- Medication – drugs to relieve the swelling, dissolve clots, and slow swelling
- Oxygen therapy – offers more oxygen in your blood
- Surgery – removing part of the skull to relieve pressure or removing/repairing the source of swelling
There may be other methods of traumatic brain injury treatment and methods of keeping brain inflammation under control, depending on how severe your brain inflammation is and your individual circumstances.
What Happens Next For Traumatic Brain Injury Survivors?
During recovery after a traumatic brain injury, you need to be careful with your actions. This includes not over-exerting yourself, making sure you take every precaution not to fall over, and more. The time it takes for brain swelling to disappear varies greatly. It could take anywhere from a week to several months. The long-term effects of brain swelling can be quite extreme, based on how severe it was. These include issues with movement, sleeping, headaches, thinking, communication, and even depression.
Follow-up treatment after brain swelling is extremely important to ensure a smooth, ongoing recovery process. Doctors, family, and therapists should be mindful of the symptoms that might be ongoing, such as the aforementioned. Brain inflammation is just one of the many other issues one might experience after a traumatic brain injury. Be sure to read other articles on this website to learn more about TBI treatment.
Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment and Brain Inflammation, What to Do?
To overcome brain inflammation I cut food out of my diet that caused brain inflammation. Foods that cause brain inflammation include the following:
- Processed and refined flours (white bread, cookies, pasta, crackers, and more);
- Foods high in acids;
- Dairy products;
- Animal fats;
- Food Allergens (hidden food allergies cause body and brain inflammation)
It Is Essential To Eat A Brain Healthy Diet As Part of Your Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment
A brain healthy diet is essential for TBI recovery. While I was in the hospital, for traumatic brain injury treatment, my doctors fed me highly nutritious meals, low in fat and high in proteins, so when I got home I kept in touch with my physical therapists and they would make meal plans that best assisted TBI recovery. With that said, it was recommended that I quit eating deep fried food, sweets, and processed food to make the best of my TBI recovery. In addition to cutting food from my diet, I also began eating an anti-inflammatory diet that consisted of the following:
Make sure you get plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids. These oils are in short supply in our diet, and most people require a supplement to ensure they are getting enough Omega-3’s in their system.
- Avoid eating saturated fat by eating less butter, cream, cheese and other full-fat dairy products;
- Avoid regular safflower and sunflower oils, corn oil, cottonseed oil, and mixed vegetable oils.
- Avoid margarine, vegetable shortening, and all products listing them as ingredients. Avoid products made with partially hydrogenated oils.
- Eat avocados and nuts, especially walnuts, cashews, almonds, and nut butters made from these nuts.
- Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are salmon (preferably fresh or frozen wild or canned sockeye), sardines packed in water or olive oil, herring, omega-3 fortified eggs; hemp seeds and flaxseeds (preferably freshly ground); or take a fish oil supplement.
- A high-alkaline diet – one that includes plenty of green, leafy vegetables – is invaluable in combating inflammation.
- Eat cruciferous (cabbage-family) vegetables regularly. Eat plenty of organic brightly colored fruits. Drink pomegranate juice, and green tea daily for their anti-oxidant effects.
- Eat more vegetable protein from soy products such as tofu, edamame, soynuts, and soymilk.
- Whole grains, brown rice, and bulgur wheat are less inflammatory than white flour products.
- Stay away from refined foods. Added sugars, convenience foods, and refined carbohydrates provide little nutritional value and provoke inflammation. In other words do not eat anything that comes from a bag or a box, these foods are not good for TBI recovery.
In addition to having an anti-inflammatory diet, my doctors had me anti-inflammatory supplements as part of my traumatic brain injury recovery plan.
By making a few changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can find yourself feeling energized, refreshed, and filled with a sense of well-being. By taking steps to reduce inflammation, you will greatly improve the quality of your life.