This is from a newsletter that Jigsaw Health just published. I thought the article was very well written and useful to go along with my other posts regarding the brain...
Have you ever had a concussion? Been in a bad car accident? Suffered a
sports-related head injury? Many of us have experienced some kind of brain
injury in our lives. What you should know is that a head injury may
have contributed to your chronic illness. Chronic conditions can be a direct
result of brain trauma.
It is not uncommon for someone who experiences a concussion,
auto accident or other type of head trauma to begin to experience additional illness within
a short period of time. Fatigue, depression, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, personality changes and other symptomsmay begin
to appear after a head injury [ 1 ], but much of the time these are not recognized
as a result of the trauma, which can be frustrating for someone trying to find
the “how” or “why” of the way they feel. However, all degrees of brain trauma
can have the potential to affect our health and well-being for years or even
Some of us have thicker skulls than others, both literally and figuratively. So
it's not likely you have spent much time thinking about how fragile the brain
really is. For instance, we understand that extreme traumatic brain
injury (TBI) is serious because it obviously results in visible physical
impairment. However, in mild or moderate injury, the trauma is not so obvious.
For this reason, most people (including some medical practitioners) consider
non-extreme or mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) as inconsequential in the long
run because they see no symptoms proportional to those in TBI. [ 2 ]
Some of the more common and immediate symptoms of
MTBI include: loss of
consciousness, headaches, dizziness, irritability, difficulty in concentration,
confusion, nausea, vomiting, vision disturbance and retrograde or anterograde
amnesia. [ 1 ] In most cases these symptoms don’t last for very long though so it is
assumed there is then no lasting damage. And for most brain injuries this
is true. But in some cases, these minor brain injuries result in years of
ongoing chronic health issues. To understand why, we need to introduce you two
areas of the brain, the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands. [ 3 ]
The hypothalamus is part of the HPA
which consists of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. These glands
all work together and rely on one another. When one is malfunctioning, all are
compromised and our health pays the price.
According to Medline Plus, the hypothalamus is an area of the brain that
produces hormones that control thirst, hunger, body temperature, sleep, moods,
sex drive, and the release of hormones from various glands, primarily the
pituitary gland. [ 4 ] The hypothalamus regulates homeostasis in the human body.
In other words, it is in charge of making sure that everything in our bodies is
always in balance, no matter what state we are in. It plays the key role in
numerous functions and is a major link to the endocrine (hormone) and nervous
systems. Damage to this structure results in disturbances in the production and
regulation of our hormones, and can have a negative yet, initially, subtle
effect on our health.
One of the primary results of damage to the hypothalamus is sleep
disturbance. A majority of sleep disorders have been associated with all degrees
of brain injury, including trouble falling/staying asleep, non-restorative sleep
and excessive daytime sleepiness. [ 5 ] All of these can be symptomatic of
chronic conditions as well, and the correlation should not be overlooked. With
this in mind, one example of a head injury possibly leading to a chronic condition would
be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Since the hypothalamus secretes hormones to stimulate hormone release from the pituitary gland,
it is not surprising that functions related to this gland are negatively
affected by a brain injury as well. The full impact of brain trauma on the
pituitary gland has been under-identified and under-researched until rather
recently, but it has now been fairly well established. [ 2, 6 ]
The reason that the pituitary gland can adversely affect health is that it
controls growth hormones and thyroid hormones and can lead to deficiencies in
both. These kinds of deficiencies are indicative of what is called hypopituitarism. Growth hormone deficiency (GHD) can result in significant
alterations in body composition, decreased muscular strength, low exercise
capacity, and diminished bone mineral content, as well as impairments in the
sense of well-being and quality of life. Thyroid hormone deficiencies are
referred to as hypothyroidism [ 2 ] and can drain a sufferer of energy and well-being, as well as cause more
serious chronic conditions.
Since the hypothalamus and pituitary glands control the adrenal
glands, it is also
important to look at how insufficiencies in these can contribute to chronic
illness. The adrenal glands sit atop the kidneys and are chiefly responsible for
regulating the body’s stress response. They do this by secreting cortisol and adrenaline, or in other words, by stimulating our fight or flight response. When
these glands are malfunctioning there are many things that can be negatively
affected. [ 3 ]
One of the chronic conditions associated with adrenal insufficiency is Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, which is characterized by the decreased ability of the adrenals to secrete the
hormones that they usually do. Cortisol and adrenaline are critical to
maintaining optimal health, because they respond to our bodies’ stress levels.
When they are not functioning properly it can lead to immune deficiencies and
more serious chronic conditions as well.
SPECT and the Amen Clinic
Probably the best way to determine whether you have experienced brain trauma is
be evaluated by the Amen Clinic. The Amen Clinic uses SPECT scans (single photon
emission computed tomography) to image the metabolism of the brain. Brain
trauma and other brain conditions can be readily diagnosed using SPECT scans. SPECT is
one of the best tools for evaluating functional deficits from head trauma that
are often not seen by other studies, leading to more understanding and more
effective treatments for patients. [ 7 ] While it is still somewhat expensive,
your results may serve as an excellent, tangible resource.
So what can I do now?
Since the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenals control your hormone levels, it
is important to get checked for hormone
imbalances and to perhaps work with a specialized doctor on getting them in
correct balance again. It is important tohave your hormones in balance so that
all the functions that your body needs to carry out are actually executed.
Without every function, response or secretion, your optimal health is
compromised, so don’t ignore hormonal imbalances. However, it is also very
important to not self-medicate hormone imbalances, as hormones are very complicated and
delicately balanced elements of your health. Having said this, there are supplements in the natural
realm that can improve symptoms and aid brain recovery such as Brain Support, 5-HTP, L-Tyrosine, Activated B,
Also, as shown by a SPECT scan, brain trauma can lead to psychological problems
as well. It is wise then to seek answers in the psychiatric arena. There
are many doctors in this field that recognize the impact brain injuries can have
on mental health and well-being. There are certain psychotropic drugs which are
used very effectively in treating conditions like depression, anxiety, and
sleep disturbances and can provide more immediate relief to these unpleasant
While the occurrence of chronic conditions as a result of brain injury is not
yet well recognized, the connection exists. Armed with this information we
encourage to talk with your doctor or health care professional in hopes of
discovering if a minor brain injury might be the cause of any ongoing chronic
conditions you may be experiencing.