Concussions triple suicide risk

concussions increase suicide risk copy

While concussions have gained attention for their link to dementia, did you know they also increase the risk for suicide? Just one concussion can triple the long-term risk of suicide in otherwise healthy people.

Although brain-injured football players have been receiving all the attention lately, the typical concussion patient is a middle-aged adult. Most concussions happen during traffic accidents, falls at home, and in other everyday situations.

study looked at a quarter-million subjects who had been diagnosed with a mild concussion during the last 20 years. Researchers found suicide occurred at three times the norm in this population. They also found that on average suicide occurred nearly six years after the concussion. Also, the risk increased with additional concussions.

Why does a concussion increase suicide risk? 

In functional medicine we know a concussion causes brain inflammation, from which the patient may never fully recover. Unlike the body’s immune system, the brain’s immune system does not shut off once triggered. As a result, unchecked brain inflammation damages and destroys healthy brain cells.

Brain inflammation is tied to various brain-based disorders, including depression and mental illness. In fact, a 2014 study concluded that sustaining a head injury leads to a greater risk of mental illness later in life.

When patients fail to employ strategies to dampen brain inflammation, post-concussive inflammation continues its crawl through the brain like a slow-burning fire, consuming neurons in its path. This can go on for years after the concussion, impacting mood, memory, and general function.

What’s more, thanks to intimate communication between the brain and the gut, a concussion often impacts gut health and function. Many people report the onset of digestive issues after a concussion.

This is bad news because research shows an inflamed and unhealthy gut is directly linked to depression, giving post-concussive patients a double whammy of depression-inducing inflammation that travels back and forth between the gut and the brain.

Functional medicine strategies for concussions 

For every person who dies from suicide, many others think about it or suffer from chronic depression. 

This study shows a clear need for better long-term care of patients with concussion.

Fortunately, functional medicine offers many strategies to reduce brain inflammation and lower the risk of mood disorders such as depression after a concussion:

  • Stabilizing blood sugar
  • Removing inflammatory triggers from the diet (such as gluten) or the environment (such as synthetic scents or toxic cleaning products)
  • Improving gut health and gut bacteria diversity
  • Identifying and addressing autoimmune diseases, situations where the body’s immune system attacks body tissue, creating chronic inflammation. Autoimmune reactions in the brain are more common than people realize.
  • Addressing chronic infections.
  • Improving blood flow and oxygenation flow in the brain.
  • Stabilizing hormones.
  • Using nutritional compounds to reduce inflammation in the brain.

These are among the foundations of functional medicine that can make the difference between a post-concussive downward spiral or be the springboard to a more brain-healthy way of living. 

If life hasn’t been the same since your concussion, ask my office how functional medicine strategies can help.

Still have hypothyroid symptoms despite normal lab results?

still have thyroid symptoms

Do you take thyroid hormone medication but still suffer fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, constipation, depression, cold hands and feet, or other thyroid symptoms? Have you been told there is nothing more that can be done for your thyroid symptoms because your lab tests are normal?

Hypothyroidism, or low thyroid function, affects millions of Americans. Many people continue to suffer from hypothyroid symptoms and a worsening of their thyroid condition despite taking thyroid hormones. This is because 90 percent of hypothyroid cases in the United States are due to Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. Although thyroid medications may be necessary to maintain thyroid function, they do not address the immune system’s relentless attack against the thyroid gland.

To identify Hashimoto’s, it’s important to screen for TPO and TGB antibodies on a blood test. If either of these is positive it indicates the immune system is attacking and destroying the thyroid gland, causing symptoms. In this case, the main strategy is not necessarily to treat the thyroid gland (although thyroid hormone medication may be necessary), but to balance the immune system in order to tame autoimmune attacks against the thyroid.

As outlined in the book Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? by Datis Kharrazian, this is a multi-faceted approach that includes:

  • Going on a strict gluten-free diet. Numerous studies from several different countries show a strong link between Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and other wheat-like grains. Interestingly, studies show those with a gluten intolerance are genetically more prone to Hashimoto’s disease. Gluten also promotes inflammation and leaky gut, which exacerbate autoimmune disease.
     
  • Adopting an autoimmune diet. For some people, going gluten-free is not enough to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism and they need to follow an autoimmune diet that eliminates common inflammatory foods, such as dairy, eggs, or other grains. A whole-foods diet that emphasizes plenty of produce and eliminates processed foods is important to manage an autoimmune condition such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
     
  • Repairing a leaky gut. Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, often plays a role in autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Leaky gut is a condition in which the lining of the small intestine becomes inflamed, damaged, and porous, allowing undigested foods, bacteria, fungus, and other foreign invaders into the sterile environment of the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream these foreign invaders trigger inflammation and autoimmunity.
     
  • Stabilize blood sugar. Stabilizing blood sugar is vital to managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. A diet high in sugars and refined carbohydrates (such as breads, pastas, pastries, and desserts) creates inflammation and hormonal imbalances that make it difficult to tame an autoimmune condition. Energy crashes, fatigue after meals, excess belly fat, hormonal imbalances, mood swings, and sleep issues are all signs you may have a blood sugar handling disorder, such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or insulin resistance (high blood sugar).

These are just a few of the basics of autoimmune management for conditions such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. It’s important to manage your autoimmune condition to lower your risk of developing other autoimmune diseases, such as pernicious anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, vitiligo, or Type I diabetes.

To learn more about Hashimoto’s and other factors that can cause hypothyroidism, read the book 
Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? by Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MNeuroSci.