Concussion Supplements: Get the Facts
Have you, a family member, or a friend had a concussion (also known as mild traumatic brain injury) and you are wondering about concussion supplements?
Which vitamins are best for concussion?
I have been there with my personal history of concussions and recovery and I have done the research on concussion supplements!
We will discuss early treatment with concussion supplements and the best supplements for concussion.
Let’s get started.
This information is for educational purposes only. As with any medical advice, always check with your doctor or healthcare professional for personal and age-appropriate recommendations.
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Table of Contents
Why Early Treatment with Concussion Supplements?
A concussion is typically caused by a bump or jolt to the head or sometimes a hit to the body when the head moves back and forth dramatically. During this time, the demands of the brain increase and BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) is also released (1, 2).
BDNF plays a key role in plasticity of the brain including learning and memory (3). It is often called “miracle-gro” for the brain.
Early clinical care following a concussion has shown to decrease recovery time (4).
Neuroinflammation (inflammation of the brain) involves different mechanisms including (5, 6):
- Glial cells
- Blood-brain barrier permeability
- Cytokine release
- Tissue damage
- Neuronal death
After medical treatment, early nutritional treatment with concussion supplements can increase BDNF and brain healing.
It is vital to maintain gut health after a concussion due to the gut-brain bidirectional relationship.
What are the Best Concussion Supplements?
Common nutritional deficiencies with concussion are being studied (7). Concussion supplements that are known to improve BDNF production and reduce the inflammatory response include vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, SPM’s, magnesium, glutathione precursors, taurine, curcumin, and creatine.
Vitamin D for BDNF
Vitamin D plays a critical role in brain health by reducing cognitive decline and increasing production of BDNF (8). Studies suggest vitamin D may improve recovery after TBI (9).
Get your vitamin D levels checked prior to supplementation for appropriate dosing.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids for the Brain
The brain is made up of about 60% fat so a nutrient dense diet with healthy fats can boost focus and brain health.
Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation after a concussion. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) increases BDNF levels and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) reduces inflammatory brain markers.
A randomized controlled trial in 2022 showed 2g/day of DHA for 12 weeks reduced post concussive symptoms earlier than the placebo group (10).
Studies show consumption of omega-3’s either taken before or after a TBI improves learning and memory and long-term health outcomes (11, 12).
Omega-3 supplements are recommended to obtain optimal levels.
Specialized Pro-Resolving Mediators (SPM’s)
Specialized pro-resolving mediators, from essential fatty acids, support the resolution of inflammation in the tissues. They reduce infection and inflammation (13).
SPM’s after a concussion helps to reduce inflammation and long term tissue damage in the brain (14).
Magnesium participates in over 600 pathways in the body, and it is essential for brain function and for proper neurotransmitter function.
Immediately following brain injury, there is a decrease in magnesium in the neurons (15).
A randomized cohort study showed a decrease in concussion symptoms after oral magnesium supplementation (16).
Magnesium threonate crosses the blood brain barrier and has better absorption than many other types of magnesium. In a randomized control trial in 2022, magnesium threonate showed improvement in memory and cognition (17).
After a traumatic brain injury, inflammation activates microglia (first cells to respond in the brain upon injury) which leads to free radical damage. Glutathione levels are also decreased after a concussion.
Oral NAC (N-acetylcysteine), a precursor to glutathione, can protect the brain after concussion by building up glutathione for neuroprotection (18).
You may be familiar with turmeric. Curcumin is the bioactive ingredient in turmeric which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Curcumin has shown to improve neuronal plasticity and signaling and decrease levels of microglia (19).
In a randomized control trial in 2021, 62 adults in the ICU with concussion were given 500 mg curcuminoids and showed reduced inflammation, improved clinical outcomes and nutritional status (20).
After a concussion, large amounts of glutamate (an excitatory neurotransmitter) are released which impairs neuron function (21).
Taurine is an amino acid that is abundant in the brain (22). It helps to block excess glutamate.
A randomized controlled study in 2021 concluded taurine supplementation reduced the level of IL-6 (an inflammatory marker) and improved outcomes after TBI (23).
Creatine is an amino acid found in your muscles. It has been shown to improve muscle strength, increase lean muscle mass, and help the muscles recover during exercise (24).
The intake of creatine prior to injury may decrease symptoms after a traumatic brain injury (25).
Creatine supplementation has shown promise in studies to reduce symptoms following concussion (26).
Concussion Supplements: Final Thoughts
Early clinical care following a concussion has shown to decrease recovery time.
The best concussion supplements include:
- Vitamin D
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Be sure to check with your healthcare practitioner prior to starting any concussion supplements.
If you would like to work with a functional nutritionist who has personal experience with concussions, please contact me.
Test don’t guess.
Contact me to schedule an appointment to review your personalized nutritional health.
© Amy Archer RDN, CLT, CHWC