Omega-3s in the Treatment of Posttraumatic Brain Injury

Food for thought.

Posted Dec 27, 2018

Recently I had the pleasure of having a long telephone conversation with Dr. Michael Lewis, the author of When Brains Collide: What Every Athlete and Parent Should Know About Concussions and Head Injuries.  Dr. Lewis is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and Tulane University School of Medicine, and completed post-graduate training at Walter Reed and Johns Hopkins.  Lewis is a retired Army Colonel who is now providing treatment and education through his nonprofit Brain Health Education and Research Institute, and Brain CARE.

While in the military, Lewis worked to find treatments that were effective for soldiers with traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).  He discovered the effectiveness of high dose Omega-3 administration to reduce inflammation in the brain and also as a brain health preventative.  Omega-3s were highlighted in the treatments of three people:

1.      Randal L. McCloy Jr., the sole survivor of the Sago Mine disaster who suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning.

2.      Grant Virgin, son of J.J. Virgin, who barely survived a horrible pedestrian car accident.

3.      Bobby, a young man who had a severe brain injury from a car accident and was not expected to live.   

McCloy, Virgin and Bobby all made astounding recoveries not predicted by traditional medical practice.  You can see Sanjay Gupta’s interview of Dr. Lewis at CNN.  As of the writing of Lewis’ book, Bobby was a full-time college student working two part-time jobs.  Lewis wrote in his book about Bobby’s treatment, “The omega-3s allowed his brain the chance to heal and he became the first patient suffering from a severe TBI to be treated specifically with high doses of fish oil.”

Dr. Lewis and I chatted about how slow going it is for Omega-3s to be embraced by mainstream medicine.  He is now busy doing podcasts and talks at various organizations to inform other professionals and the public about the importance of Omega-3s for preventing and treating brain injuries.  Dr. Lewis also provides direct clinical care in the Washington, D.C. area. 

He is a tremendous resource for those suffering from traumatic brain injuries.  We discussed the hypothesis that posttraumatic stress disorder may be a kind of traumatic brain injury due to a chronically stressed and adrenalized system.  We discussed his four-pillar model of care which consists of exercise, nutrition, hormonal balance, and targeted nutritional therapy.

We discussed of role of chronic inflammation and the toxic American diet high in Omega 6 which fuels inflammation.  Omega3s may strengthen the brain to prevent future injuries from bomb blasts, strokes, blunt force trauma and other assaults to brain tissue.  We discussed the implication of Omega3 therapy for conditions such as ADHD, dementia, depression, and other psychiatric conditions. 

Check out a podcast interview The Empowering Neurologist-David Perlmutter, MD and Dr. Michael Lewis for an in-depth discussion of Omega3s and brain trauma.  Perlmutter talks about how fish oil promotes growth of new brain cells. 

Not all Omega 3 products on the market are created equal.  After my discussion with Dr. Lewis, I decided to go with an Omega 3 from Nordic Naturals because the exact same oil is used in liquid and capsule forms and is high quality.  I prefer capsules because I do not have to measure out the liquid.  Nordic Naturals are available at my local health food store.