If you’re recovering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI), you’ve seen plenty of supposed miracle cures. Some of these cures have science behind them, and others don’t. One of the most widespread recommendations is to take an Omega-3 supplement (fish oil). Fish oil is alleged to help your brain repair itself, getting you more of your old life back. But does it work?
The short answer is that, although there is no strong evidence that fish oil helps brain injury recovery, there are reasons to see it as a promising possibility. If used correctly, it’s a treatment that does no harm and could potentially help.
Omega-3 Acids and the Brain
Omega-3 acids are part of a group of “fatty acids” that the body needs for optimum health. The body cannot produce these acids on its own, so the need to be obtained through diet. In most healthy adults, the amount needed is very small; a single fish oil capsule a day gives you far more than you need.
Infants, however, use far more Omega-3. This is largely because their brain is still growing and forming and a remarkable rate. The brain is made mostly of fats, and nearly a third of its mass comes from Omega-3. Infants require so much of this acid because they are literally building their brains.
This was the origin of Omega-3 as a TBI supplement: If the omegas helped the brain grow in the first place, wouldn’t they help it rebuild itself after an injury?
Using Omega-3 to treat a brain injury requires taking huge doses over a period of weeks. The idea is to give the brain as much Omega-3 as it could possibly need to recover. However, there have been no widespread human trials of this treatment on actual brain injury survivors. That means we have no way of knowing whether it works, how often it works, or what the long term effects are.
Most proponents of Omega-3 treatment for TBI give only anecdotal examples: individuals who tried the treatment and then made miraculous gains in their recovery. In some cases they even claim people have come out of comas. But these proponents often sell Omega-3 supplements themselves, and there is no way of knowing whether these “miracle” stories were caused by the fish oil or not.
There is some promising news. Fish oil has been tested on animals with TBI. In one study with rats, Omega-3 supplementation improved outcomes post-injury. There is no evidence that these kinds of results can be reproduced in humans, but it’s enough for some brain injury survivors to give it a try.
Doing It Right
The best way to try Omega-3 treatment is to talk to your doctor. Although not a mainstream treatment for TBI, when prescribed by a physician the treatment will use a liquid supplement that delivers high quality Omega-3 acids at a proper dosage. In other words, you’ll know you’re really getting what you need.
It is possible to do this treatment on your own, but you should speak to your physician before trying it. You should also make sure to get a fish oil supplement that is certified free of toxins. Mercury is a common contaminant in fish and is a potent neurotoxin — not something your recovering brain should be exposed to.
If you have spoken to your doctor and they approve, you can find complete fish oil treatment instructions here.
Remember that Omega-3 treatment is just one part of a balanced approach to brain recovery. You may also need physical therapy, speech therapy, and ongoing medication. You should not have to pay for these treatments yourself. If your brain injury is the result of an accident, you may be able to recover compensation to help you pay for your medical bills and long term treatment. Contact us for your free consultation today.