Gut Punch to the Head?
Traumatic Brain Injury receives more attention these days as more professional sports stars suffer from years of concussions and equipment designers work to lower the risk of long term consequences. Beyond that, as more and more youth are pressed into intense sports at younger ages, TBI effects are recognized earlier and earlier. In more severe cases, complicating infections lead to suffering, even death. A punch or knock to the brain literally punches the gut as well.
Patients, post TBI, are 12 time more likely to die from blood infections and 2 ½ times more likely to die from problems of the digestive system. Science has yet to fully uncover the mechanisms connecting the head injury with gut dysfunction. A recent study with mice shed some light on the subject.
University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) researchers reported on their study in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity’s December edition. They found that gut permeability increased after TBI for at least a month. This leaky gut allowed more inflammation to build in the mice’s brain in an experimental model. For the mice with TBI who were later infected, more neurons in the hippocampus (an area related to memory) were lost.
In other words, a brain injury triggered a gut condition which predisposed the affected brains to further degeneration. Hmm, leaky gut opens the door for brain inflammation. Why didn’t someone in functional medicine think of that connection? (hint…sarcasm)
Elise L. Ma, Allen D. Smith, Neemesh Desai, Lumei Cheung, Marie Hanscom, Bogdan A. Stoica, David J. Loane, Terez Shea-Donohue, Alan I. Faden. Bidirectional brain-gut interactions and chronic pathological changes after traumatic brain injury in mice. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 2017; 66: 56 DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2017.06.018