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Update: A Month Into the Blood-Brain Barrier Repair Protocol
Much higher floor, slightly higher ceiling
I’m a month into the Blood-Brain Barrier repair protocol. How’s it going?
I’m steadily gaining more physical and mental energy. My lows are now mid-range, and my highs are slightly higher. My ability to sustain mental and physical energy is also steadily improving.
It’s taken some time to move toward full compliance with all aspects of the protocol. However, I was 100% compliant with the dietary restrictions from day one. More about that in a moment.
From “Brain, Brain, Brain” to Gut-Brain Axis
It was January 2021 when someone first recommended I see a naturopath for testing and probably a gut restoration, which would boost my brain health.
If I’m honest, the word naturopath was a turnoff.
As someone who grew up in Northern California, I went to health food stores from a young age. In the beginning, the word natural meant something, but it was rapidly co-opted by every brand under the sun, and became effectively meaningless as a selling point. Eventually, the word “Natural” or “All-Natural” signified that the product was one of the worst on offer, especially with the rise of Organic etc.
It wasn’t until I did the five-day fasting-mimicking diet in November of 2022 and experienced the dramatic boost in mental energy that I realised how significant a role my gut was likely playing in my brain health, and how much I might stand to gain by addressing whatever was wrong with my diet and/or my gut.
Then I went down the rabbit hole and discovered functional medicine, Mark Hyman’s work, and others. I read several books. I learned that both the gut barrier and brain barrier are one-cell thick. I learned how things can go wrong with those barriers.
I had long suspected that I might have a problem with my blood-brain barrier, but I didn’t know there was an actual test for it until about two months ago.
I found a functional medicine doctor and naturopath in my area.
Within a short span of time (about a month), I moved from a “Brain, Brain, Brain” approach to my recovery to a Gut-Brain Axis approach.
In my first meeting with my new doctor, she explained how head trauma can compromise the blood-brain barrier (this is something I knew) and in turn cause a compromised gut barrier (I didn’t know that).
Conversely, a compromised gut can lead to a compromised blood-brain barrier. Until those barriers are repaired, anything you do is just a life jacket that mitigates the problem.
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Lessons One Can Draw From the Experiment That is Me
For starters, one might draw the conclusion that all the things I’ve done to support my brain health over the years haven’t healed my compromised blood-brain barrier.
Would I wager that all those things kept me from becoming catastrophically ill? Yes. Because there was definitely a point where I was a sinking ship, mentally, and I pulled myself out of that with all the things I’ve done and continue to do.
What are those things?
A consistent supplement regimen (many of which are on my new protocol, so I was ahead of the game here)
The Wim Hof Method (oxygen heals)
Many forms of exercise (exercise heals and promotes health)
Upper cervical chiropractic (to be structurally sound)
Eliminating wheat and “eating well” (made a major difference, I can feel the effects of eating wheat in seconds)
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (clinically proven treatment for depression, and a good sleep aid)
Photobiomodulation (probably reduced brain inflammation, but I’ve now been doing it every day for over a year)
Acupuncture and dry needling (extremely helpful, especially with whiplash issues)
Heart rate variability training (probably redundant with Wim Hof)
Syntonic light therapy (helped improve vision, which helped balance)
Vestibular therapy (helped with balance but never fully resolved balance differences)
Neurofeedback training via Myndlift (didn’t do much)
Many years. Many thousands of dollars. Many more thousands of dollars in lost income. Many other losses I can’t even begin to describe.
And this is to say nothing of the fact that I didn’t know about any of these things in the beginning and it took me years of suffering just to find these treatements and protocols. And I will continue doing many of the things listed above.
However, given the results of my permeability test, I am glad that I didn’t spend the $20,000 sticker price for one of those weeklong brain recovery camps like CognitiveFX (they mean well). Those places basically do everything I’ve listed above. But if my case proves anything, all of that won’t fully heal a compromised blood-brain barrier.
Could a compromised blood-brain barrier, or a combination of damaged brain and gut barriers, help explain why some people get worse over time rather than better after an mTBI?
In the aftermath of a concussion or mTBI, many people hear the same thing from their MDs. Wait a week and you’ll feel better. Wait a month. Wait a few more months. Worst case scenario, wait a year, and by then everything will resolve. This is precisely what my doctor told me back in 2008. Just hang in there. Nothing you can do. Just keep waiting.
Twelve months later, I felt far worse than I had one month after the injury. I regressed.
From what I hear, this is all too common. Ten to twenty per cent of people who suffer a concussion or head injury never recover. This adds up to millions of people suffering today.
Could a compromised blood-brain barrier help explain this?
I realise that structures in the brain can be damaged and there is no way to know (with our current tech) which structures are damaged or how to repair them. I don’t want to say that healing the blood-brain barrier could be a panacea.
But it also seems to me that, if your blood-brain barrier is compromised, you’re not going to get fully better until that is addressed, which typically involves a major dietary intervention—because when our barriers are porous, anything we eat can flow right in, which leads to an autoimmune reaction, which leads to our barriers taking further damage from our own immune systems.
And it also seems to me that, if one has a porous gut and/or porous brain barrier prior to head trauma, that precondition could confound you, the MDs, the neurologists, the physios, etc, etc.
In hindsight, how long has this been going on?
I’ve probably had a compromised blood-brain barrier for many years.
One need not be knocked unconscious to suffer long-term “post-concussion syndrome” (I put this in quotes because it isn't a diagnosis, it is only a collection of common symptoms).
Repeated sub-concussive blows can lead to so-called PCS and even CTE. This scenario can happen to soccer players who head the ball often, boxers who are never knocked out, etc.
I grew up in a violent environment and I played contact sports. When I look back at my life, my experience, how I acted, and how rage-prone I was when I was younger, I wonder if I hadn’t developed some level of this condition from a very young age.
Of course, there are an increasing number of reasons why American children and adults can develop a porous gut barrier. And America offers many opportunities for head trauma. It seems like an especially bad combination, and that’s before you add freely available assault weapons to the mix.
One can have no sign of allergies and still have a problem
My current dietary restrictions are no dairy, soy, tomatoes, corn, spinach, seafood, chocolate or wheat (I had already cut out wheat some years ago).
But according to my blood tests for allergies (which are different from skin tests), the only allergy I have is to wheat.
So if my doctor had devised my plan based on those tests alone, it would have been all too easy to give me the green light on dairy, soy, tomatoes, corn, spinach, chocolate, seafood, etc.
That’s why the Blood-Brain Barrier Permeability test is so important. It reveals that I’ve developed an autoimmune reaction to my own blood-brain barrier, which means that something I’m eating, or a set of things, is triggering that reaction when it crosses the barrier.
About three weeks into this protocol, I had one meal with dairy, and one meal with tomatoes, and both produced noticeable effects. Belief effects? I don’t think so.
The last remaining piece of the puzzle (at least in terms of testing) is my GI test results. Those results will tell me whether I also have a compromised gut barrier. If I do, then both barriers will need to be restored, and I’m a month into that process, which will take at least six months.
Apart from the dietary restrictions, I’m now in compliance with nearly all of the remaining aspects of the protocol, including changes to the supplement regimen, massively increasing my daily protein intake (but not from sources that contain a lot of saturated fat, like red meat), eating a lot more veg, and exercising more regularly.
So there you have it. One month in.
Brainwave is a newsletter about brain health, a blog about my own journey, and an informational resource for people whose symptoms haven’t resolved after a concussion or mTBI. I aim to present this information in a clear and concise way, spelling out what’s backed by science and what remains unknown. Nothing here is meant as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. I am not a physician or a healthcare practitioner of any kind; I’ve had a lot of sports-related head trauma and had to learn this stuff the hard way. If you found this information helpful or know someone who might benefit from it, please share and subscribe to Brainwave.