The Role Omega-3 Fatty Acids Play in Healing Concussions

March 23, 2019

The Role Omega-3 Fatty Acids Play in Healing Concussions

We're joined by Dr. Lewis, author of the new book, When Brains Collide: What Every Athlete and Parent Should Know About Prevention And Treatment of Concussions and Head Injuries. Listen in as Dr. Lewis shares comprehensive and nutritional approaches to help restore brain health after any type of head trauma or brain injury.

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Transcript:

DARLENE: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition. I'm Darlene Kvist. I'm a Certified Nutrition Specialist and a Licensed Nutritionist, and the founder of Dishing Up Nutrition.  I am so pleased to bring you this special radio show and podcast on the role of omega-three fatty acids in healing concussions. You know, I really hope my niece, Brenda, and her husband, Eric, and her son, Ben, are listening because the information that Dr. Michael Lewis will be sharing is something I think every parent, every child, every athlete, every veteran and every family member needs to hear. Can you tell that I'm really excited about this show?

CASSIE: I can.

DARLENE: Because I think this is critical information. You know, I have Registered Dietitian, Cassie Weness to help me cohost and to help me out through the whole show.

CASSIE: And I'm glad to be here, Dar. I just want to say thank you again for asking me to be on the show this morning because I've heard Dr. Michael Lewis interviewed in the past, and he is just a wealth of information. So I feel really honored to be here on the radio with you today, and having Dr. Michael Lewis with us via phone. So with that, joining us this morning by phone from the east coast is Dr. Michael Lewis. Obviously he's a medical doctor, but he's also a retired United States army colonel.  And he's the founder of the nonprofit organization, Brain Health Education and Research Institute.  And it doesn't stop there. Dr. Lewis is also the author of the bestselling book called When Brains Collide: what every athlete and parents should know about the prevention and treatment of concussions and head injuries.  That's a mouthful of a title, but I think it's because there's so much great information in that book.

DARLENE: Dr. Lewis, welcome to the show and we really thank you for taking time to be Dishing Up Nutrition this morning. We've got a few questions for you this morning. So do you have a lot of answers? 

DR. MICHAEL LEWIS (GUEST SPEAKER): I hope I do.

DARLENE: So, Cassie, you want to start with the first question?

CASSIE: Well, I think right off the bat, Dr. Lewis, just to kind of set the tone for the show, I'd love to have you answer this: You know, as you think back about all of your research and all of the people you've worked with; and all the people you've helped, what would be one or two key takeaways that you would like everyone listening to leave with today in the area of healing concussions or healing from any type of brain trauma?

DR. LEWIS: Well, I think some of the biggest things are just basic. Getting back to the basics, you know, the concept of diet and exercise. And lifestyle, you know, good quality lifestyle medicine. And you know, we've been told for so long, if you had a head injury, you know, don't exercise.  Go sit in a dark room and don't do anything.  How many times do you go to the emergency room or into your doctor for something like this and you're talked to about, you know, what you're eating? And so just that concept of lifestyle.  Diet and exercise, I think is just a discussion we don't seem to ever have.

DARLENE: So Dr. Lewis, let's bring it down to where our listeners really can hear this. Because when you say diet, let's talk about that first. What are you really meaning when you say that for people? Because you know, everyone has a different opinion of what that means.

DR. LEWIS: Well, the only diet has ever been shown to be brain healthy is the Mediterranean style diet. And so, you know, fruits and more of nature-based fruits, nuts, vegetables.

CASSIE: Real food.

DR. LEWIS: Lean proteins, you know, seafood preferably, and olive oil.  And you know, skipping the vegetable oils and all the other bad stuff that's in our diet these days.

DARLENE: So no trips to the fast food places. I almost said one and I caught myself.  No trips to the fast food places for brain health. Is that what you're saying?

DR. LEWIS: Yeah, we need to, you know, when you're struggling with a head injury, some of the worst things you can do is not just the junk food and fast foods, but also sugars.  You know, we've got quite a sweet tooth we do in this country.  And we, really, you know, the simple sugars are one of the most important things to cut out right away.

CASSIE: Boy, doesn't that make sense? Because we always talk here about how sugar equals inflammation. And when I was watching a presentation that you gave not that long ago, I was watching it on your website last night, you were showing scans of how that inflammation in the brain, you know, lingers for a long time after that blow to the head. And then if you're eating a lot of sugar on top of it, you're just adding insult to injury.

DR. LEWIS: You really are. And you know, but how many times do you go to the doctor's office and you’ re talked to about eating too much sugar? It just doesn't happen, unfortunately.

DARLENE: Never happens. So Dr Lewis, how did you get involved in this, and what kind of made you, kind of inspired you actually, to create this nonprofit organization that you have?  This Health Education and Research Institute?

DR. LEWIS: Well, as you mentioned, I, you know, I spent most of my adult life in the army.  I ended up 31 and a half years in the army.  And my last assignment was at Walter Reed National Medical Center outside of Washington DC.  And it was really, you know, being around wounded warriors and think, what can I be doing to help with the effort?  And, I went to the head of research and asked, “Is anybody looking at the use of Omega-threes to help our soldiers recover from traumatic brain injury”? And the answer was: “No, why don't you”?

DARLENE: Okay. So let's talk a little bit more about how you use Omega-threes. What, first of all, what are Omega threes? I mean, a lot of people don't even know, you know? And sometimes we have clients that come in and they'll say, I'm taking an Omega three and then they're taking one. You must be somewhere where there's a lot of traffic going on.

DR. LEWIS: Unfortunately, just occasionally right behind me.  I apologize for that.

CASSIE: He's multi-tasking.

DR. LEWIS: So what omega-threes?  Omega-threes are, you know, a particular type of fat.  There's saturated fats and then there's unsaturated saturated fats.  Omega threes are long chain, polyunsaturated fats.  It means they've got lots of spaces, double bonds and spaces where things can happen.  But where it really becomes important is that our brains are; about 30% of the weight of our brain is made up of these omega-three fats.  And, and you know, we'll also have omega six type of fats, but that's really important to understand the difference. The omega-sixes are, basically pro inflammatory: cause and feed inflammation. And that's important because when we have an injury, you want inflammation.  You have to have inflammation, but you have to be able to resolve it. And that's where the omega-threes come in.  The omega-threes is what helps us resolve the inflammation. The problem is we have so many omega sixes is in our diets from the fast foods and everything else that we have a… and we don't eat enough seafood, or leafy green vegetables that have a lot of good omega three fats in our system: in our tissue, in our brains.

CASSIE: Yeah. And I think just to clarify, I love that you said we have too many Omega sixes is in the American diet. And if people are in their kitchen and can pull out some foods from cupboard, see if you find soybean oil in the ingredient list or corn oil or cotton seed oil. These oils are so prevalent and I don't even think people realize they're putting them in their mouth every day, and then it gets us out of balance.

DARLENE: So Dr. Lewis, if you had, you know, like Cassie, you have a couple of young teenagers at home.  Do you kind of recommend a certain way of feeding your kids to help support brain health?  Whether they have a concussion or whether they don't have a concussion?  Or what I'm really looking for is: Are there ways that we should be feeding our kids or even adults that if they happen to get a concussion?  That their brain isn't better able to handle that?  Did you understand my question?

DR. LEWIS: I do. And so there's two things, three things that we need to think about doing. One is, eating on a regular basis, just eating better, eating healthier. You know, one of the best things even with teenagers is, teach him how to eat good seafood. My teenagers love the salmon that I make on the grill and it's you know, we try to have at least once a week.  But even that's not enough.  So number one, decrease the bad stuff in your diet. Number two is increasing the good stuff in your diet. But number three is: the reason why we have supplementation… And so I advocate, I'm a big advocate for fish oil supplementation because I know we don't get enough from our diet.

CASSIE: I want to talk more about that supplementation piece. We do have to take a quick commercial break, but let's come back on the other side and talk about supplementation of the omega threes. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition this morning.  Dar and I are talking about the benefits of nutrition and Omega three fish oils for brain health, especially for treating concussions.  And we have with us on the line, Dr. Michael Lewis, our special guest.  He's the founder of the nonprofit Brain Health Education and Research Institute. Please keep listening because he has been researching and treating brain injuries for over 30 years, and I know he has so much more to share with us.  So stay with us. We'll be right back.

DARLENE: Well, welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. If you are listening to us live today, I think that's great.  If you want to share this show with family or friends, you know we have a podcast of this show and it'll be on our website, weightandwellness.com next week early. I believe this show is really going to be a keeper because we've got more important questions to ask.  You know, and one that you're to want to share with your friends and listen to it over and over. The brain is the most important organ in our body, and it's time we learned how to care for it, how to feed it and how to nourish it.  That said, today is the last day to save 15% on all our Nutrikey products and Nutrikey omega-three is a pharmaceutical grade and a very high quality supplement for your body and your brain. So I say stock up today and save. You know, you can order online at weightandwellness.com or just stop in at any of our seven locations. And we're back to talking about brain health. And Cassie, you had a question I think?

CASSIE: Well first I want, I would love for Dr. Lewis to finish up his thought there on, yeah, you were talking how to feed our bodies and our kids well, but then how important supplementation is. Could you pick it up there where you left off?

DR. LEWIS: So omega-threes, you know, we don't get enough of them in our diet and so that's where supplementation comes in. I mean, think about the word, you know, means to the supplement, not to replace what we're eating.  I advocate that we supplement not just after a head injury, but ahead of a head injury. You know, if we can increase the resilience of the brain to withstand injury in the first place, then if an injury does occur, you've got the right amount of omega three's already on board to help with the healing process.

CASSIE: Okay, interesting. That was one of my questions that Dar and I were talking about before you came on air. I said, I am so curious if you feed the brain right and supplement right, can you get it to a place where it's going to withstand less damage when that blow to the head comes?  So if I hear you right, you're saying, yes, let's, let's be proactive here too and, make a healthier organ, so it can stand up better to an attack basically?

DARLENE: So Dr. Lewis, you know, if you've got a, say a 10 year old or a 12 year old or even an eight year old, how many omega three fish oil capsules, softgels, would you recommend that parents start having their children take?  Do you have a recommendation on that?

DR. LEWIS: Well, the complicated answer is gonna be, you know, sort of, the pediatrician kind of answer is 40 milligrams per kilogram. You know, most people are like what does that mean?

DARLENE: Yeah, that’s right.

DR. LEWIS:  In reality, I mean, if you've got a, say a 12 year old, and basically I would consider that, you know, they should be at the adult dose-which is essentially 3000. What the FDA tells us is generally recognized as safe is 3000 milligrams a day. And so a good quality product out there, that's three fish oil capsules. And certainly fish oil doesn't come just in capsules.  You can get it in liquid, gels, juice boxes and other ways; gummy bears and others. But, to get 3000 milligrams a day for, say a high school soccer player, an ice hockey player, or a football player, three capsules a day of good quality stuff, will do the job.

CASSIE: Okay. So that's just like every day for good brain health. So now let's say somebody comes to you.  They've had a bad concussion.  What kind of a protocol do you put them on from there? Cause I'm assuming it's more.

DARLENE: Dr. Lewis?

DR. LEWIS: Sorry, I got distracted there for half a second. I really apologize.

CASSIE: No, you're fine.  So I was saying, so you were saying, you know, 3000 milligrams a day, which is kind of an adult dose, is good for a teenager too.  That's just everyday to establish a healthy brain. If that same kid or say an adult came to you with a pretty bad concussion, then what do you recommend? Do you have a certain protocol?

DR. LEWIS: Absolutely.  So what I call the Omega Protocol, is to essentially take that 3000 milligram dose and kind of do a loading dose. I want to triple that up. So I would do that breakfast, lunch, dinner; before school, after school, bedtime, for at least a week.

DARLENE: Okay, you're talking like nine, then?

DR. LEWIS: Correct. For a week. I mean, I look at it as a loading dose.  And with those doses, people notice an improvement within one or two days. I mean, it's not a cure. We're talking about nutrition, but people will notice an improvement in their brain health or the lifting of that brain fog, energy levels, things that really plague people after a head injury. And, and with the 9,000 milligrams a day, if you can make a difference in one or two or three days, that may make a big difference in somebody's life.

DARLENE: So you do that for a week, nine a day for a week. And then what happens the second week? Do you keep that level up?

DR. LEWIS: Well, it depends. If the symptoms are still around but not quite gone, then I would keep it up. Sometimes if somebody’s had an injury months or years ago, I'll do that actually for more like a month, and then try to get them back down to that 3000 milligrams a day.

DARLENE: Okay. Okay. So you know, I don't know if people that are listening have an idea of what you really do.  I mean, do you actually see clients now?  Do you see patients?  I knew of you when you went to and spoke at the American College and Nutrition Conference three years ago and I was so impressed with what you were saying.  Do you see people now? Do you see clients now at all?

DR. LEWIS: I do. I am just outside of Washington DC. So I do a couple of things. One is I have a small practice. I do see patients, and basically I owe it… I focus completely on patients that have struggled to recover from a traumatic brain injury.  So people that are struggling months or years after a head injury.

CASSIE: Okay. We're going to have to take a quick break Dar, then I'll let you ask that question when we come back.  So stay with us Dr. Lewis.  For anybody just recently tuning in, you're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Our topic this morning is the role of omega-threes and nutrition in healing concussions.  Before we head off to commercial, if you haven't noticed it yet, spring is finally in the air, at least here in Minnesota.  So I know my middle schooler didn't wear his coat all week this week even though it's a little chilly in the mornings.  But he's so ready for spring. So if you're the same and you've been taking that coat off, maybe you've glanced in the mirror and said, “Oh shoot, I can't cover up my winter weight gain any longer”.  Well, if it's time for you to do something about that, I'd like to suggest joining our Nutrition For Weight Loss program. We have new classes starting April 9th at all of our seven office locations. And you can check out the days, times and locations at weightandwellness.com or you can call (651) 699-3438 and ask your questions to somebody in person.  And remember the Nutrition For Weight Loss plan is not a starvation diet. It's a real food eating plan. One more bit of housekeeping before we go to commercial: Next Saturday here on Dishing Up Nutrition, it's going to be Dar the owner of Nutritional Weight and Wellness again along with Britni and Teresa, and their topic will be overcoming fatigue. That's going to be another great show. Be sure to tune in. We'll be right back.

DARLENE: Well welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. You know I am very pleased to announce that two of the major health insurance companies have now decided to cover nutrition therapy for many problems.

CASSIE: That is wonderful news.

DARLENE: So if you have a cholesterol issue or maybe a problem with acid reflux or diarrhea, obesity, or any other health problem that you might have, you know, they might just qualify for insurance coverage.  So if you want to know if your health insurance coverage nutrition therapy, call us at (651) 699-3438 to find the answer and perhaps set up on one on one appointment. Our nutritionists and dietitians are ready to answer your questions and help you find solutions to your health problems. After all these years, nutrition therapy is starting to be covered by health insurance. I love it. And you know, that is actually one of the reasons back in 1996 that I became licensed so I would qualify for insurance coverage. It only takes a few years to have this happen.

CASSIE: Dar, I never thought it would happen honestly. So if you can wait it out long enough. Yay.

DARLENE: So that we have more questions for Dr. Lewis.

CASSIE: We do. So Dr. Lewis, are you still with us?

DR. LEWIS: I am.

CASSIE: So, yeah, you were talking about how you're in private practice and you're working with people with traumatic brain injury and, and just to clarify a concussion is a traumatic brain injury. But I have a question. I was watching a video of you give a presentation here this past week and you gave a couple of what I'll call case studies that, I mean I walked away and I said to my husband, these were like miracles that Dr. Lewis just talked about. Do you do any of those scenarios that pretty much seemed miraculous where somebody had a terrible traumatic brain injury and you came in and were able to really help through a nutrition protocol. Do any of those come to mind that you could share with the listeners?

DR. LEWIS: Well, the one that you're probably familiar with, and kind of got me a little notoriety if you will, is, and partly because Sanjay Gupta picked up and did a pretty big, like an eight minute segment on this story on CNN is the story of Bobby.  Bobby was in a car accident when he was 17, 18 years old, senior in high school.  Terrible accident, and he really should have, you know, and for all intents and purposes, should have died literally. And the parents were out of town and they were told, you know, when they got there to the hospital, pull the plug, there's no chance that this kid is going to survive. And even if he does, he'll never come out of a coma.  And so the family got in touch with me and I talked to the neurosurgeon, and said, you know, you've got nothing to lose. Why don't we try flooding him, flooding his body with omega-threes.  What it took to make his brain in the first place.  There's no downside.  It's just the nutrition.  So, let's see what happens.  And the real short this story is Bobby went to his high school graduation three months later.

CASSIE: That was one of the stories I watched.

DARLENE: Now, there's a little bit more to this story because I know the mom of Bobby’s was in one of my first nutrition seminars that I went to, you know, a hundred years ago.  So anyway, small world isn't it? So Dr. Lewis, I have a question.  You know can you kind of compare your treatment with what is kind of the conventional treatment? You know, I remember my daughter was on a sledding accident when she was about 10 years old, hit a tree and of course had a concussion.  Took her to the ER and they basically said take her home and put her to bed. And that was it. There was no other, nothing else to talk about. So could you describe to the parents that are listening into the other people, how your treatment, how it's different than that type of treatment?

DR. LEWIS: Well, yeah, and you know, that's why I talked about getting back to, you know, diet and exercise. And so when I mean diet and exercise, I mean, you know, eating healthy all the time.  And we talked about fish oil, supplementation and such.  But exercise, that's one area that's starting to finally change. You know, there were some studies I think out of Buffalo or Toronto that basically showed that kids that ignored the advice and actually became active quicker, got better quicker. And it subsequently has carried on even randomized clinical trials to look at exercise versus no exercise.  And every day you delay exercising after a head injury your chances of having a bad recovery increase.

CASSIE: Interesting. Okay. Yeah, because Dar, I think it's the same advice that’s given out;  In the past, about year and a half, there's been three boys my sons age, he's 13.  Two on the same basketball team, one on another team that had concussions and it was just, you know:  “Don't play; don't look at the screen; stay in dim light. So you're saying get up, get moving, and probably take some extra omega-threes?

DR. LEWIS: Absolutely. And, you know, one of the things that I always play out. A colleague of mine who runs the MDPHD (the neurosurgeon runs the program- the concussion program at Stanford University.  When they have a division one athlete that has a concussion, they put them on the treadmill or a bike the next day-the day after a concussion.  You know, and I asked him, well, what if they have a headache?  And he goes, he was kind of just laughing.  He was like, give him a Motrin and tell him to keep running.  But he goes, when you exercise, especially athletes, when you exercise them right away…  And I don't mean backed into a game.  I mean a safe, aerobic exercise, they just get better quicker.  And science is finally starting to, you know, banner that out.

CASSIE: Well, I would bet it has in part to do with the fact that exercise can help reduce inflammation.  But I love that you said that and we need to point out, we're not saying get them back in the game.  It's not that, you know, get tough and get back out there like some generations did.  But, a safe exercise.  I have a question too that I had thought of here as you're talking.  Let's just say there's a football player, high school softball player, who’s had two or three concussions.  How much more prone, if at all, is your head to another concussion?  Are you more susceptible because you've had a couple?

DR. LEWIS: Yes, absolutely.  And that's one of the questions that people often ask me.  How many concussions before I have to pull my kid out of the game?  I mean out of the sport.  So you know, there's some good evidence that three or more documented concussions raises your risk for long term problems.  You know, cognitive problems.  But there's no hard and fast rule.  Some people could have 10 concussions and be perfectly fine and other people, one concussion can be debilitating for life.  So I think there's a big genetic component, but I think environmentally, you know, it gets back to again: what's one person's lifestyle?  It's, you know, if they're exercising on a regular basis, if they're eating healthy, not eating the sugars, and doing the right things,  that's the only good way forward. We don't have any particular solid answers and science yet.

DARLENE:  So another question: I think a lot of parents, or at least I think as a parent I would have that thought thinking this:  If my son or daughter had a concussion, ”What is the future possible problem with not only learning, but also with kind of their personality”?  Is there any research that talks about that? You must know all the research by now.

CASSIE: Probably did the research.

DARLENE: Probably did the research.  That's right.

DR. LEWIS: Well, there's a lot of good people out there doing a lot of great research. I just actually blanked on what was the question behind that?  You've got me thrown off with the research.

CASSIE: That's all right. I think what we're saying is like could you be more prone to depression or personality changes after?

DR. LEWIS: Well actually, all right, you know when you bring up a great point.  And a great area that we'll we can talk about for a moment.

CASSIE:  Alright, on that note then I think I have to cut you off, Dr. Lewis.   I'm going to blame it on the producer. She's given me the signal but I really want to come back and talk about this.  So, man this hour is flying by.  Before we do take our final break, I want to say thank you to all of our listeners tuning in to Dishing Up Nutrition today.  And if by the time this show is over, which is shortly, if you still have more questions about brain health, brain injuries, concussions, I really encourage you to pick up Dr. Michael Lewis’ bestselling book called When Brains Collide: what every athlete and parents should know about the prevention and treatment of concussions and head injuries. As we kind of joked about at the beginning of the show, it is a long title.  But that's because it truly is filled with a lot of valuable information.  And don't go away because we'll be talking more with Dr. Lewis on the backside of this break.

DARLENE: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. You know, to celebrate spring, we're offering many of our popular 90 minute classes for only $10.  You know, in the past when we offered our regular classes for only $10 they filled up quickly. So if you want to save your seat, you know, here's some ideas.   Five Steps to Boost Metabolism, or we have a class called Stress Food and You, or Eating To Reduce Pain and Inflammation.  So if you want a spot, I suggest that you sign up today.  You know some go to weightandwellness.com and you can sign up online or you can just call us and we'll do it for you.  So our number is (651) 699-3438. And we also have some additional savings. And today's the last day.  It's on our supplements.  We're taking 15% off on nutritional counseling on their appointments.

CASSIE: And that’s a big savings when you take 15% off that initial consultation. That's a great deal.

DARLENE:  So don't miss out on any of these specials. And again, just call (651) 699-3438. And so we're back with Dr. Lewis hopefully.

CASSIE: We still have you there, Dr. Lewis?

DR. LEWIS: Yep, you do. I haven’t run away yet.

DARLENE: So we have some more questions for you.

CASSIE: I cut him off because we had one more commercial break there that I blamed on Hope over there on the other side of the screen. What was that conversation that I interrupted?  Now, I forgot.

DR. LEWIS: Well the question was more about mood changes associated with concussions.  Which kind of lead me down the line of talking about what to look for after a concussion.

DR. LEWIS: I always kind of not pick on it, but I always kind target teenagers, and particularly, not just the teenagers but moms. Cause I don't convince moms and wives can change the world.

CASSIE: I like that.

DR. LEWIS: But you know, so what to look for.  You know, the obvious ones, you know that somebody has had a big blow to the head and all that. That's obvious. But sometimes you don't know.  Sometimes say it happened at practice and the kid didn't tell anybody.  And now you've got a teenager who's become moody and irritable and maybe even a personality change.  And you know, that should be a red flag. The other red flag is, you know, kids are doing really well in school, straight-A student who now all the sudden struggling in class or even failing classes: another big red flag.  But I'll say, typically what I say is, when we were looking at… what are the issues with chronic concussion that aren't getting better? You know, and it's really three big ones that kind of stand out a lot. Headaches are really common.  But even more common is just sort of overwhelming fatigue and brain fog.  Just can't think.  And the way I always describe it is it's like having a head cold without the runny nose. You know, when you just don't feel like doing anything.  You just want to crawl back in bed. You can't think, you don't want to think it, you know. So, it's like a head cold without the runny nose is the way I describe it.

CASSIE: Just in reading your biography and things, and I know Dar does too, appreciate your passion in bringing awareness to the general public of, you know, of these signs to look for: just about the dangers of concussions and brain injuries.  One thing we haven't talked about yet that you point out in your book is that traumatic brain injury is the number one cause of future dementia.  That's a little unsettling.

DR. LEWIS: Even more unsettling, there’s recent research out that says having a concussion doubles the risk of somebody committing suicide.

CASSIE: Okay. And you have done, of course I'm sure because that’s where your heart lies, you've done a lot of work with veterans.  Did you kind of piece this together and look at it? Cause I've often just had the discussion with family or acquaintances that the suicide rate among veterans is high.  And why didn't we see that as much, you know, after what Word War 1 or something like that? Do you think there's this link with poor eating habits?  So we start out with a brain that's not all that great. Then they go to battle, they get the concussion. Nobody really pays enough attention to treating it properly and now they're more prone for depression and suicidal thoughts?  Is there a big link there?

DR. LEWIS: Well, I think there's two things that kind of intersect there. One is that, you know, you're talking about battlefield injuries. You know, the survival rate of the last 20, 30 years on the battlefields in the Middle East and so on, are so much improved from World War 1 to World War 2 to Korea, to Vietnam.  Now we get to the Gulf Wars, and you know, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the body armor protection is so much better.  And the evacuation procedures are so much better that people are surviving.  Previous wars never would have survived.

CASSIE: Okay.

DR. LEWIS: Then you add into the nutrition component on top of it, you know, then you've got a setting to where if they are surviving, they're going to have a struggle. I think we're seeing more concussions on, you know, playing fields, sports fields.  I think we're seeing more concussions and worse outcomes. And a big part of that is, in my opinion, the poor nutrition status that we have generally in this country.

DARLENE: Well, that’s what our show is all about.

CASSIE: You back me up, Dr. Lewis. Hopefully my kids are listening. Cause there's so many times where my kids want to, oh, I don't know, have like three pieces of cake or stop and get some foo foo high sugar drink at Starbucks. And I say, you know what? I love you too much to do that.  We need to feed our kids well.  And so do you think, you know, because you are working in part, at least with veterans, is the food piece being addressed in the VA hospitals?  I mean, are they trying to lay a foundation of nutrition when these people come in with head trauma?

DR. LEWIS: Well that's certainly debatable.  Anyone who’s been in the hospital knows that there’s a reason why hospital food is sort of given a bad rap. And so is that changing?  You know that's really, you know, we're, we're kind of hitting a whole broad spectrum of things here.  Cause we could be talking about anything from a severe traumatic brain injury where somebody is in a coma and relying completely on the doctors and the hospital staff on what to feed them.  That's a whole different thing than your typical concussions, where mom basically has control over how the kids are fed, as you know.

DARLENE: One of the things that I think for our listeners, because I don't think a lot of times our listeners understand what the brain is actually made out of.  And maybe you could just kind of share with people a little bit about what's in our brain?  What do we need to feed our brain?

DR. LEWIS: Well, the brain's main principally of water and fat for the most part. And so staying hydrated, you know, is always an important thing.

CASSIE: Not diet pop, water.

DR. LEWIS: No, water. So that's an important thing.  But you know, so, but really the principal component of the brain is fat.  Fat and cholesterol.  And so, you can't have a brain without omega-three fats, omega-six fats and cholesterol.  Essentially without that you have no brain.  And so, there is a reason why, you know, we've had nicknames like fat head, things like that, right? That’s the situation.  You know, and, and but it's really about that ratio between the proinflammatory forces and the pro-resolving forces. So I said, right, you need inflammation to help repair a brain, which is one of the reasons why exercise is so important because it's really about increasing the blood flow to the brain.

CASSIE: Dr. Lewis, the music is starting. If you want to learn more or get in contact with Dr. Lewis, you can go to brainhealtheducation.org.  He's got a lot of great information and you can contact him through that website and do check out his book because it is just a wealth of information. Thank you so much for joining us today.

DARLENE: Yes, and thank you, Dr. Lewis.  We appreciate you.

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