Using Omega-3 Fatty Acids to Treat Brain Injury with Dr. Michael Lewis- EP029

 In Podcast

There is a 20% chance that someone you love will experience a head injury, and 30% of those patients with brain injuries will suffer a long-term disability. The good news is that concussions and traumatic brain injury can be treated, and today’s guest is here to offer insight around how to restore the building blocks of the brain, omega-3 fatty acids.




Dr. Michael Lewis is one of the foremost authorities on brain health as well as the prevention, management and rehabilitation of concussions and traumatic brain injury. He is a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point and Tulane University School of Medicine, and he completed his postgraduate training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University, and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

After a distinguished 31-year career in the military, Dr. Lewis founded the nonprofit Brain Health Education and Research Institute in 2011 to educate healthcare providers and the public about the value of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of the brain prior to or following a head injury, with a special emphasis on improving the care of military personnel and veterans who have experienced brain trauma. Today he shares how omega-3 fatty acids function to heal the brain, how to choose the best quality fish oil, and his take on the failures of Western medicine. Listen in to hear the latest research around dark room treatment for concussions in athletes, the profound importance of sleep in recovering from brain injury, and the optimal diet for brain health!

Topics Covered

[1:07] The approach Dr. Lewis takes in When Brains Collide

  • Concussions not always preventable, but are treatable
  • Came to subject as outsider with simplified perspective
  • Brain made of omega-3 fatty acids
  • Flood brain with omega-3s in order to heal
[3:41] Dr. Lewis’ recommended dosage of fish oil

  • To treat brain injury, 15 capsules per day (three doses of five) for a week
  • Then decrease to two doses per day
  • Reduce again to five capsules once a day (GRAS level)
[6:21] The potential side effects of fish oil

  • Increased bleeding if cut is possibility, but no cases in literature
  • Can bruise easier
  • Regurgitation, fish burps and diarrhea associated with poor quality fish oil
[7:17] How to choose a good quality fish oil

  • Avoid ethyl ester
  • Look for triglyceride form
  • Krill oil is not good alternative
  • Only 50-80mg per capsule
  • Quality fish oil contains up to 1,000mg per capsule
  • Poor quality fish oil is low in EPA and DHA
  • 1,000mg soft gel may have only 180mg of EPA, 120mg of DHA
  • What’s the other 700mg?
  • Best quality fish oil has 3:2 ratio of EPA to DHA
  • Consider Nordic Naturals, Pure Encapsulations
[18:07] The uniqueness of brain injuries

  • 20% chance someone close to you will experience head injury
  • 30% chance of long-term disability in patients with head injury
  • Teen girls at greater risk
  • Like snowflakes, every injury is different
[20:23] Bobby’s story

  • High school senior in car accident, hit tree
  • Doctors said no chance of recovery or meaningful life
  • Recommended pulling plug
  • Family friend asked Dr. Lewis about fish oil supplements
  • Convinced neurosurgeon to try (nothing to lose)
  • Bobby attended graduation three months later
  • Lewis added nutritional supplement CBD to Bobby’s regimen
  • Bobby has full-time job, lives on his own and does standup comedy
[23:33] Dr. Lewis’ advice around dark room treatment for sports concussions

[27:22] The profound importance of sleep in recovering from brain injury

  • Adequate sleep is biggest concern according to Stanford program
  • Physical activity helps athletes sleep better
  • Lewis recommends magnesium at night to improve sleep quality
[28:25] Dr. Lewis’ best guidance around brain injury prevention

  • Mediterranean diet is optimal for brain health
  • Lean protein (preferably fish-based)
  • Limited red meat, no processed meats
  • Water as drink of choice
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Omega-3 fatty acids good for brain, omega-6 is not (pro-inflammatory)
[31:51] The appropriate ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids

  • Mankind developed with 1:1 ratio
  • After WWII, food supply dramatically changed, omega-6 levels skyrocketed
  • Omega-6 went up 12,000% from 1970-2000 (driven by soybean oil used in processed foods)
  • NIH study found ratio of 25:1 in US soldiers
  • Should be less than 5:1
  • Can be measured with blood test
  • More important indicator of health than cholesterol
[34:46] What you can do today to improve your omega-6 to omega-3 ratio

  • Adopt Mediterranean diet
  • Eat good quality seafood two or three times per week
  • Get blood checked for ratio
  • If omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 20:1 or higher, consider fish oil supplements
[38:08] Dr. Lewis’ take on Western medicine

  • System is failing us
  • Based around treating disease rather than prevention
  • Nutrition is powerful medicine, overlooked in West

Learn More About Dr. Michael Lewis

When Brains Collide: What Every Athlete and Parent Should Know About the Prevention and Treatment of Concussions and Head Injuries by Michael D. Lewis, MD

Brain Health Education and Research Institute

Suicide Deaths of Active Duty US Military and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Status: A Case Control Comparison

Resources Mentioned

Nordic Naturals

Pure Encapsulations

‘Fish Oil Helped Save Our Son’ on CNN

Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport

University of Buffalo Concussion Study

Brain Trauma Foundation

Stanford Concussion and Brain Performance Center




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