How Traumatic Brain Injury Can Damage Other Aspects of Your Health
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How Traumatic Brain Injury Can Damage Other Aspects of Your Health

Thursday, February 08, 2018By Richard Alexander

The effects of traumatic brain injury have been at the forefront of debates about contact sports in recent years. Professional sports organizations have instituted rules to reduce brain injuries. State legislatures in all states have passed legislation to help prevent traumatic brain injuries through training, education and establishing protocols for removing athletes if a concussion is suspected.

In one of the largest studies to examine the brains of former NFL players, 87% showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Sufferers of CTE all experienced similar symptoms: mood changes, depression, apathy, violence, memory loss, and impaired thinking skills which worsened throughout life. The majority of those with severe pathology died from dementia or impaired movement, such as swallowing. The researchers concluded that a link between CTE and repeated traumatic brain injury is undeniable. The data is clear: traumatic brain injury can lead to a host of serious physical and mental problems that can persist for a lifetime.

Current research has made another significant finding: traumatic brain injury doesn’t just affect your mental and emotional state. It can cause others serious health related problems, including changes to your intestinal system. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have found a reciprocal link between intestinal infections and traumatic brain injury. The study showed that traumatic brain injury in mice can generate long-term changes in the colon and the resulting gastrointestinal infections can exacerbate inflammation in the brain.

These findings confirm that there are powerful connections between the brain and gastrointestinal system. Scientists have long suspected that such a relationship exists, but this research tells them more. The increased rate of chronic infections after brain injury suggests that trauma makes the colon more porous and allows harmful bacteria to move from the intestine throughout the body. In fact, people are 12 times more likely to die from blood poisoning caused by bacteria after a traumatic injury has occurred.

It is not clear why the relationship between brain injury and gastrointestinal damage exists. One possibility is that enteric glial cells in the gastrointestinal system are similar to brain astroglial cells. Both of these cells seem to be activated after head trauma. At the same time these cells are activated, there is increased brain inflammation and tissue deterioration. Scientists are continuing to study what triggers this cycle.

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