This article is an addendum to the video “Stroke Prevention and Recovery… A Holistic Approach”. As I mentioned in the video, the following nutrients and herbs can prevent stroke and do wonders for your recovery, if you’ve already suffered a stroke. I will break down their individual stroke fighting and healing benefits for your consideration, and also some warnings.
Keep in mind that the herbs and nutrients that I have selected are also useful for many other conditions, but for the sake of brevity I will mostly address their value to recovering stroke patients and those who wish to prevent stroke.
Stroke Prevention Nutrients and Herbs
I’m sure that the following nutrients and herbs are not the only ones that benefit stroke patients or prevent stroke but the following rehab supplements are certainly the best researched, at present. In no particular order …
- Gingko Biloba
- Vitamin E
- Omega 3-Fatty Acids/Flaxseed oil
- Coenzyme Q10
- Vitamin C
Bromelain, an enzyme found only in pineapples, is famous for how efficiently it breaks down proteins, which accounts for its common use as a digestive aid. Bromelain is especially useful for breaking down Fibrin, a protein the body produces for thickening the blood and clotting wounds. This is very important because it was proven more than a decade ago that most cases of heart attack and stroke are caused by inflammation in circulating blood activating the protein Fibrin, with devastating results (hypercoagulation).
In addition to keeping Fibrin under control, Bromelain also fights inflammation – which helps prevent the unnecessary activation of Fibrin in the first place, which makes it the perfect supplement for stroke prevention.
Warning: Because Bromelain thins the blood, you should be mindful of taking it with pharmaceutical and natural blood thinners.
There is a wealth of scientific evidence proving that DHA (an Omega-3 fat) can prevent and reverse stroke. Specifically, the researchers found that DHA, Docosahexaenoic acid, can protect stroke victims from brain damage and disability and aid in a speedier recovery. The findings come from Louisiana State University researchers who used an experimental model to find how the fish oil component can repair the brain up to five hours after the onset of stroke. This is not surprising, as DHA is essential for vision and brain development in infants.
DMAE is an amino acid found in small amounts in the brain, it can improve cognitive response and make one more alert. According to studies, DMAE is a crucial substance that functions as a building block for choline, which allows the brain to manufacturer acetyl-choline. Research indicates that acetyl-choline, a neurotransmitter, plays an important role in the conduction and functioning of signals in the brain and the nervous system.
DMAE is used to treat many brain-related illnesses, but it helps stroke victims most because of its ability to
- boost memory and brainpower
- improve and elevate moods
- treat symptoms associated with dementia
- boost athletic performance
- reduce depression
Consuming fish, especially salmon, sardines, and anchovies, helps to increase the level of DMAE in the body.
Warning: DMAE is a very safe supplement, so long as you do not exceed the recommended dosage. However, it is not recommended for patients with bipolar depression, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, or seizure disorders. In addition, it is not recommended for women who are pregnant or nursing, unless approved by their medical doctor. Side effects associated with DMAE are very rare and not usually serious. In a few cases, patients have reported body odor, confusion, drowsiness, gastrointestinal distress, high blood pressure, irritability, and moderate depression.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has used Gingko Biloba for thousands of years as a remedy for circulatory problems and as an aid to memory and cognition. Through multiple mechanisms, Ginkgo enhances brain function. Ginkgo has been shown to actually support and enhance the function of neural tissue by protecting neurons from damage, and also regenerating neurons.
Ginkgo’s circulatory support enhances the blood flow by preventing damaging oxidation of lipids, or fats, in the arteries and capillaries. Studies show Ginkgo-treated red blood cells become more slippery, flexible and less sticky, which can prevent blood clots and therefore decrease your risk of stroke.
Warning: Although Ginkgo Biloba supplements are generally safe and well-tolerated, side effects may occur in some cases. Most side effects are minor, including nausea, upset stomach, headache, dizziness, constipation, and pounding heartbeat. In rare cases, a severe allergic reaction may result, which may cause difficulty breathing.
Ginkgo may also act as a blood thinner and increase the risk of excess bleeding, especially when combined with other blood-thinning medications. So, be mindful of taking other blood-thinning agents (natural and pharmaceutical) with Gingko Biloba, and start slowly with dosages. Dosages should never start at more than 120 mg per day, to decrease the risk of side effects. If you need to take higher doses, you can slowly increase the dose over time (allow at least one week in between dosage increases). Splitting your daily dose into multiple doses spread throughout the day will also help prevent side effects.
However, it may take four to six weeks for ginkgo to have an effect on your body and it may interact with certain prescription medications, especially blood thinners. If you are taking pharmaceutical medications, consult your doctor before using. If you are using a natural blood thinner, do not take more than 60mg of Gingko Biloba per day (start at a lower dose). Do not take ginkgo if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have epilepsy.
This essential fatty acid works as a brain cell stimulator – stimulating and protecting brain cells against functional deterioration. Phosphatidylserine allows brain cells to absorb nutrients more efficiently and has the potential to improve neural function because it helps to maintain cell membrane integrity.
Phosphatidylserine has been shown to improve memory and learning in the most severe cases. Although found in meat, Phosphatidylserine is most abundant in the brain and innards such as liver and kidney. Only small amounts of Phosphatidylserine can be found in dairy products or in vegetables, with the exception of white beans.
Soy-derived Phosphatidylserine is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) and is a safe nutritional supplement for older persons if the dosage does not exceed 200mg three times daily.
Naturally present in plants and animals, including humans, Acetyl-L-carnitine has been studied at length and found to be extremely useful. for example, a study published in CNS Drugs (2007) found that
“[Acetyl-L-carnitine] can also improve the function of peripheral nerves by increasing nerve conduction velocity, reducing sensory neuronal loss, and promoting nerve regeneration.”1
Later studies backed up these findings.
A study, published in the March 2008 edition of Experimental Neurology, found that Acetyl L-carnitine reduced the pain response in experimental animals by preventing the swelling of fibers in the mitochondria that cause pain. This would indicate that Acetyl-L-carnitine can prevent Neuropathic Pain Syndrome.
Meanwhile, other Acetyl-L-carnitine studies discovered other uses for the nutrient. One study, published in the April 2007 edition of The Journal of Clinical Hypertension, found that Acetyl L-carnitine not only reduced systolic blood pressure in every participant with coronary artery disease who received the treatment, it also improved endothelial health (the function of the lining of blood vessels that regulate blood flow). This would indicate that Acetyl-L-carnitine can successfully reduce the symptoms related to coronary artery disease.
If you plan to supplement with Acetyl-L-carnitine, keep in mind that Acetyl-L-carnitine is just one member of the carnitine family and that carnitines work in different but related ways. Some are more closely tied to cardiac health, some to metabolism, and some to neurological health. Because some studies implicate mitochondrial decay as a cause of aging, some people speculate that using carnitine to maintain mitochondrial function could stave off symptoms of aging – in particular, the frightening mental declines that accompany age-related illnesses such as Alzheimer’s.
Warning: Drugs.com has outlined some reported side effects from a prescription carnitine treatment, primarily occurring in patients with kidney failure. While these effects were reported from a particular carnitine treatment mainly in a specific patient population, there is a potential for experiencing these same adverse reactions from a store-bought nutritional supplement. So, be mindful of how you feel before and during treatment. Gastrointestinal upset is a common complaint with 41% of patients experiencing nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, constipation, dyspepsia, and altered taste. Other potential adverse reactions generally affected only a small number of people and include seizures, insomnia, anxiety, dizziness, elevated triglyceride levels, body odor, swelling, weight loss, decreases in weight, elevated potassium and calcium levels, swelling, headache, muscle pain, itching, cramps, urinary tract infections, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and depression.
Limited research suggests carnitine supplements might treat hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid activity by suppressing thyroid hormone production, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. If you suffer the exact opposite problem – hypothyroidism / low thyroid function – using carnitine supplements might worsen your condition.
Acetyl-L-carnitine might react with anticoagulant drugs. These medications have been dosed very specifically and using supplements that affect their actions even slightly might require changes to your dose.
Your body makes carnitine in the kidneys and renal disease may cause a deficiency. If you have kidney disease, however, never use any supplements without talking to your doctor first. While it is always prudent to check with your doctor before using any supplements, it is particularly important before using carnitine if you also suffer from seizures, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, high blood pressure or cirrhosis. The presence of these health conditions might make you particularly vulnerable to potential adverse reactions of carnitine.
A natural blood-thinner and antioxidant. High doses are not necessary to help prevent stroke. See video for dosage information. Vitamin E is fat-soluble, which means you can only absorb it if you have consumed food containing fat prior to or along with the supplement. Healthy oils like Sunflower Seed and Grape Seed contain high amounts of Vitamin E and fat.
Warning: A study published in a 2010 issue of The British Medical Journal found that, although vitamin E supplements decreased the risk of ischemic strokes by 10 percent, they also increased the risk of hemorrhagic strokes by 23 percent.
I am naturally suspicious of studies involving anything that can’t be patented, especially when those conducting the study are members of the medical community. It’s simply not in their financial best interests. You cannot patent anything that comes from nature.
for example, Johns Hopkins University claims that their study on Vitamin E found that consuming 400 IU of vitamin E each day shortens your lifespan, even though the maximum safe dosage is often considered to be 1,500 IU per day. Yet, I have family members over 90 years of age who have been supplementing with Vitamin E and other nutrients since they were very young. My question is, how could they possibly know if Vitamin E shortened someone’s lifespan?
Although Vitamin E is important in your diet, taking high doses of Vitamin E can be dangerous, especially if you are taking other blood-thinning supplements or medications. Overly thinned blood does not clot well, which could make a blood drawing accident fatal.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids / Flax Seed Oil
DHA is more important than EPA (Omega 3 Fat), but you do need both, and balance between the different fatty acids is critical. DHA and EPA are omega-3s and typically come from fish oil, while fatty acids from plants such as flax seeds tend to be omega-6s. You want to get closer to an equal ratio. An appropriate ratio will support the chemical messages of the brain so that cognitive and neuromuscular function can be optimized.
One of the many benefits of Flax Seed Oil is its ability to decrease “bad” cholesterol. However, in order to receive the same benefits from flaxseed as from omega-3 fatty acids, your body has to first convert the ALA (contained in Flax Seed Oil) to an omega-3. This process is difficult for people with pre-existing health conditions and the elderly. Consuming flaxseed oil should not put these groups of people at a definite risk, but they’ll reap significantly fewer benefits from flaxseed.
Warning: Exceeding the recommended dose of flaxseed oil can result in easy bruising, diarrhea and/or bloody stools and vomiting blood, due to decreased blood clotting. In rare and severe cases, high doses of flaxseed oil can cause a hemorrhagic stroke and those symptoms include severe headaches, weakness, mental confusion, and vision changes. Those with clotting disorders or taking blood-thinner medications should only take flaxseed supplements under a doctor’s care. Also, if you are allergic to Flax Seeds you should not take Flax Seed Oil.
An essential component of the mitochondria, the energy-producing unit of each and every cell in the human body. Every single body process and function requires Coenzyme Q10. The body uses Coenzyme Q10 to produce Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), needed for cellular energy production and cell growth. Coenzyme Q10 (also called Ubiquinone) is also a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage that could potentially lead to cancer. Found naturally in the body and oily fish like salmon and tuna, Coenzyme Q10 has been proven to protect the brain.
A case study involving a 55-year-old woman, suffering from disastrous cerebral ischemia and complete paralysis, found unexpected favorable recovery that is consistent with the remarkable results obtained for animal models of stroke, using Coenzyme Q10.
“The patient was discharged to home 12 weeks after administration of coenzyme q10 ubiquinol 3 x 100 mg after what was thought to be a complete ‘vegetative’ state. The improvement, because of the coenzyme q10 administration, was drastic in nature and empirically obvious.”
This case study took place in New York and was dated January 2009.
Another case study involves a “61-year-old woman who experienced a sudden decrease in consciousness and severe headaches. The patient was transported to Hospital. A ‘code stroke’ was called, and a CT stroke protocol was done as was an MRI. The NIH Stroke Scale was 3. The initial CT scan of the head was done and indicated cerebrovascular accident (stroke).” The patient was observed in the Intensive Care Unit for a total of seven days, during which she was treated with Persantine. “She was discharged home with a cerebrovascular specific calcium channel blocker.”
“The patient suffered from numerous disabilities for months and was eventually placed on 300 mg of coenzyme Q10. There were no adverse affects and improvement in physical ability was noted and monitored by PT (physical therapist) and commented on the the PT. The improvement were ‘steady and surprising – far greater than what was to be expected given the prognosis.’”
(Stroke Alley case study is no longer available online)
Warning: Coenzyme Q10 is safe for most adults when taken by mouth and side effects are usually mild. The supplement can cause indigestion, appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, itching, insomnia, headache, lightheadedness, irritability, light sensitivity, fatigue, rash and diarrhea. You may be able to minimize side effects by taking smaller doses spread throughout the day instead of one large daily dose.
Coenzyme Q10 lowers blood pressure, which could be dangerous if you already suffer from low blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure and use medication to reduce it, Coenzyme Q10 might lower your blood pressure further, causing problems. If you have blood pressure problems, talk to your doctor before taking Coenzyme Q10. If you are scheduled for surgery, stop taking Coenzyme Q10 at least two weeks before the operation and tell your doctor that you take it. The supplement could make it difficult for doctors to control your blood pressure during surgery and that could lead to complications. In addition, Coenzyme Q10 may lower blood sugar levels and could cause problems for people with diabetes or low blood sugar. There have also been reports of liver damage and a change in thyroid function.
If you are undergoing cancer treatment, stop taking coenzyme Q10 a few weeks before and after treatment and talk to your doctor. Coenzyme Q10 may also interfere with blood thinners, causing a risk of dangerous blood clots. If you are taking these drugs, do not take coenzyme Q10 without talking to your doctor first.
This water-soluble essential vitamin cannot be manufactured in the human body, so, intake from foods and/or supplements is a necessity. Vitamin C is found in all citrus fruits, as well as cherries and many other fruits and vegetables.
Vitamin C has a number of important functions in the body. It helps in the synthesis of collagen and it helps stimulate neurotransmitters and aids brain function. Vitamin C also stimulates the production of carnitine, an important part of the body’s energy conversion system.
A Japanese study published in 2000 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, involving more than 2,000 participants, showed a 54% lower risk of stroke in individuals who ate fruit at least six times a week, compared to those who ate fruits less than twice a week.
Warning: In most cases, your body is able to eliminate excess vitamin C from your system harmlessly, which is why the “Upper Limit” is so high. significantly elevated levels of vitamin C in your system is known as vitamin C toxicity, which is quite rare. Symptoms of toxicity include diarrhea and gastrointestinal disturbances. However, such symptoms are generally not serious and resolve once high-dose Vitamin C supplementation is reduced.
Hemochromatosis is a health condition characterized by excess absorption and storage of iron from your diet. It can potentially lead to heart and liver disease. Individuals who suffer from this condition should be particularly careful not to overconsume Vitamin C, since Vitamin C excess can further escalate the problems caused by hemochromatosis, potentially leading to more significant organ damage.
Whichever supplements you choose to treat or prevent stroke, be sure to let your physician know what you are taking and the doses, to prevent any possible drug interaction issues. And keep in mind that supplements are not a replacement for eating right. In fact, supplements only work as they should if you eat a relatively healthy diet.
For more information on this important topic, you can watch the video “Stroke Prevention and Recovery… A Holistic Approach” on our blog or visit our YouTube channel. And if you’ve used any of these nutrients following a stroke, I’d love to hear about your first-hand experience. If you don’t want to share it in the comments (below), use my contact page to send me a private message.
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