What Health Conditions are affected by Brain Health?
… All of them! Seriously, can you ever be healthy without a healthy functioning brain? No – it is that important. Oddly, however, because our brain is the organ of perception, it is often less than able to perceive it’s own dysfunction. Let’s examine just what the brain does, how it works, and what we do at the MaxWell Clinic to improve brain function.
It is amazing to consider that one’s perception of pain, joy, affection, anxiety, fear, and all sensation is controlled by the brain. One’s ability to focus, complete tasks, concentrate, remember, create, communicate is controlled by the brain. One’s ability to walk, talk, see, hear, smell, speak, feel is controlled by the brain. Even one’s personality, beliefs, ego, and sense of self are centered in the brain. To improve quality of life, our health-care system must become more brain-focused. At the MaxWell Clinic we are doing just that.
By taking seriously brain health we improve the health of the whole person. Healthy brains are not easily distracted and complete tasks – such as sticking with exercise and making good dietary choices. Healthy brains remember details and are resilient through stressful circumstances. Healthy brains have clear insight, judgment, emotional stability, and decision making skills. It is much easier to live with someone that has a healthy brain.
To improve brain function we need to answer the question, “How Does the Brain Work?” The question has several different answers depending upon what type of health care practitioner you ask.
– If you ask a neuro-surgeon, she will focus on the brain’s Structure (nerves, blood vessels), and she may diagnose you with a tumor, epileptogenic focus, or hematoma – and treat you with surgery.
- Benefits – are particular to the circumstances.
- Downside – surgery is dangerous, collateral damage is quite permanent, very expensive, it has limited uses, and is only for the most severe circumstances.
-If you ask a psycho-therapist or counselor he will focus on the brain’s Story (your beliefs and interpretations of past experiences) – and he will treat you with some type of counseling.
- Benefits – can be great but are particular to circumstances, client willingness, client insight, and client-therapist rapport.
- Downside – undefined time and monetary commitment, often not covered by insurance, limited by the Structure, Soup, and Spark of that person.
-If you ask a psychopharmacologist or neurologist, she will focus on the brain’s Soup (the neurotransmitters and metabolism of the brain cells), and she will diagnose you as having a mental illness or organic brain disease – and treat you with drugs. (We jokingly call this ‘soup in a can’)
- Benefits – May be life-changing and helpful – and it is dependent on diagnosis and individual circumstances & response.
- Downside – drug side-effects, potential need for long-term use, cost, may be life-long. Variable coverage by insurance. Diagnosis may impair future insurability. Impaired Spark and Soup
-If you ask a functional medicine specialist, he also will focus on the ‘home-made’ Soup (the neurotransmitters and metabolism of the brain and whole body), but he would see the brain as being dependent upon the overall function of the body that carries it around. He may do testing to evaluate neurotransmitter metabolism, genetic predisposition evaluation, inflammation, food intolerances, contributing nutritional imbalances, etc., and work to address the underlying deficiencies or toxicities that have lead to the symptoms in question via the use of changes in diet and lifestyle, selected nutritional supplements, hormonal treatments, and various detoxification protocols.
- Benefits – Brain-centered symptoms can be the motivation for the individual to improve whole person health – known in our clinic as side-benefits. Therapies are very low-risk. Results are dependent on individual circumstances and influenced by the underlying genetics, environmental exposures, chronicity, severity, and most importantly the willingness to change and commitment of the individual.
- Downside – Results are dependent on individual circumstances and influenced by the willingness to change and commitment of the individual. Coverage by medical-treatment-centered insurance is variable for testing services. Supplements and detoxification protocols are not covered services of reactive medical-treatment insurance plans.
-If you ask a neuroelectrotherapist, he will focus on the Spark (the electrical organization of the brain, brain waves, and firing patterns), and he will do a qEEG (quantitative electroencephalogram), which will be fed through an FDA-registered database, comparing you with the average of a large group of people with no brain complaints. This will produce a map of the brain’s electrical patterns, and highlight the unique differences that are present in your brain. He would likely treat you with qEEG neurofeedback (highly specialized computer-assisted brain training) or use the the qEEG data to make targeted nutrient/medication recommendations.
- Benefits – Very Safe, improvements gained from brain training are often retained long-term, brain is designed to learn and is taught via feedback to ‘fix itself’, treatment can be highly targeted, can even be used to find medications which may be effective for that individual. “Unintended benefits” of improved sleep, decreased anxiety, improved concentration often accompany the treatment of the central concerns since the improvement of brain function as a whole is the actual intervention. Highly passive, meaning the patient may even be oppositional to the therapy and it can have effect.
- Downside – qEEG diagnostic testing we do at MaxWell Clinic is not widely available, Neurofeedback requires time and economic commitment which is variable due to individual circumstances, Not currently covered by insurance plans.
Each of these approaches is best in certain circumstances. Using the right tool for the right job or combining several approaches at once is most likely to create the best results for optimal brain functioning.
In keeping with our Hippocratic philosophy of “First Do No Harm,” the MaxWell Clinic approach is to start the evaluation of a Brain Health matter with a medical visit to rule out the contribution of life-threatening or contributing illness, and to complete (or assure that such an evaluation has been completed) a thorough history, physical, and laboratory evaluation. Next, the evaluation of lifestyle factors, psychological factors, relationship factors, nutritional factors, hormonal factors, metabolic uniqueness, GI function, inflammatory, and toxicity factors are considered on an individual basis. Then either subsequently or concurrently to the metabolic evaluation, a qEEG (quantitative electroencephalogram) is performed to generate a ‘brain map’ of that individual and use it to plan the optimal ongoing direction of that patient’s care plan.
If that person has markers of stress-related serotonin deficiency they would likely benefit from effective stress-management tools and focused nutritional intervention. If the individual has a hormone deficiency at the core of their symptoms then lifestyle interventions, nutrition, and hormone replacement therapy will be recommended (for women AND men). If the individual has attention issues and difficulty learning, they may need qEEG neurofeedback with reinforcement of targeted learning techniques. If the individual has huge outbursts of emotion and is found to have temporal lobe seizures (greatly under-diagnosed), they may derive great benefit from medications and qEEG neurofeedback. If the person has a history of head trauma, then a combination of all the therapies may be in order – with qEEG neurofeedback having documented benefit long after spontaneous improvement has ceased. If their depression is due to a frontal lobe tumor they need surgery. And on and on – you get the picture.
Every person is unique, and at the MaxWell Clinic we believe their treatment plan should reflect this uniqueness by addressing the combination of Structure, Story, Soup and Spark that is appropriate to their circumstances.
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