Staring Down the Beast

How to Heal and Calm Your Traumatised Brain after Invasive Surgery.

As I write this blog, it’s just over a year since I was in a hospital ward, being treated for delusional behavior and active hallucinations, following on from neuro-inflammation and infection after my third neurosurgery in 11 years. Those were only two of the complications brought on by all the weeks of inactivity following surgery. I lost my appetite and dropped in weight by over 9 kilograms from an already reasonably slim frame, and had pulmonary emboli confirmed by CT scan in each lobe of both lungs. I required injections of an anti-clotting medication called Clexane every day for two months to make sure those clots were fully dispersed. My lungs were so weak that I couldn’t talk above a hoarse near-silent whisper.

Back then, I needed rehab to be able to balance and walk properly, and had even been given a little wheeled frame to walk with, because my balance was so awful. I’d fallen flat on my face a few times, just walking near my home, and couldn’t stop myself from reeling forwards once I’d reached a certain walking speed. My legs had an automatic life of their own, and I remember mentally preparing myself for a future where I would get around with the frame, but I don’t remember losing heart. I was pretty relaxed about it really. My way of getting on with life was by looking forward to the different way of getting around, and wondering where I could take a walking frame to its mechanical limits on nearby bush tracks.

I can’t even remember a lot of the six weeks or so when I was hospitalized. All I can remember is being deprived of my natural liberty, and deprived of access to truly nutritious fresh foods that were good for my brain function and metabolism. The high-carbohydrate hospital dietary regime seemed to be dictated by a national sanitation logistics company contracted by the brand new local regional hospital to oversee everything from laundry services to nutrition.

From what I’ve been told by my family, I was in a very strange and inappropriate place mentally and behaviourally.

However, nowadays I am once again in excellent mental and physical health, eating and sleeping well, and back walking every day on my favourite rugged little bush circuit of about 4 kilometres.

I have definitely survived about 11 years past my original prognosis for the normally deadly brain tumour glioblastoma multiforme.

Am I worried about my future years? Honestly? No.

What is it I have done, and continue to do, that has helped me come back from these traumas?

Firstly, and most importantly: I don’t worry about anything!

 Many people find this hard to believe, but it is absolutely true, and I firmly believe that is why I am still here in full functional health at sixty years of age, twelve years after collapsing with what is alleged to be the worst possible type of brain tumour, and why, despite my relatively recent nasty setback that was extremely threatening at the time, I have somehow bounced right back to normal, and am still planning to live a long, healthy and useful life.

Once again, I repeat, I don’t worry about anything! There is excellent instruction from the Lord of Life Itself in passages 6:25-6:27 from the Book of Matthew.

25 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

It’s an observation that has been made since early Biblical times; worry is harmful to your health.

The division of the nervous system most responsive to stress or worry is the autonomic (‘automatic’, sub-conscious) nervous system, which has two divisions which either speed up or calm down the metabolic activity of every organ and gland in the body. Medical science clearly recognizes the debilitating effects that constant worry and stress can have on the nervous system. Unmitigated stress elevates ‘stress hormones’ which can have a devastating effect on health. These ‘stress hormones’ are actually really very useful and necessary everyday hormones that have important neurotransmitter functions in the body (the catecholamines), or help regulate blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood sodium in case of the ‘fight or flight’ response,( cortisol) but if stress is unrelenting such elevated levels of normal substances lead to all kinds of chronic health conditions.

Every day, I specifically target the ‘calming-down’ part of my autonomic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system, by walking peacefully around my favourite little bush circuit and reciting the 23rd Psalm from memory. This is what I call my ‘Ritual Walk’, and I very rarely miss doing it.

The next major contributions to my current good health are simple.

I really look after my nutritional and neurological health.

Nutritionally, I make sure that I largely avoid simple carbohydrates, and follow a ketogenic diet low in carbohydrates but higher in proteins and fats. I eat plenty of fresh vegetables, and often eat cream cheese or avocado or coconut oil to maintain saturated fat and cholesterol levels at a healthy level. (Coincidentally, the healthy level of cholesterol that maintains adequate brain function is nowadays deemed dangerous by the pharmaceutical lobby). On the ketogenic diet, I very rarely get hungry before midday. The low-carb ketogenic diet has been used for over 90 years to prevent epileptic seizures. Seizures require high blood sugar levels in order to fire off, and a ketogenic diet keeps blood glucose levels below that seizure threshold. Ketones can be accessed for brain energy in the absence of blood glucose.

Neurologically, I have done lots of work over the years on brain-training games and balance exercises. I also get checked regularly twice a week, by chiropractors* who utilize differing techniques that have specific methods of restoring the function of my central nervous system and cerebro-spinal fluid circulation respectively.

*Recent neuroscience research (1) with functional MRI in an independent medical laboratory has shown that chiropractic adjustment of the spine stimulates the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. Just one spinal adjustment can invoke brain-mapping changes equivalent to those seen following three weeks of strength training.

[1] Lelic, D, Niazi, IK, Holt, K, Jochumsen, M, Dremstrup, K, Yielder, P, Murphy, B, Drewes, A and Haavik, H (2016), “Manipulation of dysfunctional spinal joints affects sensorimotor integration in the pre-frontal cortex: A brain source localization study,” Neural Plasticity, Volume 2016 (2016). Online.

 

Dr Keith Livingstone

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