Strokes are brief episodes involving a lack of oxygenated blood flowing
to the brain (90% are ischemic infarctions), or a sudden bleed within the
brain tissue (10% are hemorrhagic) which causes permanent damage to the
effected area of the central nervous system. In a classic stroke, the
neurologic defects continue to expand for 24-48 hours after the infarction
occurs ("stroke in evolution"). The most frequently seen stroke
is called a "completed stroke," whose symptoms develop rapidly
and maximally within a few minutes to an hour. The term "completed
stroke" also refers to the fully established neurologic deficits after
the stroke, whether from the acute or gradual kind. Neurologic symptoms
solely relate to the area of cerebral infarction.
The course or prognosis of the stroke, also known as CVA - cerebral vascular
accident - is unknown during the early days, unless death occurs. About
35% of patients die in hospital, and the mortality rate increases with age.
The eventual amount of neurologic damage depends on the patient's age,
state of health, and size and location of the stroke. It is unusual for
total recovery to occur but the sooner improvement is seen, the better the
prognosis for minimal deficits. Any deficit present after 6 months is likely
to be permanent, but neurological retraining programs appear to be having
some success. Further CVAs are common.
Stroke is a serious diagnosis. Make sure that you and your doctor definitively
decide that you that you do not have one the following problems, whose symptoms
may mimic stroke symptoms:
How Can Physical Medicine Help With Stroke?
- Convulsive seizure
- Neoplasm (cancer)
- Meniere's disease
- Hyperinsulinism in diabetes mellitus patients
- Head injury
- Uremia (toxic blood due to kidney failure)
- Hepatic coma (liver failure)
- Alcohol or drug intoxication
Gentle, regular aerobic exercise can help prevent stroke. But if you or
a family member already has suffered from one or more strokes, a simple
hydrotherapy technique may provide relief, and even minimize long term sequelae.
Hydrotherapy is discussed at length in the Introduction to Modalities section.
One technique is to lower your body temperature, with a cold bath for
example, as much as possible without inducing shivering as soon as possible
after a stroke has occurred, or is suspected to have occured. The idea
here is that if the stroke is ischemic (temporary restriction of oxygenated
blood) the body naturally and preferentially preserves blood flow to the
brain, so cooling the rest of the body will cause the blood to shunt rapidly
to the brain. However, if the stroke is hemorrhagic, cooling the body rapidly
will cause vasoconstriction, thereby helping to control the bleed.
Another hydrotherapy technique with a similar rationale is to soak the feet in
a hot foot bath, as soon as possible after the stroke has occurred, while
applying a cold compress to the neck, face and scalp. If this technique
can be applied as a stroke is happening, it may even abort the stroke.
Make sure the ice-cold compress touches the skin over the carotid arteries
under the jaw bone. Mustard paste or powder may be added to the foot bath
to increase the heating effect. Make sure to continue this treatment for
at least 20 minutes and keep adding hot water to the foot bath and make
sure the cold compress stays really cold. Or, you may take a neutral bath
that is neither freezing cold, nor warm. Immersion in water of neutral
temperature is extremely soothing to the central nervous system.
If someone has collapsed due to a stroke, and is waiting to get medical
attention, raise the head gently if you are absolutely sure no spinal injury
has been sustained, and keep the paralyzed side up. Don't let the stroke
victim lie on the paralyzed limbs if at all possible. The paralyzed limbs
may be massaged to maintain proper circulation.
Two of the most distressing sequelae of stroke are inability to speak clearly,
and inability to perform fine motor skills, particularly with the hands.
For someone struggling to regain the ability to speak normally, speech
therapy is highly recommended. And read on, because there is help with
Acupuncture also. To help minimize permanent damage to hand coordination
please begin exercises, such as the exercise ideas listed below, as soon
as possible, and don't give up.
Can Diet and Nutrition Affect the Outcome Of My Stroke?
- squeeze a soft or spongy ball with the hands whever you're watching TV or talking on the phone
or enjoying a sunset;
- stretch and reach for objects;
- count coins with the fingers;
- play piano;
- get some help to figure out safe movements routines that will allow
you to bathe yourself, prepare a meal for yourself and put yourself to bed,
as soon as possible.
Yes, absolutely. Since strokes often occur because of fatty deposits in
the arteries, which indirectly compromises smooth blood flow to the brain,
it makes sense to eat a low-fat diet. Strokes also occur because of insufficient
integrity of the walls of the blood vessels, so eating foods that improve
vascular tone, notably the dark-colored berries (whose active ingredient
is the blue-black pigment anthocyanadin) would be wise. In general, the
eating principles for minimizing the chance of a recurring stroke, or to
stay as healthy as possible after you've suffered a stroke, are to keep
Specifically therapeutic foods post-stroke include:
- low in sugar, low in cholesterol
- low in unsaturated fats
- with these calorie percentages: 70% complex carbohydrates, 12-15%
protein and 15-18% fat (preferably NOT animal fat).
- high in fiber
- low in Sodium. Sodium can raise blood pressure, putting excessive
pressure on the vascular system.
If you have some kind of juice extracting machine at home, or are willing
to invest in one, now is a good time to learn about the therapeutic effects
of juicing. Don't underestimate the profound healing effect that raw vegetable
or fruit concentrates can have on your body. Taking specific juice combinations,
at least 5 pints of fresh juice weekly, can work well to minimize stroke
sequelae. Try the following "health cocktails:"
- high Potassium foods such as millet, buckwheat, oats, rice, raw goat's
milk, raw leafy vegetables, watermelon, garlic, onions, cornsilk tea, diuretic
foods such as dandelion greens and grapes.
- high Magnesium foods such as garlic, broccoli, celery, cherries,
nectarines, pineapple, kumquats, watermelons, squash, pomegranate, guava,
parsley, cucumber, dandelion greens.
- foods rich in Calcium (seaweeds, swiss and cheddar cheese, collard
greens), Phosphorus (Brewer's yeast, wheat bran, pumpkin and squash seeds),
Manganese (pecans, Brazil nuts, almonds, barley, rye, ginger, bay leaves),
Sulfur (eggs), Iodine (clams, shrimp, haddock, halibut, oysters, salmon,
sardines), and tryptophan (lean turkey breast, bananas.
- egg yolk, kale, celery, fish, raw goat's milk, veal joint broth,
cod roe, rice polishings, nutritional yeast.
- increase omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids: rich sources are vegetable,
nut, seed oils, (especially flaxseed oil), salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines,
walnuts, evening primrose oil, black currant oil.
Other food combinations for post-stroke health to consider, based on you
taste buds, are:
- celery, carrot, prune
- carrot, celery, parsley, and spinach
- carrot and spinach
- carrot, beet, and celery
- carrot, spinach, turnip, and watercress
Foods to be careful to avoid include:
- prune and rice polishings
- raw goat's milk and 1 tsp. sesame, sunflower, or almond butter, 1tsp. honey and sliver of avocado
- black cherry and egg yolk
salt and salty foods: such as pickles, olives, chips, packaged snacks,
prepared meats, especially canned ham, frankfurters, bacon, bologna, corned
beef and lunch meats, frozen fish fillets, sardines, herring, caviar, anchovies,
shellfish, dairy products, spicy foods: salsa, white and black pepper, mustard,
ginger and hot foods, canned tomato juice, V-8 juice, processed cheese,
canned, dried or instant soups, frozen peas and beans, most processed and
refined foods, MSG, mayonnaise, salad dressings, gravies, ketchup, food
with Sodium benzoate as a preservative, Sodium proprionate found in some
cheeses and breads, baking powder, baking soda, ice cream, milkshakes, soft
drinks, smoked meats and fish, Jello, pretzels, potato chips, salted nuts,
candy, rennet tablets, pudding mixes, beverage mixes, spicy foods, alcohol,
fried foods, fatty foods, pork. In addition, as a general rule, avoid
overeating and try to prevent reaching higher than normal levels of blood
By age 40 everyone should have baseline blood chemistries (assessing liver
and kidney and hormonal function, at least) which will then be a reference
point for how "gracefully" you are aging. Blood work you and
your doctor will evaluate later in life will have much greater significance
if there's something to compare it to. Consult with your primary care physician
(holistically oriented MD, DO or ND) about how often you should get routine
physicals and blood evaluations. Remember, prevention is the very best
way to approach your health care, and you need to get realistic assessments
of vital health parameters relatively regularly after age 40.
Sometimes food alone is not enough to preserve maximal health. Many North
Americans are malnourished, which, surprisingly, is especially likely to
be true of you are more than 20% over your ideal weight. The following
nutrients have been proven to be beneficial in miantaining healthy cardiac
tissue, as well as reducing the likelihood of another stroke:
What about herbal medicine to help after I've had a stroke?
- Vitamin E 400-1600 I.U. daily. A good anti-oxidant which helps
repair damaged tissues through various mechanisms.
- omega-3 fatty acids, 1 tablespoon daily, for example from raw flaxseed
oil, to provide your body with a high quality fat with which to build new
cells. Every single cell in your body has a cell wall which controls what
goes in and out, and thus what triggers the nucleus of the cell, where the
DNA resides, to make whatever protein is needed moment to moment. The cell
wall is built largely of lipids (fat) and whatever fats and oils you ingest
is what is available to make your cell walls. Thus, you want to provide
your body with the finest quality fats and oils possible, to preserve the
integral functioning of all the cell walls in your body. Don't feed your
body saturated fats such as the fat on red meat, or lard. This only stocks
up your body with ingredients which ultimately cause reduced nerve function
(the brain and nerve sheaths are mainly made of fat), toxic build-up and
- Coenzyme Q10, 10-50 mg daily. This is one of the most popular supplements
in Japan, where most of the research has been done on this potent natural
substance. It works specifically by allowing the maximal amount of oxygen
conversion from body fluids in the cardiac muscle, thus reducing the need
of the heart to work overtime to pump sufficient oxygen to the other tissues
in your body. In large doses (250 mg daily for 7 days) it can turn congestive
heart failure around. Please consult with your holistically trained MD,
DO or naturopathic physician (ND) before experimenting with high doses.
- Vitamin C 3g daily. The most researched anti-oxidant, Vitamin
C, can "gobble up" the dangerous free radical electrons which
cause progressive tissue damage. Vitamin C should be supplemetned by anyone
who lives in a city, or commutes regularly in traffic, or who has a history
- Bromelain 250 mg two or three times daily, away from food. This
is a protein-digesting enzyme derived from the pineapple stem and acts as
a potent natural anti-inflammatory. Many strokes are initiated by a mild
infection or inflammation inside the blood vessels, where a plaque can begin
to form. The plaque distorts the blood flow through the vessel, which creates
an eddy which may in turn create coagulated blood which can cause a blood
clot (thrombus) which then dislodges and gets stuck higher up in a smaller
vessel, preventing blood flow to the brain. Bromelain will help reduce
inflammation by digesting the by-products of tissue repair as it is in process.
But if you take the bromelain with food, it will be used digesting the
protein in the meal. So take it at least 2 hours away from food to maximize
the antinflammatory effect.
- Achillea millefolium (Yarrow) is great, in tea or tincture form,
for thrombotic conditions with hypertension, including cerebral and coronary
thromboses; combine with Tilia platyphyllos (lime blossom) in essential
About The Author
A graduate of Bastyr University in Seattle, she completed both the Naturopathic and Acupuncture/Oriental Medicine programs. Her preceptor work (similar to residencies) took place in Seattle, West Virginia and China, with emphasis on gynecology, counseling, herbal medicine and naturopathic manipulation...more