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Stroke

General characteristics

General characteristics

A stroke (also called apoplexy) is an event that leads to the death of brain cells, either caused by a lack of blood flow to an area (caused by narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels in the head/brain) or by bleeding from a vessel that has ruptured (due to high blood pressure for example) which also restricts blood flow to the area. Bleeding can also increase pressure on the delicate brain structures and lead to further paralysis or brain damage. When the brain cells are denied proper oxygen and nutrients due to impaired blood flow, the cells affected begin to die and paralysis of the body will occur depending on where in the brain is affected.

The most common types of stroke are caused by either a blood clot that blocks the flow of blood in an area of the brain (ischaemic) or through bleeding from a ruptured vessel in the brain (haemorrhagic). Transient Ischaemic attacks or TIA's are also a milder form of stroke, sometimes called 'mini strokes'.

Symptoms of a stroke will depend on the cause and location of the event (which part of the brain the incident occurs in).  Symptoms of an ischaemic stroke include visual disturbances or blindness usually in one eye, paralysis or weakness in one side of the body, pale complexion, difficulties speaking and understanding others speech, severe dizziness and vertigo. Symptoms of a haemorrhagic stroke include flushed face and complexion, severe headache, losing consciousness, nausea and vomiting, stiff neck, sensitivity to light, weakness or paralysis of one side of the body, restlessness and confusion.

Factors and conditions that can predispose you to strokes include high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, old age, low activity lifestyle, consistently poor diet, other diseases (diabetes, hyperthyroidism, cardiovascular disease etc.), hormone replacement therapy (HRT), heavy smoking, long term oral contraceptive use, a family history of strokes, having had previous transient ischaemic attacks - TIA's or 'mini strokes', physical trauma to the head, obesity, heart beat irregularities (can lead to formation of clots which can lodge in the vessels of the brain), chronic stress (raises blood pressure), dental disease, certain medications (warfarin, aspirin, some antidepressants), cocaine and other stimulants, excessive alcohol intake and even drinking 'hard' water for long periods (causes a build up of insoluble calcium in the blood vessels).

A good way of determining if someone is having a stroke is the following:

S Ask the individual to SMILE. The smile is often one sided.

T Ask the person to TALK. Ask the person to speak a simple sentence coherently.

R Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS. They will probably have difficulty with one side.

A person having a stroke will probably have difficulty completing any of these tasks and the emergency services should be called immediately.

*Do not administer aspirin to a person who you suspect may be having a stroke...if they are having a haemorrhagic type stroke the bleeding may well become worse.

Healing objectives are to firstly make lifestyle and dietary changes to prevent a stroke in the first place but if you have had a stroke then action should focus on remedying the cause wherever possible (e.g high blood pressure or arteriosclerosis), making sure the blood is free flowing, strengthening the heart and blood vessels, losing weight, correcting the diet, taking more exercise etc.


Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

The diet should be rich in plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds (and sprouted seeds) and culinary herbs and spices to provide optimum nutrition.

If recovering from a stroke consider the benefits of daily fresh homemade vegetable and fruit juices, they require less energy to digest and provide an instant nutrient boost.

Limit or avoid processed and refined foods, simple carbohydrates, excessive red meat and processed meats, excessive dairy consumption, low fat foods and diet foods, fried foods, alcohol and smoking. Avoid refined vegetable oils and anything containing trans fats and hydrogenated oils and fats as much as possible, even the so called healthy ones. Use good quality olive oil as a dressing, raw.

Include plenty of onions, garlic, leeks and similar in the diet to help prevent strokes.

Foods rich in potassium can also help to prevent strokes so include plenty of bananas, green leaves, yams and sweet potatoes, beans, peas, legumes, blackstrap molasses, turnips, broccoli and brussels sprouts, sweet peppers and other plant sources.

*Make a potassium broth a few times weekly. Fill a large pot with 25% potato peelings, 25% carrot and beetroot peelings, 25% chopped onions and garlic, 25% celery and its green leaves (or use leaves from spinach, chard, anything you have). Cover with spring water and bring to the boil, simmering on a very low heat for about an hour. Season with herbs or spices to suit your taste (not salt) and leave to stand until ready to drink at lunchtime. Strain and drink half of the liquid, leaving the remainder in the fridge for the next day. Use organic vegetables wherever possible. Use the actual vegetables themselves to create a soup or salad.

Foods high in vitamin E have been shown to protect and reduce the damage to nerve cells following a stroke. The best natural sources of vitamin E are sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, asparagus, chard leaves, cayenne pepper, paprika, peanuts,pine nuts and sweet peppers.

Eating wild caught oily fish (salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines etc) a few times weekly is thought to help prevent stroke, possibly due to their high content of essential fatty acids and omega oils.

Turmeric, cayenne (chilli), and ginger can help to prevent a stroke. Cayenne can also help to restore muscle control and movement after a stroke. Dosage for this is about a teaspoon of powder in water daily, you will need to build up to this amount slowly over several weeks.


Useful herbs

Useful herbs

To help prevent strokes the circulation promoting and blood vessel strengthening herbs such as ginkgo, yarrow, gotu kola, hawthorn berries and flowers, lime flowers, skullcap and rosemary flowers. Use equal parts of each in dried herb form and add a rounded teaspoon of mix to each cup, taking 3 cups daily.

As well as acting as a preventive, you could add a few drops of chilli tincture or a quarter teaspoon of chilli powder to herb doses. Increase this over time for speedy healing and to increase the speed and activity of the other healing herbs used. Here is an excellent article detailing how an experienced herbalist uses chilli to achieve rapid resolution of strokes and the resulting difficulties.

If you are told you need to go on blood thinners then consider meadowsweet, red clover, alfalfa or white willow bark instead.

A good all round tonic and appropriate nutrient packed tea for daily use could contain equal parts of nettle, oatstraw and alfalfa. Use a teaspoon per cup, up to 3 cups daily for prevention or to aid recovery from a stroke.

Schisandra berries can help both protect aginst stroke and improve outcome after one.


Natural healing

Natural healing

Make sure your teeth and gums are kept as clean and plaque free as possible by regular brushing and flossing or similar. Teeth and gum disease is strongly linked to plaque build up in the arteries which can predispose to stroke.

Always be mindful to prevent constipation as this can have the effect of raising blood pressure.

Take regular exercise to help maintain a healthy heart and circulatory system.

Make time to relax and get plenty of rest. Yoga, Tai chi and similar meditative type activities can help to reduce stress, regulate blood pressure and promote a sense of well being.

Some people find that having a bath containing Epsom salts a few times a week can help to speed up recovery from a stroke.


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