Brain Health and the Effects of Inflammation

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We all know that the brain is a complex physiological mechanism that serves as the main, electrical circuit box for the central nervous system, which controls every function of the body. When everything is working at its optimum and body chemistry is in balance, the brain and all bodily systems function well.

However, when our brain experiences inflammation due to imbalances in our bodies, the results can be detrimental to our overall health and well-being. Dr. Austin has devoted hundreds of hours of study with Dr. Datis Kharrazian, Board Certified Chiropractic Functional Neurologist, clinical research scientist, academic professor and functional medicine healthcare provider treating autoimmune and neurological disorders, as well as unidentified chronic diseases, shares insight to the repercussions of brain inflammation on these conditions in a recent podcast on ultimatehealth.com.

Stress and the Brain

Who doesn’t experience stress on a semi-regular basis? Most people carry burdens of various kinds, whether shown outwardly or not. Stress on the body and, most particularly, the brain translates to stress on the body, thanks to the way our physiology works and the evidenced based mind-body connection.

Early in the podcast, Dr Kharrazian clearly states, “There is nothing more damaging to the brain than stress.”

As he explains, cortisol is uber-released when we are under stress, to a point where the mind and body reach a state of “fight or flight”. Clinical research has found that increased cortisol from stress causes increased brain inflammation with a direct link to dementia.

One of the saddest, most troubling, and heart-breaking issues involving the brain is dementia. Clinical trials and research have made strides in determining possible causations, but there has been minimal progress in medicine to treat this dreadful disease and there is no known cure. That said, it’s important we examine the causes of brain inflammation and how it impacts our minds and bodies.

According to studies Dr Kharrazian references in his book Why Isn’t My Brain Working?, the brain atrophies, or becomes smaller with prolonged exposure to stress. Chronic stress has shown to exhibit long-term, damaging effects to the brain, most specifically, the medial temporal lobe and hippocampus, both of which control memory.

Insulin and the Brain

It’s true, most of us like a sweet treat from time to time, and that’s fine if it is only once in awhile and we don’t send our blood sugar levels through the roof! However, increased insulin levels also cause brain inflammation, affecting our ability to think and our bodily systems’ ability to function properly.

Do you feel tired after eating a meal? If so, the likelihood you are increases. Too many carbohydrates and sugars cause a neuro-inflammatory response that “degenerating areas of your brain.

As Dr Kharrazian says, “The only affect eating should have is to reduce hunger.”

Exercise and the Brain

The circulatory system is responsible for delivering oxygen, nutrients and more from our brain to our bunions, and it does so involuntarily. This is incredibly important to the brain, because without oxygen from our vascular system, we cease to exist.

A casual walk once in awhile is not enough to affect positive changes in our bodies. We need to MOVE, and move at a quicker pace so our most important muscle – the heart – has to work. It doesn’t matter if you jog, spin, weight-train, or practice yoga, the act of engaging your muscles and improving circulation can reduce hypertension, increase oxygen, serotonin, and dopamine, which are all great for the body and brain.

Gluten and the Brain

Many people we know experience gluten sensitivities, and some don’t even know it! Celiac Disease is the diagnosis with which we are most familiar, however, wheat proteins can negatively affect anyone, whether they’ve received a Celiac diagnosis or not!

Dr Kharrazian referenced a study in 2014, where 40 healthy blood donors were tested for antibodies targeting gluten. As many as 15% of these test subjects who seemed healthy and exhibited no symptoms of Celiac, tested positive for the antibodies.

Gluten is an inflammatory protein to the brain and causes “significant cross-reactivity” and “severe antibody response” in the brain, which directly correlates to the digestive tract. Therefore,  it is recommended that you remove gluten from your diet whenever possible.

Leaky Gut, Leaky Brain

Celiac and individuals with wheat or other food sensitivities like corn, egg, soy, dairy etc. experience what is known as “leaky gut,” which is an inflammatory response of the immune system which spews toxic chemicals into the intestines to kill what it sees is “foreign proteins”, in this case, foods which it has misinterpreted as an invader.  Chronic inflammation in the intestinal tract causes breakages in the epithelial lining which then allows partially digested foods and bacteria to enter the blood stream. This inflammatory condition can further increase the permeability of the intestinal barrier and the blood-brain barrier which prompts a syndrome known as “leaky brain.” What this means is that the foods we ingest can hurt or hinder the brain and its performance.  Dr. Austin is an expert at finding the hidden food sources that may be causing your “leaky gut or leaky brain”.  Then he can institute a dietary and supplement repair plan to fix these very challenging conditions.

Combine a poor diet with a sedentary lifestyle and blood sugar instability, and you’re setting yourself up for brain inflammation that can devastate brain function, directly affecting bodily functions.

One last point about leaky gut and brain is that this linked condition can also result from traumatic brain injury/concussion.  Within minutes of a concussion the brain will develop breakages in the blood brain barrier and this process also causes leaky gut.  Dr. Austin has advanced training in treating concussions and brain dysfunction.

Nutrition and the Brain

Although we may have our favorite foods and indulgences, there are definite benefits to eating a plant-based diet, with healthy proteins, no dairy, no gluten, and minimal/no sugars or carbs. Fish oils are still highly recommended, based on the EDA & DHA levels your functional neurologist determines are best for you.

Stoking your metabolism by eating small, regular meals every 2-3 hours is fine if you follow the recommendations above. However, if your health is severely compromised on a “progressed neurological scale,” a ketogenic diet may be the course of action necessary to return your blood-brain barrier to its optimal state.

The season is ripe for farmer’s markets and co-ops to begin bringing organic and home-grown produce to our communities, kitchens and tables. Now is a great time to take advantage of the delicious bounty of seasonal fruits and vegetables available locally.

Experiencing Brain Fog

Most of us have experienced “brain fog” at some point in time, typically when we’re young and in school. (Actual memories of math class after lunch and a bobbing head come to mind).

Brain fog is a real condition when nerve conduction is reduced and our mental processes slow to the point we can’t think clearly. In most instances, diagnoses involve diabetes or traumatic brain injury. Yet, anyone with brain inflammation can experience this diminished ability to think or function, depending upon what has influenced bodily functions. For example, too much craft beer one night increases the insulin required by the body to process the sugars produced by the hops and alcohol, increasing brain inflammation, thereby creating brain fog.

Dr Kharrazian explained how evidence-based studies have found how beneficial flavanoids can be to  inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.

According to Live Science, “Like other phytonutrients, flavonoids are powerful antioxidants with anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits. Diets rich in flavonoid-containing foods are sometimes associated with cancer, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular disease prevention. However, it is not yet clear whether the flavonoids themselves are responsible.”

“Onions, tea, strawberries, kale, grapes, Brussels sprouts, citrus fruit, parsley, and many spices are just a few natural foods rich in flavonoids,” says  Louis Premkumar, a professor of pharmacology at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.

Cholesterol and the Brain

Medications are regularly prescribed to patients to reduce cholesterol. The problem is, not all patients with cholesterol issues should take these medications, says Dr Kharrazian. The brain and body need cholesterol, but if there’s too much or too little, it becomes problematic for the brain and body.

The Harvard Medical School website explains: “The brain is highly dependent on cholesterol, but its cholesterol metabolism is unique. Because the blood-brain barrier prevents brain cells from taking up cholesterol from the blood, the brain must produce its own cholesterol. Like the liver, brain cells depend on HMG-CoA reductase to produce cholesterol. The brain’s cholesterol is much more stable than the cholesterol in other organs, but when it breaks down, it is recycled into new cholesterol right in the brain.

“Because of the blood-brain barrier, changes in blood cholesterol levels are not necessarily reflected in the brain itself. In addition, the barrier keeps many chemicals, including medications as well as toxins, away from the brain. Among the cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, some are largely excluded because they are water-soluble, while others that are fat-soluble can enter, at least to some degree.”

How to Support Brain Health

Dr Kharrazian shared that there are no “magic supplements” available to reduce brain inflammation and improve your health, but the following are crucial to making a difference in your health and quality of life:

  • Sleep
  • Growth Factors
  • Exercise/Blood Flow
  • Diet/Nutrition

As a fellow Chiropractic Functional Neurologist, Dr. Austin performs specific examinations and makes tailored recommendations to positively alter compromised neuro-pathways. He is one of only a few chiropractic functional neurologists in Boulder, CO, who can assess your brain health and personal physiological and neurological requirements.

If you or someone you know has had a concussion or has diabetes, takes cholesterol medications, or is exhibiting signs of extreme stress, weight gain/loss, brain fog, or gluten/food sensitivities, contact Dr Austin today to schedule a thorough neurological assessment. Lift the brain fog and improve your quality of life by calling 303.665.5405, or email info@austinfunctionalwelness.com.

Source: Ultimate Health Broadcast

Live Science

Harvard Medical School

 

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