Hello, everyone! Welcome to the Restorative Health Solutions blog!
Today, we are going to be talking about brain inflammation. Most people think that they don’t have any brain inflammation because they may not have obvious symptoms that make them draw that conclusion. One big reason it may not be evident is because there are no pain receptors in the brain. Pain is one of the biggest symptoms that make us concerned and heightens our awareness that something may be going on with our health.
What are symptoms of brain inflammation (neuroinflammation)?
The subtle signs of neuroinflammation are brain fog (hazy thoughts and recall), decreased mental clarity, slow processing speed, decreased brain endurance, brain fatigue after exposure to specific chemicals or toxins and brain fatigue after exposure to specific food proteins.
Moderate symptoms of neuroinflammation include depression, inability to concentrate (especially for long periods), sleepiness, increased demand for sleep (must sleep 8 or more hours), lethargy/fatigue, lack of motivation, loss of appetite and malaise or inability to be physically active. This is also referred to as “Sickness Behavior Syndrome.”
Severe symptoms of neuroinflammation are not as common, but include delirium/confusion/disorientation, dementia/personality or behavior changes, coma, seizures, difficulty speaking, trembling, tremors and involuntary twitching.
So, what does inflammation mean?
Inflammation is usually described as an overactive immune response to a antigen. The antigen can be a foreign substance like a toxin, bacteria or even a food protein. The immune system usually reacts to the antigen by activating the T-cells to kill the antigen and also activate B-cells to make antibodies to the antigen so that there is a plan in place the next time that antigen presents itself.
Does the brain have an immune system? I thought it was made up of neurons??
We once thought that the the only functional cell in the brain was the neuron. The neuron is the cell in the brain that conducts nerve signals and sends messages to other neurons in the brain to help carry out a task (making a decision, provoking a thought, planning a meal) or to stop something from happening (keeping your heart rate low so it doesn’t escape and give you anxiety, shouting out an inappropriate word in public, having an abnormal body movement or tic). In fact, 90% of the neurons in your brain are inhibitory. This means that 90% of the neurons are meant to stop things from happening and regulate activity instead of exciting the brain and activating neurons to do a task.
On top of that, 90% of the cells of your brain are actually made up of glial cells (brain’s immune cells) and NOT neurons!!………Sorry for all of the math!!
If brain inflammation is occurring, what things can I do to make it better??
There are five major factors that are crucial when trying to improve brain inflammation: sleep, exercise, diet, stress and avoiding/limiting alcohol.
Without addressing these 5 topics, resolving brain inflammation can be extremely difficult even with the best nutritional supplements.
I will go into these important factors in more details on a later blog.
Is their testing for brain inflammation??
The first step we take in investigating neuroinflammation is doing a very detailed history and functional neurological examination. Following the history and examination, we make an educated decision on what tests to order. We want to assess everything we can that can contribute to systemic inflammation and also be specific by looking at specializing testing that tests for neurological autoimmunity. This means that your immune system is creating antibodies against your own neurological tissue.
What tests can indicate systemic inflammation??
We use the following traditional labs to assess for systemic inflammation:
- Blood sugar markers (glucose, insulin, hemoglobin A1c)
- Ferritin (acute phase reactant that can go high with inflammation)
- HS-CRP (systemic inflammatory marker)
- Homocysteine (can contribute to inflammation in the brain when levels are over 7)
- Fibrinogen (blood clotting marker)
- White Blood Cell Differential (snapshot at the immune system to see if patterns suggest infection or immunodeficiency patterns)
- Complete Blood Count (looking at red blood cell function to make sure there is no anemia patterns present)
Once the basic lab markers have normalized, we then like to look at specific testing that can look at the blood brain barrier (BBB), gastrointestinal barrier and also neurological autoimmunity. This helps us assess if either barrier system has been compromised and if the immune system is targeting your own neurological tissue (neurological autoimmunity).
Blood Brain Barrier Tests
- Vibrant Labs Neural Zoomer Plus
- Cyrex Array 20
Gastrointestinal Barrier Tests (Intestinal Permeability/Leaky Gut)
- Vibrant Labs Intestinal Permeability Panel
- Cyrex Array 2
Neurological Autoimmune Panels
- Vibrant Labs Neural Zoomer Plus (includes BBB markers)
- Cyrex Array 5, 7x or 14
What do I do if any of these tests are positive?
YES!! No matter what the test result, we try to ask the question “why?” Why is my blood sugar elevated? Why do I have leaky gut/intestinal permeability? Why is my immune system going after my brain??
There are many different things that can contribute to any of these findings. If you have high blood sugar, it could come from eating too much processed food/refined carbohydrates, not enough healthy fats/proteins in the diet, not exercising enough, too much stress, not enough sleep, low antioxidant status, etc.
Leaky gut and a leaky BBB can be caused by a chronic infection, food sensitivity, traumatic brain injury/concussion, alcohol, medication, toxins, and much more.
Neurological autoimmunity (or any autoimmune disease) can be triggered by:
- Food proteins
- Chronic infections (bacteria, yeast, fungus, parasite, virus)
- Vitamin/Nutrient deficiency
As you can see, we evaluate many different factors. Along with your history and examination findings, this makes for an extremely individualized plan. Having the same protocol for everyone that walks in with a certain condition will never work perfectly because it’s not individualized to fit each person’s needs. This is why we spend a lot of time with each patient trying to figure out what their personalized plan should be.
At Restorative Health Solutions, we strive to get to the root cause of the symptoms/condition and help patients reach their optimal health. If you or someone you know is having any of the symptoms listed above in this article that correlate with brain inflammation (neuroinflammation) or is interested in getting a thorough and complete work-up, we’d be happy to help. To schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with one of the doctors, please call 952-479-7801 or CLICK HERE to fill out our contact form.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Want to read more about Functional Neurology from Dr. Paul and Restorative Health Solutions? Click the blog below to learn more!