Do you know someone with anxiety or depression? Do you feel like your brain just has not been working as well as you want it to? Do you have difficulty learning new things or do you get lost when you go to new places? All of these things are signs that your brain is not working! I see many people struggling with depression, anxiety, and general brain fog in my office. Most of them know about serotonin and neurotransmitters (which are important), but almost none of them have heard about how important inflammation is to their condition. Today, I will show you how important inflammation is in how it affects the brain, and I will go through some ways to reduce your inflammation.
The Connection Between Inflammation and Your Brain
Before I get into details I will provide some history. The American Medical System is incredibly divided. The gastroenterologist helps you with your gut, the psychiatrist helps with the brain, the endocrinologist helps with hormones, etc. There is really no thought or system that will investigate how the hormones affect the gut/brain or how inflammation affects the brain, or how the gut affects the hormones/brain. This type of “put it together” thinking is outside the box to the entire American Medical system, and it is a problem!
One huge reason this segmented thinking is such a problem is because of inflammation. Immune system education is still in the dark ages for most doctors. For the past 50 years, there has been almost no progression or expansion in the concept of inflammation and what it does. Classically, doctors are trained that inflammation is involved in know autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn’s disease, but has absolutely no part to play in other disorders. (Again this is very segmented thinking.) It has been practiced for the last 50 years that inflammation has no part to play in anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s, dementia, hormones, etc. This could not be more wrong, and research in the last decade is proving it!
I pulled a few research articles to help make my point. An article published in Gastroenterology in December 2010 entitled: Chronic Gastrointestinal Inflammation Induces Anxiety-Like Behavior and Alters Central Nervous System Biochemistry in Mice found that gastrointestinal inflammation induced “anxiety-like behavior” and “alters central nervous system biochemistry”[i]. Also, of note in this study is that the changes and behavior are reversible when the inflammation is reduced. That is important for later because it is a means of treatment and improving!
Another article published in 2010 showed how the inflammatory chemical TNF-alpha caused anxiety and aggressive behavior in mice[ii]. This behavior was removed in mice who they knocked out the TNF receptor! This means suggests that the inflammatory chemical TNF has a huge role in anxiety and aggressive behavior. Are people with anxiety and aggressive behavior tested for TNF-alpha or other inflammatory problems? They are not.
Omega 3 fatty acids and linked with inflammation and helping reduce anxiety
Another study I’d like to bring your attention to involves omega 3 fatty acids. This study published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity in 2011 was a study done on people and looked at inflammatory markers with people given 2.5grams of omega-3 fatty acids versus a placebo. The researchers found
The group that took the fish oil had a 14% decrease in LPS and IL-6 (two inflammatory chemicals). They had a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms. They showed a reduction in another inflammatory marker called TNF-alpha. The researchers conclude that omega-3 supplementation can reduce inflammation and anxiety[iii]! This is a terrific study involving humans linking inflammation with anxiety and the reduction of that inflammation with an improvement of symptoms!
A Short Note on Inflammation Testing
I must briefly point out (although I should write a longer article on this) that inflammation testing is inadequate. Most people get tested for C-reactive protein as an inflammatory marker and it is assumed if that is not high there is no inflammation. This is just simply wrong. Other inflammatory markers such as TNF-alpha, IL-6, LPS, and a myriad of others are on the horizon. Inflammation can be in different types. Some people have inflammation with elevated TNF-alpha, others IL-6, others interferon gamma, and more types. This type of specific inflammatory testing is coming. I hope to tell everyone about it more in the future.
As I bring this article to a close I’d like to summarize the points.
- Inflammation affects brain function
- If you have brain problems such as anxiety, depression, difficulty learning, brain fog, dementia please consider anti-inflammatories as help for your brain!
Without specifics, it is hard for me to give a recommendation for reducing your inflammation. I will say both turmeric and omega 3 fatty acids are generally safe for everyone to use as anti-inflammatories and I have great success with them in my office. Make sure you use close to 3 grams a day of omega 3 fatty acids if you are using it as an anti-inflammatory. The other key is removing the cause of inflammation, with the most common causes being a leaky gut, gut infections (yeast, SIBO, parasites), and food allergies.
Thank you for reading.
[i] Bercik P, Verdu E, Foster J, et al. Chronic Gastrointestinal Inflammation Induces Anxiety-Like Behavior and Alters Central Nervous System Biochemistry in Mice. Gastroenterology December 2010: 139(6); 2102-2112.
[ii]Patel A, Siegal A, Zalcman S. Lack of aggression and anxiolytic-like behavior in TNF receptor (TNF-R1 and TNF-R2) deficient mice. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity Nov 2010: 24(8); 1276-1280.
[iii] Kiecolt-Glaser J, Belury M et al. Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: A randomized controlled trial. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity Nov 2011: 25(8); 1725-1734.