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Do you have an inflamed brain? How to tell and what to do

When most people think of inflammation they think of arthritic joints, or maybe a sprained ankle. But did you know your brain can become inflamed, too?

The problem is an inflamed brain won't hurt. Instead you should look for other symptoms of brain inflammation. These include brain fog, slow thinking, fatigue, and  depression.

Brain fog is a hallmark symptom of brain inflammation. The inflammation slows down communication between neurons. This is what causes you to feel foggy, dull, and slow.

Brain inflammation is serious because it means nerve cells in the brain are dying. In other words, brain inflammation is causing your brain to atrophy and age too fast.

What causes brain inflammation

A common cause of brain inflammation is head injury. Injuries cause immune cells to turn on in order to begin the healing process. But unlike immune cells in the body, the brain's immune cells do not turn off. This means brain inflammation can continue to be a problem long after the injury. This is one reason football players have high rates of the chronic degenerative brain disease called  chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Other common causes of brain inflammation include chronic inflammation in the body, leaky gut, high blood sugar and diabetes, hormone imbalances,  hypothyroidism   food intolerances (gluten is a notorious brain inflamer), stress, and brain autoimmunity — a disorder in which the immune system erroneously attacks and damages brain tissue. It is more common than people realize.

Depression and brain inflammation

Depression is a common symptom of brain inflammation (although different things can cause depression, depending on the person). Immune cells called cytokines that are created by inflammation impair brain function. Cytokines also hamper the activity of  serotonin, the "joy and well-being" brain chemical commonly linked with depression.

A good illustration of this is the fact that many patients given the anti-viral drug  interferon   which increases cytokine activity, develop depression. Conversely, many people who tame inflammation relieve  depression.

Brain inflammation: Autism to Alzheimer's

Brain imaging and autopsies show brain inflammation is more common in individuals with  autism.

Brain inflammation is also increasingly being linked with dementia and  Alzheimer's disease. The inflammation both degenerates brain tissue and increases amyloid beta, the hallmark of Alzheimer's.

Take brain inflammation seriously to save your brain

If you have brain fog or other symptoms that suggest brain inflammation, this means your brain is degenerating (aging) too fast. Be proactive in saving your brain health:

  • Take flavonoids. Flavonoids are plant compounds that have been shown to reduce inflammation in the brain. Ask my office for more information.?Balance your blood sugar. Low blood sugar, insulin resistance (high blood sugar), and  diabetes  all inflame the brain. Don't skip meals or overdo carbs.
  • Food sensitivities. Gluten is a common cause of brain inflammation. Rule out a sensitivity to gluten or other commonly inflammatory foods, such as dairy, soy, eggs, and other grains.
  • Balance hormones. Low sex hormones (such as estrogen and testosterone) and low thyroid hormones contribute to brain inflammation.
  • Heal your gut. The gut and the brain profoundly influence one another. An inflamed gut causes an inflamed brain.
  • Take glutathione precursors. Glutathione is the body's master antioxidant and can help quench brain inflammation. Sufficient essential fatty acids and vitamin D are important, too.

Meet the Author

Kristien Boyle DOM, AP (FL), LAc (SC)
Kristien Boyle DOM, AP (FL), LAc (SC)

Dr. Boyle D.O.M. (FL) is the founder of the Holistic Wellness Center of the Carolinas where he is the Director of Functional Medicine. He holds a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine and is acupuncture physician and primary care physician in the state of Florida. His post-graduate focus has been in the fields of functional neurology, functional immunology, and functional endocrinology.

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