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Nutrients to help repair your leaky blood-brain barrier


The brain is surrounded by a thin lining called the blood brain barrier, which prevents harmful compounds from entering the brain while allowing helpful nutrients in and cellular debris out. However, for a lot of people the blood brain barrier degrades, allowing harmful toxins and compounds into the brain. This causes inflammation in the brain and symptoms such as depression, brain fog, memory loss, and other brain-based symptoms and disorders.

The strategies for repairing a leaky blood brain barrier are similar to the strategies for repairing a leaky gut because the causes are similar. Some of the more foundations include balancing your blood sugar, removing inflammatory foods and chemicals from your diet and environment, and focusing on a whole foods diet that is abundant in produce.

However, beyond that certain nutritional compounds have been shown to help repair a leaky blood brain barrier:

Resveratrol. Resveratrol is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant (protects against damaging free radicals) known to help prevent development of neurodegenerative diseases.

Resveratrol can increase your brain’s growth hormone, support mitochondria, and protect and restore the blood-brain barrier.

Curcumin. Often used in conjunction with resveratrol, curcumin is the anti-inflammatory component of the spice turmeric. Heavily researched, curcumin can:

  • Lower stress hormones
  • Increase the brain’s growth hormone
  • Reduce hyper-permeability of the blood-brain barrier
  • Reverse blood-brain barrier dysfunction
  • Improve integrity of the blood-brain barrier
  • Reduce inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Sulforaphane. A phytochemical found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, this antioxidant has anti-inflammatory qualities similar to curcumin.

Studies show it can prevent breakdown of the blood-brain barrier, reduce its permeability, and improve brain function after traumatic brain injuries and stroke.

If you take sulforaphane in supplement form, make sure it contains the co-factor myrosinase.

Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a powerful tool in managing inflammation and autoimmunity. Every tissue in your body has vitamin D receptors. Studies show it can help prevent leaky brain by reducing inflammation and reducing blood-brain barrier disruption.

Ways our modern lifestyle contributes to a lack of vitamin D:

  • Modern diets lack vitamin D-rich foods such as liver and organ meats, seafood, butter, and egg yolks
  • Chronic stress and elevated cortisol (stress hormone) depletes vitamin D
  • Gut inflammation reduces absorption of vitamin D
  • Obesity contributes to vitamin D deficiency

While we think of direct sunlight as the best way to get vitamin D, not everyone can make enough this way. To maximize your vitamin D levels, get 15 minutes of sun on your skin every day and take care of your gut health to optimize absorption of dietary vitamin D.

In the absence of exposure to enough sunlight, it’s recommended to supplement with a minimum of 1000 IU of vitamin D3 (not D2) daily to maintain proper blood levels.

Some people need much higher doses, from 5,000 to 25,000 IU per day. If you take higher doses, have your blood levels tested periodically to avoid toxicity.

Emulsified vitamin D is best for those with poor digestion.

B vitamins. Several B vitamins support the health of the blood-brain barrier:

  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency disrupts the blood-brain barrier and supplementation can restore it.
  • Vitamins B12, B5, and B9 (folate) can restore blood-brain barrier integrity.

Magnesium. A vital mineral for more than 300 biochemical processes in your body, magnesium affects brain neurotransmitters, enzymes, and hormones. Many people are deficient, so ask your healthcare practitioner of you should be tested.

Magnesium protects the brain by:

  • Protecting the blood-brain barrier
  • Supporting mitochondria
  • Increasing the brain’s growth hormone
  • Assisting in overcoming addiction and withdrawal

Strong dietary sources of magnesium include:

  • Spinach
  • Chard
  • Almonds
  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Dark chocolate

Omega 3 fatty acids. Essential fatty acids (EFA) are fats our bodies need but can’t produce on their own, so they must come from food sources or supplementation.

EFAs are critical for:

  • Dampening inflammation and autoimmunity
  • Supporting blood vessel and skin health
  • Production of hormones

It’s estimated that up to 80 percent of the US population is deficient in EFAs.

Primarily found in fish, Omega 3s are EFAS that support your mitochondria, increase brain growth hormone, and support the blood-brain barrier.

When consuming EFAs, it’s important to consume the proper ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6. Omega 6 is a necessary EFA but taken in the wrong ratio to Omega 3 it is highly inflammatory.

The average American consumes a shocking ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 of 25:1, contributing to the epidemic of inflammation-related health disorders.

Researchers recommend a ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 that ranges from 1:1 to 4:1. A recommended dose is 3,500 mg for a person eating a diet of 2,000 calories per day.

As you now know, it’s important to take great care of your precious blood-brain barrier. Many of the above suggestions also benefit other health issues, so by adopting them you are hitting more than one target at a time. For more information on how to fix your leaky brain, please contact my office.

Meet the Author

Dr. Matz DC

Dr. Boyle D.A.C.M., LAc., DiplOM. 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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