What’s the Problem?
Our world has seen a steady increase in neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as increases in concussions, brain fog, and psychological disorders like anxiety and depression. Most people will blame old age, stress, and injuries as the cause but in all actuality it is toxins, hormones, diet, and infections that are the true culprits. What do these have in common? They cause inflammation in the body.
Inflammation of the brain occurs when we have any of the a fore mentioned things going on in the body, it typically starts in the gut and gets into the rest of the body through the blood stream and lymphatic system. I often tell people that all disease starts in the gut and poor brain health is no different. With recent research showing that medications have not helped with neurodegenerative diseases we need to look at a preventative model for these diseases. Reduction in inflammation with using things like turmeric, fish oil, and resveratrol would be a great start.
Most people do not know that your gut “talks” to your brain through a very large nerve called the Vagus Nerve. It is called the “Great Wanderer” because it travels to so many places in the body. It tells your brain when you are full, it moves the food along in your digestive tract, it goes into your heart and lungs as well. It has been shown to reduce inflammation in the by stimulating it in studies done on Vagal Nerve Tone (tone is how it is functioning).
Toxins play a big role, you can’t be a clean fish in a dirty bowl. The environment we live in now is full of toxins. We have done other blogs and videos on this topic. I encourage you to go and read or re-watch those. Toxins cause inflammation in the gut and in the whole body. Eventually toxins can cause your body’s inability to clear them safely. Essentially you are in toxin overload. This affects the health of your cells. Naturally your brain would be affected as well. Putting people through a detox program can clear up the brain fog and improve energy levels.
Next to discuss is hormone imbalances, namely insulin. High insulin levels leads to metabolic inflammation and eventually diabetes. It has been shown that your brain can shrink with high insulin levels. High insulin can cause the brain to be starved of nutrients that are needed to function. High carbohydrate diets are the hallmark of this and lowering your dietary intake of carbs is good change. It is time to put down the boxed or bagged foods we often eat and replace them with real food and more healthy fats.
Diet is the key to brain health. Much of the neurodegenerative diseases can be linked to a poor diet. Not eating enough healthy fats, especially Omega 3 fats, can cause your brain to shrink and dementia to come on. Fats keep your blood sugar balanced, stops you from over eating other foods that are not healthy for you, and provide energy for your brain. Most of the brain is made up of fat and it makes sense to feed it fat.
Infections are so common in our population. They just are not caught often in today’s healthcare system. Chronic infections of the gut will eventually get to the other areas of the body, including the brain, and create inflammation through a toxin called LPS. Once the gut is inflamed the brain is the next thing to be affected as the communication to the brain is 90% through the gut via the Vagus Nerve. Killing the infection and reducing the inflammation will help with improving brain health. Infections also can cause nutrient deficiencies as they will eat our food to stay active and alive. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and yeast infections are common due to the standard American diet.
Lastly, poor sleep habits stop the brain from detoxifying and repairing itself. At night is when you repair tissues and get rid of the toxins that your body comes in contact with each day. Blue lights, LED lights, and phones/tablets have led to a disruption in quality of sleep for many people. Using blue light blocking glasses is a great place to start, setting a time at night to put the phone away, and keeping a consistent bed time and wake time are key. Start small and build upon these habits.
Knowing what causes poor brain health may cause you to know how you can improve it. Each person is different but in a general rule of thumb addressing any infections and clearing out toxins is a great place to start. I use different nutrients to kill infections depending on what type of infection a person has. After that, a detox program for 2 weeks helps the body clean up from the inside. Lastly, improving gut health and controlling insulin through better diet choices and a few things like zinc, probiotics, glutamine, and a functional food called GI restore will do wonders to helping your brain health. In the end, my goal for my patients is to help their brain be more resilient to the stress in their life.
-Dr. Brian Opp, D.C.