Leaky Brain? 7 Steps Help Reverse It!
By Joan Kent, PhD
Keeping toxins out of your brain is the function of a protective barrier called the Blood/Brain Barrier. The BBB permits essential nutrients to enter, but blocks the toxins.
Once the BBB has been breached, the brain is vulnerable to damage from environmental toxins, bacteria, and other harmful substances. This is called leaky brain syndrome.
Leaky brain syndrome may show up as brain fog, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, depression, or memory problems. It can lead to serious neurological conditions, including seizures, ADD/ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, and more.
Tight junctions in the cells that make up the BBB are similar to those in the cells of the digestive system. When those junctions are disturbed, their protective function is compromised. In the digestive system, it's called leaky gut.
The two conditions are related: leaky gut may be linked with destruction of the BBB. If you have one condition, it's more likely that you have the other. Foods and allergens that trigger leaky gut can eventually lead to leaky brain.
What Causes Leaky Brain?
Like leaky gut, leaky brain is associated with inflammation. Inflammation elevates levels of a molecule called microRNA-155 (miR-155). MiR-155 creates microscopic "gaps" in the endothelial cell barrier that makes up the BBB. Any dysfunction in the BBB can make the cell junctions more permeable so they can't protect the brain. Then materials pass through them.
Because leaky brain starts with inflammation, brain inflammation may be linked with depression, anxiety, brain fog, and more.
If you suffer from any of those, the first order of business is to contact a medical doctor to have appropriate lab tests done. Those tests would show BBB damage, gut permeability, gluten sensitivity, or other food allergies.
Healing the gut can help heal the BBB. If you suspect you have either "leaky" condition, here are 7 healthful steps you can take.
1. Avoid inflammation-causing foods.
Foods like sugar, white flour, and other processed carbs can damage both brain and gut. In part, this involves the release of high insulin and the inflammation it triggers.
2. Avoid gluten.
Gluten is known to make the gut more permeable. It also reduces beneficial bacteria in the gut. That decreases bacterial regulation and increases pro-inflammatory bacteria.
Gluten also increases zonulin, a protein in brain and gut that triggers permeability of both. The resulting inflammation can alter brain function.
3. Add natural anti-inflammatories to your diet. Anti-inflammatories include catechins from green tea, curcumin from turmeric, resveratrol from grapes, luteolin from dried oregano and raw radicchio, and others.
Catechins and curcumin reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines, small messenger proteins that signal inflammation throughout the body. Resveratrol suppresses inflammation of the brain's microglial cells. Luteolin inhibits activation of the microglial cells and helps prevent BBB damage.
4. Eat probiotic foods.
Probiotics may help reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines. Probiotics in the Lactobacillus group (live-culture yogurt or kefir) may help reinforce the gut barrier.
5. Eat healthful fats.
The brain is about 60% fat and depends on essential fatty acids for its health and function. Essential fats aren't made in the body, so we need to get them from food. Sources include fish (sardines, mackerel, herring, salmon), krill oil, flaxseed, hemp seed, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts.
6. Reduce alcohol consumption.
Studies suggest alcohol damages the blood/brain barrier by increasing pro-inflammatory cytokines and other inflammatory factors in gut and liver.
Aerobic exercise has been shown to increase BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which promotes brain and neuron health.
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Brought to you by Dr. Joan Kent, best-selling author of Stronger Than Sugar: 7 Simple Steps to Defeat Sugar Addiction, Lift Your Mood, and Transform Your Health.