Have you ever watched your pizza in a wood fired oven? It starts off in a pristine state and gets shoved in the oven fire ablaze to cook through. It looks delicious right? You can’t wait for it to finally be taken out of the oven, but what happens if it’s just left there?
It’s old news that our lifestyle choices have a major impact on our health, but by extension they also affect our ability to lead the fulfilling lives we so deeply desire. These lifestyle choices we make can result in brain inflammation, which increases the risk of developing dementia, the general term used for brain degenerative life altering illnesses.
Yes or No?
Memory loss is inevitable with aging.
Finding it difficult to focus happens because you have too much on the go.
Difficulty completing your thoughts happen because…well life is just like that sometimes.
but these are all REAL SYMPTOMS of an INFLAMED BRAIN.
Sometimes these symptoms are referred to as Brain Fog. Your thoughts are unclear, you feel like your brain is working slowly and your brain literally feels tired. Sometimes it gets to that point where you feel useless because your brain just isn’t working. So you feel increasingly agitated or depressed, and maybe even both at the same time. Basically you’re in a serious funk and can’t shake it off, no matter how hard you try.
You know something isn’t right but you can’t quite put your finger on it. So finally you decide to go see a doctor who checks your blood pressure, pokes and prods in a few areas, asks if you’re having any pain anywhere, orders some blood tests, then when all the boxes are checked invariably says something along the lines of….
“No, there’s nothing wrong with you, you’re probably just overworked and stressed and need to get more rest” Or,
“Well you know these kind of things usually come with age”.
Then that little voice in your head says…
Maybe you’ll be given a prescription for anti-anxiety pills because you’re worrying too much. After all a pharmaceutical drug is usually the “Go to” remedy for a doctor.
The sad truth is you might believe the anti-anxiety pill will help you, and it might in short-term, but since it won’t address root cause, it won’t very quickly.
Doctors are great. They perform miraculous surgeries and save countless lives everyday. They do this based on their wide knowledge of conventional medical practices. They have a standard knowledge base.
While your doctor may be giving you her/his best opinion based on her/his knowledge base, I’m here to tell you that –
1 – your symptoms are real and should never be dismissed and,
2 – there is a cause (or causes) for your symptoms.
Here Enters Brain Inflammation
Inflammation damages brain tissue. Brain tissue, like the connective tissue in your joints can become damaged which causes inflammation.
A key difference is that when joints are inflamed (arthritis) you feel pain, but, and this is a BIG BUT, because the brain has no pain receptors when it is inflamed you don’t feel pain. However, you do experience symptoms such as brain fog.
What is Brain Inflammation?
It is largely an immune system response. This means something is happening in your body that is causing your immune system to be on high alert. It’s your defense system that puts your body in fight back mode to fix the things that are not good for your brain and body. This is a good thing but the situation gets chronic when it stays on high alert – Inflammation.
This is what is happening to that pizza you’ve been waiting to enjoy, but it never gets taken out of the oven. If it was taken out at the right time you’d get to enjoy it but instead you sit there waiting and watching, and no one has given you the tool you need to take it out. Eventually there is too much heat and the ingredients melt, then burn, then turn to ash. No more pizza for you to enjoy.
Let us delve a little deeper into the science of an inflamed brain….
Neurons, Microglia, Activity, Inflammation
What are neurons? Brain cells that carry electrical impulses through the brain are called neurons. For this explanation we’ll call them “workers”. These workers must communicate with each other to get stuff done.
What are microglia? These are brain cells that control the immune response, i.e. how your brain responds to harmful compounds such a bacteria, viruses, toxins and other harmful substances. We’ll call these “directors”.
Okay, so now that we have the key characters, “workers” and “directors”, we can move on to how they react to activity.
Directors are either in a relaxed state or in a busy state.
For instance, when things are going well or even when things go wrong, which happens from time to time, the directors remain calm and know exactly what to tell the workers to do.
They can be directing workers to do standard responses like removing trash to clear space or retiring workers who’ve done their time. Or, they’re busy dealing with a bad process or the occasional insubordinate worker.
However, when things keep going wrong the directors lose their ability to direct effectively and communication between workers begin to fail. They no longer have clear direction on what to do so everything gets bogged down and slows down.
The workers are now enraged because all this heightened activity is hampering there ability to communicate with each other which just makes them feel really crappy. They’re tired, react slowly and are unable to perform optimally.
This is what happens when your brain is inflamed.
The heightened activity of microglia (directors) causes inflammation in the brain which impairs brain function so…
Your brain cell signaling is impaired causing your thoughts to slow down and how you process information to feel slow
You feel sluggish
Your brain literally feels tired
You can’t think clearly
You almost feel like you’re unable to accomplish anything and learning anything new feels impossible
Your brain feels like it’s constantly in this odd foggy state you can’t lift no matter how much sleep you get. And sometimes depression creeps in and/or anxiety and agitation takes hold of you.
You no longer feel like you.
None of these outcomes of inflamed brain feels good and it disrupts your life. You no longer feel like you can be your best self. And it gets worse because brain inflammation has a strong link with brain degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Even more bad news is that brain degeneration isn’t limited to loss of memory or control of motor functions. Brain degeneration also includes declining judgement, alertness, sharpness and responsiveness, and can affect mood and behavior.
Every 60 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in North America and it is getting worse.
Over the next 10 years the number of people age 65 and over diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease will increase by 45%.
Inflammation in the brain is linked to degeneration of brain cells and is cited as a contributor to dementia. But all is not lost…
The key is identifying the things that are fueling the fire and taking the right action NOW to fight the root cause.
Wait and See vs. Practicing Prevention
The wait and see approach may work in your favour for some things in life but not when it comes to your health. The fact is that Alzheimer’s and other brain degenerative diseases are preventable.
Accepting the symptoms that come before degeneration takes its hold is not a good idea.
Why would you want to suffer with the consequences of ignoring the facts instead of taking action NOW to prevent the pain and suffering…and misery…and loss of beautiful memories…and a happy fulfilling life to look forward to?
Recent studies show that what you do in your 30’s and 40’s significantly impacts brain function later in life. But when people think of taking care of themselves now it’s usually associated with a concern for preventing heart disease, stroke, cancer, etc. not realizing that LIFESTYLE CHOICES RIGHT NOW also substantially affect risk of developing Dementia.
In Canada the highest prescribed medications include ADHD drugs and anti-depressants for children and adults between ages 6 – 79.
Most people also hold on to the outdated view that memory loss is inevitable with aging, but this is a flawed belief. This applies to other brain functions as well such as alertness, responsiveness, learning, etc.
While a little forgetfulness and some slowing of mental sharpness is natural as we age, anything over “a little” is not. So it should go without saying that significant declines are definitely NOT natural.
The brain, at no matter what age, is very capable of growing.
Picture your brain as bottle of fine wine. A young brain is a bottle of wine that’s been aged for 1 – 2 years. It has all the elements of a good wine and when you pop it open the wine has a very good flavor.
The older bottle of wine, which has been aged for a good number of years, began its life with all the same elements to make a good wine. The flavor of this older bottle of wine, by being kept in a good environment to age, is excellent when you finally pop it open.
As you age brain cells die and you generally don’t get them back but if you provide your brain with the right environment the brains cells you have grow branches which improve brain cell communication. It is that ability of brain cells to send signals to other brain cells (communication) that makes you fine wine.
This positive environment of communication between brain cells allows your brain to remember, respond and learn, which allows you at any age to retain and improve your mental sharpness.
The key is to provide the right environment. What you do right now will impact how your brain functions. Do you want okay wine, or do you want fine wine?
Quick Wins to Tame Brain Inflammation
- Eliminate sugars
- Eliminate or limit consumption of all processed foods
- Cut out gluten from your diet
- Eat LOTS of healthy fats
- Take probiotics to support healthy gut flora
- Minimize toxins
- Go out in the sun to increase vitamin D levels or take a vitamin D supplement (at least 1,000 IU daily)
- Ensure you’re getting enough of all the vitamin B’s
- Supplement with Magnesium and Zinc
- Practice gratitude everyday
- Connect with people
If you’re experiencing any symptoms of brain inflammation then your risk of these symptoms leading to more serious cognitive issues like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease is high.
What you do in your 30’s and beyond significantly influences risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases so practicing prevention is really a no-brainer.
The fact is, if treat your body right now, your brain will thank you now and it will thank you later in life too.