Updated: Oct 9, 2018
Do you suffer from mental blanks or does it feel like you are trying to push a thought through a cloud? Do you struggle to find the word you are looking for, or just don’t feel as sharp as you used to? Do you get migraines or constant headaches?
These symptoms are not the result of simply being tired or getting old, they could be the beginning of something more sinister. These symptoms could indicate Neurodegeneration which is the loss or death of neurons. The earliest signs of Neurodegeneration include depression, poor digestion, and fatigue. Neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s etc are reaching epidemic proportions. It’s estimated that by the year 2032, 1 in 2 people will have Autism, and that close to 1 in 4 will have Alzheimer’s disease. These diseases are not based on luck, or solely on genes, and there is much you can do to protect your brain.
The Blood Brain Barrier (BBB)
There is nothing more frightening that the thought of losing your mind. And if you want to protect yours, then you should be consciously looking after your blood brain barrier. The blood brain barrier (BBB) is a protective semi permeable gatekeeper to the brain. It protects the brain from toxic elements in global circulation, and allows essential nutrients like water, glucose and amino acids to pass through the barrier, and nourish the brain.
When this barrier is breached, any number of substances in global circulation, can have detrimental access to the brain. Once the BBB is compromised, the brain is vulnerable to heavy metals, bacteria, environmental toxins or internal toxins etc. Exposure to these substances can lead to Neurodegeneration, depression, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons, MS and Autism.
It’s been shown that if you have a leaky gut, you probably have a leaky (BBB) too. Much like the epithelial cells of the gut lining, the BBB cells are held together by ‘tight junctions.’ These linings are just one cell thick, and the tight junction toll gates are regulated by a substance called Zonulin. The major way the toll gates are destroyed, is when Zonulin becomes up-regulated, and causes the junction to stay open resulting in a leaky gut lining and blood brain barrier.
‘Zonulin is the only physiological modulator of intercellular tight junctions. When the finely tuned zonulin pathway is deregulated in genetically susceptible individuals, both intestinal and extraintestinal autoimmune, inflammatory, and neoplastic disorders can occur.’ (source)
To make matters even worse, if a leaky gut is present it means that all of the bodies waste products flagged for excretion can leak out of the intestines, back through the gut lining into global circulation. This can mean that proteins, virus’s, bacteria, undigested food, toxins, yeasts etc are able to enter systemic circulation, causing systemic inflammation. Any time the gut wall or BBB is penetrated, our immune system becomes active, and inflammation is the result. Specifically if the BBB is breached, the brain’s glial immune cells are activated, igniting inflammatory responses in the brain.
The brain is the fattiest organ in the body, consisting of about 60% fat. Many toxins gravitate towards being stored in fat tissue, so when there is a breach in the BBB, the brain is a sitting target. Protecting the brain from toxic threat is the number one way to protect your brain, and help promote a healthy aging process.
Neurodegeneration is part of the natural aging process, and it’s inevitable to some extent. There are however several factors that have been shown to rapidly increase the rate of decay. Steering clear of these factors where possible helps increase your brain power, for longer. Traumatic brain injury and lack of blood flood to the brain are obvious threats to our brain health, but here are some threats you may not suspect.
Gluten has been shown to destroy the intestinal barrier in every single human by upregulating Zonulin. As mentioned above, Zonulin is the modulator for the tight junctions in both the gut and brain barrier. You do not have to be a celiac sufferer to be a victim of this. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a real disorder that can manifest in symptoms throughout the body. Most people think that Gluten will only affect their gut health, but NCGS can result in symptoms occurring outside of the gut itself. In fact, the most common system affected by gluten is the brain. 1 out of 8 people go undiagnosed because they don’t have symptoms in the gut. Ie they have rheumatoid arthritis, depression, liver problems, anemia, miscarriages, joint pain, ADHD etc. Gluten sensitivity can be the primary cause in these instances.
‘Dr Fasano’s recent discovery that not only is there increased gut permeability when the gut is exposed to Gliadin, a protein found in gluten, but in fact the blood brain barrier also becomes more permeable in response to Gliadin exposure’ – Dr David Perlmutter, Brain Maker’
Blood Sugar Roller Coaster – Insulin Resistance
Blood sugar problems are a major precursor to neurodegenration. Blood sugar problems create systemic inflammation and decay. Alzheimer’s is now being called Diabetes Type 3 because it’s been demonstrated that insulin resistance can occur in the brain, and is a major precurser to Alzheimer’s disease. Hence a high sugar diet only fuels this problem by decreasing energy to the brain, and increasing inflammation. A high fat, low carb diet can help increase insulin sensitivity, is anti inflammatory and can help protect and fuel the brain.
Poor Gut Health
When your gut health is deficient, symptoms can manifest anywhere in the body. Genes are switches, and we turn them on or off, based on lifestyle factors (Epigenetics). Genes determine your weakest link. It’s been said that genes are the bullet, but we pull the trigger based on our lifestyle choices. Any number of gut problems like Dysbiosis (pathogenic bacteria,) autoimmunity, food sensitivities, toxic diet, antibiotics, prescription drugs etc will negatively influence gut health, and therefore increase the risk of Neurodegeneration.
Lipopolysaccharides (LPS or Endotoxins)
Lipopolysaccarides are a key marker for inflammation and is an extremely powerful inducer of an inflammatory process from head to toe. LPS the structural part of in the cell walls of bacteria, and occurs naturally in the gut. The problem occurs when LPS enters systemic circulation via a leaky gut. When 1 bacteria cell dies, a million LPS particles are released into the blood stream. LPS is toxic to humans and can’t be destroyed if there is too much stress, a lack of nutrients or beneficial flora and instead it attaches to muscles and organs.
‘When LPS reach the blood stream in high numbers, they have the ability to cause sepsis and often death. At sub-lethal levels, they have the ability to create lifelong patterns of inflammation, such as those seen with neuro-inflammation and neurological diseases.’
‘We see an upregulation of LPS (inflammation) markers that correspond to MAJOR Depression. Think of that! That major depression now is considered as an inflammatory disorder. Not in the brain by some identified reduction of serotonin, but rather representing a gut disorder. ’ Dr Perlmutter 2015, Evolution of medicine Summit
Stress, Drugs & Alcohol
Stress negatively influences just about every system in the body. Specifically studies show stress increases blood brain barrier and intestinal permeability, as well as shrinking brain size and reducing cognitive function. Antibiotics, NSAIDS, acid blockers, Toxins, sugar, GMO foods, pesticides, mold biotixons all deteriorate the gut lining, and likewise pose a threat to the brain. Alcohol has been shown repeatedly to damage the blood brain barrier. If you are noticing brain symptoms, it might be worth cutting out, or at least reducing alcohol consumption.
Protecting the brain
It was previously through that it wasn’t possible to grow new brain cells, and that you were stuck with those you have. This theory has been made redundant, thanks to the discovery of neurogenesis and Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF.) BDNF is a protein that increases brain plasticity and helps in the formation of new brain neurons, as well as improving the function of existing ones. There are a few key lifestyle factors that increase BDNF, aerobic exercise, and lower calorie intake or intermittent fasting.
Other key steps to consider in boosting your brain power:
Heal your gut – consciously heal the gut by eating a nutrient dense diet, supplementing with vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and probiotics. In general choose good quality (ideally organic) grass fed and raised animal proteins, healthy fat sources, and a wide selection of vegetables.
Avoid Toxins of all kinds – Stay clear of food toxins like pesticides, GMO foods, sugar, industrial seed oils, grains, soy, and watch out for environmental toxins like Mold, chemicals in hair, body care or cleaning products, exhaust fumes etc. If you are already suffering any of the symptoms mentioned above, then consider using toxin binders like charcoal or bentonite clay to help sequester toxins from your gastrointestinal tract and unburden the liver.
Manage stress, sleep well and actively seek to enhance recovery.
Prioritising these factors is important for repairing damage to your body, and helping you to thrive.
Exercise to increase brain blood flow, positively balance hormones, and increase brain neurogenesis.
Protecting the brain is highly achievable if you are driven to avoid the things that will speed up the aging of your brain, and invest your time and money in undertaking activities, and lifestyle methods that help heal your whole body.
Wishing you a sharp, turbo charged brain for many years to come!