Is Your Brain On Fire? Neuroinflammation Could Be Affecting Your Mental Health

Sounds like an odd question to ask but if you are struggling with brain fog or poor memory, suffering from mood disorders such as anxiety and depression or even psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, chances are you have neuroinflammation which is just a fancy way of saying inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain is making your brain hot and leaky and adversely affecting its ability to function. Causes of neuroinflammation include:

  • An inflammatory diet (eg. lots of red meat, unhealthy fats and sugar)
  • Inflammatory conditions such as obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes
  • An unhappy gut  – if your gut is not happy then neither will you be. Inflammation there is conferred to the brain via the gut-brain axis.
  • Prolonged stress – This triggers an immune response which involves the release of pro-inflammatory compounds.
  • Chronic infection (fungal, viral, bacteria)
  • Poor quality sleep which can also become an outcome of neuroinflammation and a vicious cycle is established

By working on the above factors we can reduce the level of neuroinflammation but there are also more direct strategies we can employ to attain a short term reduction. These include:

  • Turmeric – this contains the potent antioxidant curcumin which  dampens inflammation, provides significant protection to the brain and even increases brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine.
  • Saffron  – like turmeric, not only can saffron protect the nerves from oxidative stress it can also help make new ones! I call it my happy happy joy herb because it’s so bright and uplifting.
  • Baical Scullcap   – contains an antioxidant which is both protective and anti-inflammatory to the neurons
  • A number of foods also contain antioxidants which also protect the brain such as luteolin from celery and green capsicum, apigenin from parsley, artichoke, basil and celery, resveratrol from grapes and catechins from tea.
  • Fish and krill oils  – Omega three fatty acids, which are often lacking in the diet, and found in fish and krill oils, have much evidence to support their use in reducing inflammation for all parts of the body but particularly for one called DHA (docosaheaenoic acid) in the brain. Krill oil has the added benefit of containing a potent antioxidant called astaxanthin (fun fact  – this is what makes flamingos pink) and the fatty acids are bound to phospholipids which not only enhance their absorption but nourish the protective myelin around nerves as well as the actual cell membranes of nerve cells. Krill oil should be avoided in those with shellfish allergies.
  • Phospholipids such as phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylserine from soy or sunflower can also be supplemented directly.
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