The concept of inflammation in your brain is a bit terrifying to say the least. In cases of extreme brain swelling, a virus or pathogen is likely to blame and would manifest with severe symptoms. However, slight neuroinflammation is more common than you may think.
What exactly is inflammation?
Inflammation is your body’s response to injury or infection. When the body detects either a foreign invader or local injury, the immune system activates certain proteins equipped to battle the threat. Swelling, warmth and redness are all observable indicators that white blood cells, nutrients and immune-stimulating growth factors have been generated and sent to the site of injury. Although, not all swelling presents with external signs.
In appropriate proportions inflammation serves as a protectant and is beneficial to the body. However, when these signals are overactive or inflammation becomes too persistent throughout, this can harm organs, the digestive tract, increase incidences of heart disease and cancer, disrupt sleep and mood, and virtually can damage any necessary bodily process or system (1).
Acute vs. Chronic Inflammation
Acute inflammation occurs in response to injury or recognition of an unwanted pathogen. Chronic inflammation is more complex, and can often be traced back to lifestyle habits.
How does this effect your brain?
With prolonged inflammation, energy production in brain cells is reduced and can inhibit mental clarity and dampen mood and memory capabilities. If left untreated for too long, serious neurological diseases can develop or worsen, such as Alzheimer’s or stroke (2).
Brain Inflammation and Depression
Mood disorders are continually under evaluation, thus far exposing genetics and environmental factors synergistically interacting to initiate onset. Physiological mechanisms of such behavioral abnormalities have been highlighted with regards to imbalances of various hormones and transmitters. While certain deficiencies of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, seem to be at play, newer theories involving brain inflammation have entered the debate.
The cytokine model of depression asserts that cytokines, messengers of the immune system, trigger an inflammatory response in the brain thereby damaging neural tissue and interfering with synaptic connections. This has been supported by research investigating inflammation in individuals with depression in a PET (positron emission tomography) scan (3). They found that not only did those experiencing depression demonstrate more brain inflammation, but those experiencing more severe depression presented with more inflammation altogether.
How can I control inflammation?
Similar to all other potential conditions, the best counter for brain inflammation is to engage in preventative measures. These include several lifestyle habits:
Make sure you’re getting adequate sleep each night so your immune system is not excessively stressed. This typically is 7-9 hours for most adults.
Eat a balanced diet incorporating vegetables, proteins and healthy fats
3. Eating patterns:
long periods between meals can cause your blood sugar to crash, leading to cravings for sugar. Consuming regular meals throughout the day can help settle such cravings.
4. Avoid toxins:
when possible, avoid harsh environmental chemicals and pollutants.
Brain inflammation can create harmful effects throughout the nervous system and the rest of the body. While inflammation caused by pathogens requires medical attention, chronic inflammation sometimes can simply be reversed by evaluating certain aspects of your lifestyle.
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