Yes! Over the last 20 years, ample evidence has accumulated to prove that inflammation in the body causes changes in the brain that lead to depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and memory problems. Inflammation comes from the Latin ‘inflammare’ – to set on fire. Our brain is ‘on fire’ when it is inflamed, or when our body is inflamed.
What sets your brain on fire?
Your body experiences inflammation the way your skin reacts to a cut: The area becomes swollen, warmer, and it may hurt. (This happens because there is increased blood flow, increased immune activity, and a change in the chemistry in the area.)
When there is inflammation any where in the body, signals are sent to the brain via various cytokines. The cytokines send signals to the brain via the vagus nerve and other pathways. These cytokine signals then block the brain from making serotonin.
What does the fire do to your brain?
Inflammation affects hormones and other neurotransmitters in your brain. Inflammation drives down the level of serotonin, which can lead to feelings of depression or anxiety, and problems with memory. It prevents melatonin from being produced, which causes insomnia. It causes dopamine levels to rise, which contributes to insomnia, and feelings of anxiety and agitation.
The excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate, goes up. Over time or with excessive levels of glutamate, anxiety can result. In extreme amounts, glutamate can be toxic to brain cells.
In fact, in depression, a certain type of brain cell-called an astrocyte, actually deteriorates under these circumstance, which permits the inflammation to continue. Now you have a brain that is, if not on fire, at least smoldering.
You too can prevent brain fires!
It’s not as complicated as you might think! Try these suggestions (with your doctors approval of course.)
A) Clean up your diet by eliminating food common allergies-
- milk and dairy products
B) Balance your diet
- Try the Barry Sear’s “Zone” diet, or one of the diets in my book-“The Anti-depressant Survival Guide”
C) Keep exercise moderate,
D) Make sure your air is clean
- No mold, or things you are allergic to-such as dust mites
E) Reduce your stress so your adrenal glands can recover their anti-inflammatory function
F) Clear up all gut issues
- 70% of inflammation comes from the gut-such as bloating, gassiness, diarrhea, constipation and reflux.
G) Be sure you do not have any hidden infections.
H) Drink lots of water
I) Eat lots of anti-oxidant rich foods
- Lots of organic colorful veggies, with a bit of fruit
Author [Robert J. Hedaya MD, DLFAPA, ABPN, CFM]