Is your brain on fire with inflammation? The brain doesn’t hurt like an inflamed knee does, so it’s hard to know if inflammation is happening. However, the brain communicates inflammation in how it makes you feel.
One of the most common symptoms of brain inflammation is brain fog, that feeling of slow and fuzzy thinking. Other common brain inflammation symptoms include depression anxiety, irritability, anger, memory loss, and fatigue. Even getting a song stuck in your head is a symptom.
Of course, other factors can cause these symptoms, but an inflamed and thus quickly degenerating brain is often involved in brain-based symptoms.
For instance, if these symptoms arise after eating certain foods, such as wheat or dairy, that can be a strong clue brain inflammation is at work.
Why inflammation causes brain fog
One of the most common symptoms of brain inflammation is brain fog. Why is this? Inflammation in the brain slows down firing between neurons. Thus the overall operation of the brain slows down. This is what causes your brain function to be foggy, dull, and slow.
In the case of depression, inflammatory immune cells called cytokines hamper brain function and the activity of serotonin a brain chemical needed to feel joy and well-being. For example, depression is a common side effect with the anti-viral drug interferon, which raises cytokine levels.
It’s important to take brain inflammation seriously — inflammation in the brain damages and destroys brain cells, speeding aging and atrophy of your brain. This raises your risk for dementia, Alzheimer’s (brain inflammation increases amyloid beta), Parkinson’s and other degenerative brain diseases.
Why does brain inflammation happen
It’s very important to know why your brain is inflamed because this will point you in the right direction to address it and relieve symptoms.
One of the more common causes of brain inflammation is an injury to the head. A brain injury causes the brain’s immune cells, which are different from those in the body, to begin the healing process and removal of dead and damaged neurons.
However, immune cells in the brain do not turn off, especially if there are already other imbalances in the body. This means inflammation in the brain can continue long after injury. This is one reason football players have brain-related issues long after they retire.
Other causes of brain inflammation include:
- Chronic inflammation in the body
- Leaky gut
- High blood sugar and diabetes
- Hormone imbalances
- Food intolerances (gluten is notorious)
- Chronic stress
- Brain autoimmunity — a disorder in which the immune system attacks and damages brain tissue. It is more common than people realize.
Take brain inflammation seriously
Brain inflammation means your brain is degenerating (aging) too fast. Brain-saving tips include:
Take flavonoids, plant compounds that have been shown to reduce brain inflammation.
Balance blood sugar. Avoid blood sugar that is too low or too high. Insulin resistance and diabetes are notorious brain inflamers.
Food sensitivities. Gluten commonly inflames the rule. Also rule out dairy, soy, eggs, and other grains as sources of inflammation.
Balance hormones. Low sex and thyroid hormones contribute to brain inflammation.
Heal your gut and promote good gut bacteria. The gut, gut bacteria, and the brain are intimately connected. A healthy brain requires a healthy gut.
Anti-inflammatory nutrients. Glutathione, a powerful antioxidant, can help quench brain inflammation —take the precursors and glutathione recycling ingredients. Curcuminoids, as found in turmeric, can dampen inflammation in the brain. Sufficient essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are important, too.
Get functional medicine help for a brain injury. If you injured your brain, even if it was a while ago, you may need functional medicine help to tame brain inflammation and restore function.