The chances are good that those who suffer from autoimmune Hashimoto’s low thyroid also have some degree of brain inflammation. Symptoms that indicate brain inflammation include brain fog, fatigue, low motivation, and depression, but there can be more debilitating symptoms depending on the diagnosis. Neuroinflammation can be diagnosed as subtle, moderate, or severe, as well as transient or chronic.
- Brain fog
- Slower mental speed
- Reduced brain endurance (can’t read, work, or drive for long periods)
- Brain fatigue after exposure to specific foods or chemicals
- Comes and goes
- Lack of motivation
- Inability to focus and concentrate well
- Always sleepy
- Need to sleep more than 8 hours
- Loss of appetite
- Unable to be physically active
Severe brain inflammation:
- Disorientation or confusion
- Difficulty speaking
- Tremors or trembling
- Involuntary twitching
Transient brain flammation:
- Symptoms get activated when an individual is exposed to a trigger, and then they subside. Characterized by more good days than bad days.
Chronic brain flammation:
- Symptoms persistent chronically with the individual having more bad days than good.
- Autoimmunity is a condition in which the body’s immune system mistakes its own tissue for a foreign invader and attacks itself. Hashimoto’s is caused by the immune system attacking the thyroid gland while neuroautoimmunity is when nerve tissue gets attacked. In addition to the typical symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, and depression, individuals suffering from neuroinflammation can experience other neurological signs depending on the area of the brain that is being targeted. If you have Hashimoto’s, it’s a good idea to get tested for brain autoimmunity as well.
Why brain inflammation happens
A common assumption is that neurons are the primary cells in the brain. However, neurons make up only about 10 percent of brain cells. The other 90 percent is comprised of glial cells, which are the brain’s immune cells.
Research shows that glial cells do a lot more than protect the brain. When the brain is not inflamed, glial cells support healthy neuron function, remove plaque and debris that can lead to neurodegenerative diseases, and support healthy communication between neurons.
Brain inflammation can be caused by brain injury, autoimmune disease, insulin resistance and diabetes, inflammatory foods, food intolerances, excess alcohol consumption, chronic viral or bacterial infections, leaky gut, leaky blood-brain barrier, hormonal imbalances, or other chronic imbalances.
When the brain is chronically inflamed, glial cells are diverted away from supporting neurons to engaging in inflammatory combat.
The following functional medicine protocols an help reverse mild symptoms of brain inflammation:
These strategies include:
- Balance blood sugar
- Remove foods that cause an inflammatory reaction, particularly gluten.
- Repaire leaky gut and leaky blood-brain barrier.
- Improve the diversity of your gut microbiome.
- Manage your Hashimoto’s low thyroid.
- Manage chronic infections.
- Take glutathione and other supplements that dampen inflammation.
- Exercise daily, particularly with high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
- Balance your hormones.
If your brain inflammation is moderate to severe, you may need to do more than these basic steps and move on to investigate what is causing the inflammation. Because the brain’s immune system does not have an off switch like the body’s, brain inflammation can continue to damage brain tissue over a long period of time.
When a glial cell becomes “primed,” which can happen in a severe brain inflammatory event, the shape of the cell is altered permanently so that it can no longer assist neurons. Glial cells can then only function in an inflammatory capacity and die sooner.
When your glial cells are primed, acute inflammatory triggers can set off severe brain inflammation symptoms. This could include memory loss, inability to speak properly, loss of muscle function, being bedridden from fatigue, and more.
In addition to inflammation, another issue that can cause neurological symptoms is called “neurons close to threshold.” When neurons are too weak and fragile, they become easily overwhelmed and fatigued. Smelling perfumes for the chemically sensitive person, eating gluten for the gluten intolerant person, too much noise for someone who is sound sensitive, pushing your brain past what it can handle (with reading, working, studying, driving, etc.), are examples of events that can fatigue weak neurons.
This could be caused by poor habits or chronic inflammation which damages the neurons’ mitochondria, the energy factory in each cell. When the neurons are weakened, they fire too easily and then get fatigued.
Contact my office to see how we can help you manage your brain inflammation along with its symptoms.