What is “leaky brain?” and can I prevent or treat it?” These questions affect us all. First because according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the US experiences mental illness in a given year. Secondly, approximately 1 in 25 adults in the US experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities. Finally, The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 1 in 10 people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s Dementia, almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s Disease are women.
These statistics do not take into account people with brain injury, or who are fighting brain cancer or other disease. Additionally, these numbers do not represent people on the Autism Spectrum or with ADD/ADHD. Finally, these statistics do not include the care partners of the people dealing with these illnesses.
What is the Blood Brain Barrier?
The maintenance of brain health and function is dependent on a system in the brain known as the blood brain barrier. The blood brain barrier is made up of endothelial cells, pericytes, astrocyte end feet, and microglia. These components act as a physical barrier in the brain that blocks harmful toxins and bacteria from entering the brain. Scientists have found that compounds that are very small and/or fat soluble are able to slip through the blood brain barrier, larger molecules such as glucose or insulin must be transported through proteins to the brain.
Brain cancers or ruptures to blood vessels in the brain cause the blood brain barrier to be crossed, this allows substances that normally aren’t present in the brain access. Also, there is evidence that the blood brain barrier may weaken over time and contribute to a number of neurodegenerative disorders. This is known as “Leaky Brain.”
What causes “Leaky Brain?”
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Chronic sleep disturbances
- Diabetes or high blood sugar
- Leaky gut
- High fat, high calorie modern American diet comprised mainly of processed foods
- Bacterial infections
Conditions linked to “Leaky Brain.”
A leaky blood brain barrier may cause brain disease, or another disease may be trigger a leaky brain. Conditions linked include:
- Brain fog
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- Seizure Disorders and Epilepsy
How do you prevent and start to repair a “leaky brain?”
Similar to leaky gut, a thin structure of cells composes the blood brain barrier and keeps harmful substances out of the brain. If this protective layer is damaged the brain is left vulnerable to damage from chemicals, inflammatory cytokines, and immune cells. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to strengthen and repair your blood brain barrier including:
- Eating an anti-inflammatory diet – avoid highly processed, high calorie, high fat foods. The blood brain barrier is regulated by a protein called Zonulin, which is disrupted by gluten, which causes leaky gut issues. A leaky gut may lead to a leaky brain.
- Normalize your blood sugar.
- Clear infections and toxins.
- Reduce stress.
- Improve sleep hygiene.
- Exercise to increase brain circulation.
- Reduce homocysteine levels.
- Reduce glutamate levels if elevated.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
Along with lifestyle changes to improve “leaky brain”, supplementation options may help repair a “leaky brain” and improve brain health. These supplement options, started under the guidance of a holistic doctor, may include:
- Acetyl L-Carnitine
- Alpha-Lipoic Acid
- B12-B6 Folate mix
- Vitamin D3
- Fish Oil
- Olive Leaf Extract
In conclusion, Holistic doctors have testing available to discover if you have an impairment of the blood brain barrier. A Holistic Doctor is vitally important when implementing a supplementation protocol and lifestyle changes that will help improve your brain health and function.
Read Dr. Cushing’s biography