Brain Inflammation – What You Need To Know

Dr Sandra Cabot and naturopath Margaret Jasinska provide valuable information about brain inflammation in their latest podcast. Learn about how the symptoms are often subtle and gradual, such as brain fog or low motivation, and how factors such as heavy metal exposure, plastics, gut inflammation and hormonal imbalance can cause brain inflammation, and how this can lead to neurological conditions such as Parkinsons disease.

Listen to my podcast and leave a comment below if you have any questions.

DR CABOT: Hello. My name is Dr Sandra Cabot. I’m a medical doctor and I’m joined today by naturopath and author Margaret Jasinska.

MARGARET: Hi, Dr Cabot. Thank you for inviting me on. And we are going to talk about the brain, aren’t we?

DR CABOT: Yes. A fascinating subject – brain inflammation. So, what does that mean? That means your brain is irritated. There’s too many free radicals attacking your brain, so that causes inflammation and that can damage your brain. But the symptoms of that are often not recognized as being related to that.

MARGARET: Yes. And the symptoms can be subtle and they can come on slowly and gradually. So, you just perceive that as the new normal for you. I mean, we’ve all lived in our bodies for a long time. So, when symptoms come on gradually and slowly, we start to accept that as normal. So, we want to let you know what things can cause inflammation of your brain and the symptoms, the manifestations, so that you may know this is a problem for you.

DR CABOT: That’s right. Because it’s not something that you want to accept. Of course, a lot of people are getting dementia. It’s the leading cause of death in Australian women now. And it’s becoming increasingly common all over the world. And it’s not just because we’re living longer. There’s something wrong. And chronic brain inflammation can cause severe brain damage and lead to dementia. But before you get to that stage, you want to pick up that it’s happening and be aware of the possible symptoms. And some of the symptoms we see are foggy brain, you can’t concentrate, you can’t focus. You don’t have the same mental energy. You don’t have the same drive.

MARGARET: Absolutely, like losing motivation across all areas of your life. Not motivated to eat well. Not motivated to exercise. Not motivated to do your best at work each day. Just really across the board, like motivation and focus.

DR CABOT: Yes. And poor sleep. Often, if you wake up in the early hours of the morning, bang, 2 o’clock in the morning, and then you can’t get back to sleep – that’s abnormal. A lot of people wake up 10 minutes, they go to the toilet, whatever, but not to be able to get back to sleep. They had that chronic insomnia. There’s a lot of brain inflammation going on there and that’s bad. So, insomnia, mood changes, mental fatigue, depression – really is lack of motivation.

MARGARET: Yes. Anxiety, like really…

DR CABOT: Anxiety is a big thing. So, they can be very diverse. A lot of wide range of symptoms there can be reflecting.

MARGARET: So that people don’t necessarily relate it to their brain. So, they’re just unaware.

DR CABOT: Yes, that’s right! Yeah, they’re very general symptoms. And it’s hard to diagnose. Once you’ve got dementia, well, that’s not hard. You can see on an MRI of your brain that the brain has shrunk and there’s white patches in the brain and there’s damage to the blood vessels in the brain. But we’re talking about younger people. Like people in their 20s and 30s may have brain inflammation. Middle-aged people. And this is very important that it is recognized for what it is at that age, so we can do something about it.

MARGARET: Exactly.

DR CABOT: So, we were talking about the causes before Margaret, such as exposure to heavy metals, such as mercury, arsenic and lead. Very common today because the world is very polluted.

MARGARET: Yeah. Cadmium, also. In the olden days, it used to be people in certain industries and professions that were exposed to heavy metals. These days, you can get a random patient that has an office job and lives in a city, and they have high levels of heavy metals in their body. Much of it is because their detoxification channels aren’t good enough. Their liver health is poor. Their gut health is poor. So, they’re absorbing more of the heavy metals from their gut and not detoxifying them well enough through their liver. So therefore, they are accumulating in their body.

DR CABOT: Very true. I saw a man the other day who was only in his late 30s. His serum mercury level was abnormally high and he was eating swordfish, 3 times a week. He loved fish. So, the fish, the big fish are polluted. And, as you say, his detox pathways were not efficient.

MARGARET: Or just overwhelmed from living in modern life and just exposure to so many varied chemicals. The liver of the average person cannot keep up.

DR CABOT: That’s right. So, these pollutants, such as solvents, insecticides, pesticides, plastics, they’re fat soluble. They get into your brain, particularly if you’ve got a leaky blood brain barrier. So, detoxifying is very, very good. Keeping your liver working and your gut working at top level.

MARGARET: Exactly! To protect your brain. To help to prevent those toxins from reaching your brain.

DR CABOT: That’s right. The gut-brain connection. If you have a leaky gut, you will have a leaky blood brain barrier. So, things will get from your blood into your brain that shouldn’t. It’s not protecting your brain. It’s excessively permeable, the leaky blood brain barrier. It’s all due to inflammation.

So, we always work on the gut. We improve the diet, overcome the bad bacteria in the gut. That’s very, very important. We also look for chronic infections in the body. Perhaps you’ve got sinusitis or you might have small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. And those chronic grumbling infections can release toxins, which will cause a leaky blood brain barrier.

MARGARET: Yes. And not only just increase the risk of dementia, but may also increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease. So, there’s more and more research that disordered gut bugs, overgrowth of bad gut bugs, insufficient good gut bugs can create inflammation in the brain via the nervous system, via the communication between the brain and the nervous system. So, anything that inflames your gut lining can lead to inflammation in the brain. And so that could be food sensitivities that you have. A food you’re eating that your gut just doesn’t agree with. It could be sugar in your diet. It could be artificial additives in your diet, like things like colors, flavors, preservatives.

DR CABOT: Excessive sugar can cause a lot of brain inflammation and severe anxiety because of that.

MARGARET: Yes. And it also depends on what your background gut health level is like. People with good levels of healthy gut bugs can eat some sugar and feel totally fine. Where, there’s other patients who do have a gut health problem and their diet is very narrow and restrictive and they’re still not feeling great, even on that. So, the gut health, trying to fix that and try to restore good gut bugs is so important.

DR CABOT: The gut-brain connection. And we have a free e-book on called “Ultimate Gut Health” and that teaches you a lot.

MARGARET: Yeah. There’s so much information in that and it’s free!

DR CABOT: It’s free! We’re good, aren’t we?

The other thing in women, if they have a hormone imbalance, so particularly lack of progesterone or lack of testosterone. And we see this with postnatal psychosis or postnatal depression or premenstrual syndrome or premenstrual tension. And that can be quite severe. Some women become very depressed because of that. And so, we can use a natural progesterone cream. We can also measure the blood level of testosterone. And if that’s very, very low, we can give a testosterone cream to bring it up to the normal range. And that will help a lot to reduce brain inflammation.

MARGARET: Yes. And progesterone taken in the evening improves sleep quality, also.

DR CABOT: Yes, it’s definitely a brain hormone, the progesterone and testosterone. And it can help women with severe postnatal depression.

So, there’s so many things that can cause brain inflammation. Your brain really is very vulnerable, being a fatty organ. Has a lot of dependencies on nutrients and hormones. But thankfully we know how to overcome them.

And one thing also that can help with brain inflammation is N-Acetyl Cysteine, abbreviated to NAC. N-Acetyl Cysteine. And there’s a lot of studies with that being able to help people with different psychological illnesses, even schizophrenia or drug dependency.

MARGARET: Yes. Obsessive compulsive disorder, also. Addiction.

DR CABOT: Yeah. NAC, N-A-C abbreviated. That’s the abbreviation for N-Acetyl Cysteine. It’s a wonderful substance and it really isn’t used enough in medicine. It’s used to detoxify people in conventional medicine and can save their life, if they’ve overdosed on a poison. But it’s not used enough in mental health. N-Acetyl Cysteine is wonderful for the brain. So is magnesium, and so are the fat-soluble vitamins.

MARGARET: Yes, exactly! Because your brain is largely fat and fat is prone to oxidation and damage. So, the more of the antioxidants and the fat-soluble vitamins you have in your body, they will help to protect your brain.

DR CABOT: Yes. The vitamin D, the vitamin K. So, we don’t want to be deficient in these things, if we have brain inflammation. And all of these things need to be looked for.

So, if you have any questions, you can check out our book, the “Ultimate Gut Health”. You’ll learn a lot. And you can also look at Margaret’s book on “Healing Autoimmune Disease”. And you can send us an email. We’d love to hear from you.

MARGARET: Yes, definitely. We would.

DR CABOT: Thanks for listening.

MARGARET: Thank you! Bye bye!