If you’ve read our previous post on leaky-gut, you already understand how the health of your gut can be an accurate reflection of your overall health. However, did you know that the correlation between your gut and your brain is one that is severely undermined? If you’re diagnosed with leaky gut, recent studies have shown you also probably have a leaky brain. Similar to leaky gut, leaky brain is blood-brain barrier permeability—which leads to the subsequent slow destruction of the protective blood-brain barrier. The blood brain barrier is responsible for protecting the brain against circulating pathogens or toxins that could lead to inflammation and infection.
When damaged, the blood-brain barrier opens the floodgates to invaders that can result in brain fog, anxiety, depression, as well as neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, recent studies have revealed that “systemic infection of inflammation gives rise to signals that communicate with the brain and leads to changes in metabolism and behavior” which can result in the decreasing of the firing rate of neurons within the frontal lobe of the brain. As such, people with depression who are often prescribed medications do not show signs of improvement as the treatment fails to address the brain inflammation at its core.
So, what can you do right now to help re-build your blood-brain barrier?
Heal your gut.
Since leaky gut is directly linked to leaky brain, focus on first healing your gut. Once your gut is healed, you’ll find that you’ve addressed the root of the problem, and your symptoms should go away.
Stimulate the Vagus Nerve.The vagus nerve, a nerve that is extremely critical to overall health, is responsible for linking the brain stem to the gut, heart, and lungs. Approximately 80% of is nerve fibers serve to drive information from the body to the brain. Studies have revealed that stimulating the vagus nerve (through things such as cold showers, singing or chanting, yoga, meditation, deep breathing, laughing, probiotics, fasting, sleeping on your right side, and massage), can result in the restoration of homeostasis in the microbiota-gut-brain axis.
Decrease your stress.
Acute stress has been shown to help promote the destruction of the blood-brain barrier. Practice mindfulness, yoga, and self love, in addition to some of the other strategies mentioned here.
Decrease the alcohol.
This might sound a bit drastic, but I highly recommend either eliminating or greatly decreasing your alcohol intake to a glass of organic, red wine, a few time a week. Alcohol has been shown to contribute to increased blood-brain barrier permeability, and impairs not only gut and liver functions but can lead to persistent systemic inflammation in the body.
Exercise – your body and your brain.
Studies have shown that exercise increases BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which is responsible for the growth of new brain cells. I personally enjoy alternating between high-intensity interval training and more relaxing, self-healing exercises such as yoga and walking. Furthermore, exercising your brain through meditation has been shown to increase regions of the brain involved in “learning and memory processes, emotional regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking.”
As someone who has experienced some of the more severe symptoms of leaky brain, I have found that improving my gut health over the past couple of weeks has begun to clear my mind. Remember that the process is a committed journey, one that entails a desire to self-heal, and one that takes time.