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Is Your Brain on Fire? (Part 2)

As I outlined in Part 1 of this series, neuroinflammation

– the phenomenon of “brain on fire” – is a common problem for the Floxed community. If you have taken fluoroquinolones in the past and are suffering from symptoms ranging from brain fog (subtle) to seizures (severe), you are not alone. In this blog post, I’ll go over the ways we test for neuroinflammation and the role of glial (your immune cells in your brain) cells in your brain.

How do you know if your brain is on fire?

There is a variety of different tests that can pinpoint neuroinflammation, and I cover them on my YouTube channel. One of the more cutting-edge tests available measures blood brain barrier permeability, meaning it checks the integrity of the membrane between the blood and your brain. It’s looking for a blood brain barrier that is falling apart or leaking, allowing proteins to end up in your bloodstream that shouldn’t be there.

The Blood Brain Barrier Permeability Screen measures whether the level of certain proteins in the blood is “in range” or “out of range.” When the level is out of range, it tells us that the blood brain barrier is leaking, or starting to break down. It may be an indication that fluoroquinolones have been tearing apart your blood brain barrier. Because fluoroquinolones love the fat tissue that makes up your brain, it is likely that this is the cause of the barrier’s deterioration. Without that barrier intact, particles can end up in your bloodstream where the immune system marks them as “foe” and attacks. This causes inflammation.

The blood brain barrier is only one cell thick

The skin on your fingertip is made up of tens of thousands of cells creating a barrier between the outside world and your blood. If you were to take a sharp blade cut your finger with it, all of these skin cells stand between that knife and your bloodstream. While it might not seem very difficult to draw blood this way, it’s even easier to permeate the blood brain barrier. That’s because the barrier between the bloodstream and your brain is only one cell thick. This is similar to the cells that make up the lining of your intestines, which is why “leaky gut” and “leaky brain” function in a similar way.

As you might imagine, the blood brain barrier is far more susceptible to damage than your skin. Just like food sensitivities, in which the proteins in food permeate the one-cell lining of the intestines, causing inflammation, the blood brain barrier can easily be impacted by foreign substances. Once the barrier is damaged it loses its impermeability, resulting in leaky brain.

The above graphic shows an impermeable blood brain barrier (left) compared to a leaky, permeable one (right). The one on the right may have been destroyed by fluoroquinolones, which can then pass directly into the brain once the barrier has deteriorated. Once these chemicals get in your brain, research shows they destroy the mitochondria – known as the “power packs” – of your neuronal cells. Without those mitochondria, your neuronal cells will not function.

Neurons do not regenerate like other cells in the body

The unfortunate truth about neurons is that they can’t rebuild themselves after they’ve been damaged. While your skin cells can heal, your liver cells can literally regenerate if a portion is removed, and even your digestive system can rebuild after an anomaly, the brain does not have this luxury. Once a neuron is gone, that neuron is dead forever. This is why addressing the symptoms of neuroinflammation is so critical.

However, it is also important to note that neurons only make up about 10 percent of your brain’s cells according to research. The rest, 90 percent, are called glial cells. Glial cells comprise many different types of brain cells, including Schwann cells, oligodendrocytes, microglial cells, ependymal cells, and astrocytes. Their essential function is to support and protect the neurons, acting as your brain’s immune system. But when this immune system is compromised by something like inflammation, the glial cells mistakenly attack the neurons, resulting in a range of symptoms. Imagine your glial cells are playing their own private game of Pacman in your brain, eating away at your neurons.

Glia are the brain’s glue, and much more

The word “glia” means glue, and for a long time researchers believed that was the only function of these cells: to hold the neurons together. As it turns out, these cells do far more than that. Glial cells control the function of the body’s entire immune system, which is why restoring them to their proper function is so critical. Simply put, the goal of resolving neuroinflammation is to restore health to