Is Your Brain on Fire? (Part 4)
If you’ve made it this far in my series of blogs on neuroinflammation, thank you for reading. We’ve covered what neuroinflammation is, the related symptoms, and some causes behind it. In the last post, I went over the reason many medical professionals don’t make connections between leaky gut and brain inflammation, and explained how I approach treating individuals in my practice. This post will go more in depth about my philosophy on treatment, and provide some pathways to better health for those suffering from neuroinflammation.
As a practitioner of functional medicine, I want to get everyone on a path to better health. But since everyone is different, there are many things I need to address in order to tailor a plan to each specific individual. This often requires running tests, because without knowing what your labs show, it’s difficult to move forward. Unfortunately, most people will require polytherapy, meaning multiple therapies may be required to alleviate all of your symptoms. This is why I always provide an individualized, custom-tailored program for all of my patients.
General vs. specific
Even before running tests, I can provide my patients with a general overview of some things to implement that will help manage neuroinflammation. For example, the above graphic shows certain polyphenols, essential fatty acids, short-chain fatty acids, antioxidants, and other nutrients that have been shown to reduce neuroinflammation in the human body. However, proper treatment will require some precision when it comes to figuring out exactly what to do next. This is why I set up 20-minute discovery calls with all potential patients to help me see exactly what is going on. There’s no need to continue suffering when there are plenty of answers out there.
There are many questions I may ask, and a variety of tests I might order to determine how to get you on the road to recovery. Those include checking your vitamin D level, discussing possible food sensitivities, checking your A1C levels, your fasting insulin levels, CRP markers, hormones, and levels of homocysteine in the body.
What is homocysteine and why is it important?
Have you ever had your cholesterol levels checked? The odds are high that you have. But what about your homocysteine levels? Most people have not even heard of homocysteine, let alone been tested for it. That’s because these tests are rather expensive, but it’s important because it may tell you if you have inflammation, as well as whether or not your body is replicating DNA properly.
Homocysteine is an amino acid broken down by vitamins B12, B6, and folate to create other chemicals your body needs. The homocysteine level is a marker for DNA replication, and the range for homocysteine in standard labs is about four to fifteen. Proper DNA replications means that as your DNA copies itself over and over again, the thousandth copy of your DNA is just as crisp the original. When these homocysteine levels are high, it may mean that when you replicate your DNA, you are not ending up with a very crisp copy
Food sensitivities and inflammatory markers
Most people have some type of food sensitivity, with gluten, dairy, and eggs being some of the worst offenders. Certain food sensitives lead to gut permeability, or leaky gut, as we’ve discussed earlier in this blog series. When testing for food sensitivities in my patients, I will also want to ensure that you have enough stomach acid to properly digest all the essential nutrients required for good health.
When I’m testing for inflammatory markers like CRP – a protein produced by the liver – I’m looking for the presence of something that has the ability to get into your brain and begin destroying your brain tissue. As I laid out in Part 2 of this blog series, once brain tissue is destroyed, the human body does not have the ability to regenerate it. Thus, once a neuron is dead, it is gone for good. This is exactly what happens in those patients who are suffering from Alzheimer's disease. It is likely there was permeability in the gut or blood brain barrier that caused their neurons to die. Unfortunately for many patients who fall victim to this horrible illness, no one ever addressed the root cause of the problem. In functional medicine, getting to that root cause is exactly what we aim to do.
The role of hormones
Another measure I use to assess the health of my patients is their hormone levels, paying special attention to testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and cortisol. In women who have had a partial hysterectomy, it is sometimes the case that they are now more susceptible to the damage that can be caused by fluoroquinolones. Any changes to or irregularities in your menstrual cycle should be discussed at this stage to ensure that your hormone levels are adequate to support your neuronal tissue and decrease neuroinflammation.
Other factors to consider
As I speak with new patients, there are other issues to consider besides those mentioned above. As stated previously, it is normal to have one to two bowel movements each day with no gas, bloating, or diarrhea. If this is not the case for you, it might be an indication of something in the body that needs to be fixed. I also like to ensure that my patients are regularly doing exercises to strengthen their brains. There are plenty of neurological exercises that can be done to strengthen the brain through a process known as function neurology.
I hope that my words have brought both clarity and understanding to those suffering with brain inflammation. I want everyone to know that you are not alone, and perhaps more importantly, you are not crazy. You might have seen multiple healthcare professionals who’ve made you think these symptoms are all in your head, but you don’t have to believe them. I’m here to help, and I promise that I believe you. Even more than that, I believe that there is hope for you. As I often like to say, where there is help, there is hope.
If you would like to take the next step toward reducing symptoms and improving your health, I do all of my consultations via telemedicine with no need for an in-person office visit. After a telemedicine consultation, we can discuss the labs needed so that you may get these completed locally. I look forward to helping you, but most importantly, I look forward to giving you hope.