Many of us have heard of leaky gut, but have you heard of leaky brain?
The blood-brain barrier is the blood vessels that vascularize the central nervous system (CNS). This barrier tightly regulates movements between ions, molecules, and cells between the blood and the brain. The BBB allows necessary compounds such as glucose, amino acids, fat-soluble nutrients, and ketones to pass through and allow the brain to function correctly.
When the BBB is compromised, it becomes more permeable, meaning toxins and bacteria can pass through. As you can imagine, this is not good for your brain. When antinutrients and neurotoxins are able to pass through the BBB, it can cause neuroinflammation (ie. inflammation in the brain). Long-term brain inflammation can result in an array of neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer's along with less serious ailments such as brain fog, lack of focus, poor sleep, and food cravings.
What causes a “leaky brain”?
The top contenders are poor sleep, excessive alcohol intake, and high blood pressure. Other factors include systemic inflammation, acute or chronic stress, bacterial infections, toxins like lipopolysaccharides (ie. bi-products of high-fat, high-carb meals), mold exposure, leaky gut, liver damage, frequent blood glucose fluctuations, frequent sleep disturbances, high sugar intake, and hypoxia.
Now, on to the GOOD news! It is possible to repair the blood-brain barrier. How?
Get more sleep. Quality sleep helps to repair the BBB and activates the glymphatic system, which clears out cellular waste from the brain.
Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol is a neurotoxin and should be kept to a minimum (if consumed at all).
Drink green tea and/or organic coffee, both contain high levels of antioxidants. Be sure to choose both organic and lab-tested coffee, as coffee is the most heavily sprayed pesticide crop in the world. It is also very susceptible to mold.
Stimulate your vagus nerve. You can do this through chanting, singing, meditation, and vagal nerve toning devices.
Avoid frequent snacking as this causes blood sugar or glucose spikes throughout the day. Stable blood sugar is best for your BBB.
Take care of your gut. Optimized gut health is essential to optimal brain health. If you are experiencing gut dysbiosis, I recommend working with a functional medicine practitioner to test and heal your gut.
Decrease systemic inflammation. Inflammation can be mitigated through a high-quality diet made up of whole, organic foods. Ditch processed foods completely and focus on organic plants (dark leafy greens), healthy fats such as avocado, EVOO, ghee, wild-caught fish, grass-fed and finished meats, organic berries like wild blueberries and blackberries, and smart carbs such as sweet potatoes.
Cold thermogenesis. Cold exposure can strengthen the BBB. This can range from cryotherapy to cold plunges to ending your daily shower with the most frigid water possible for 1-3 minutes.