Do you regularly feel that you’re not quite thinking straight? You’re often forgetting some words or ideas? You seem vague? Your mood is always down, or unpredictable?
You may be suffering from Leaky Brain. Leaky Brain manifests as multiple signs and symptoms, so pay attention to these warning signs and don’t ignore them.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Leaky Brain?
- Brain fog or difficulty concentrating
- Chronic fatigue that does not improve with rest or sleep
- Headaches or migraines that come on suddenly become worse with standing, and grow more severe as the day progresses
- Memory loss or another cognitive decline which may lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Mood disorders, particularly anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia
- Peripheral neuropathy or muscular sclerosis
- ADD/ADHD/Autism spectrum disorders
Leaky Brain Can Cause
- Reduced mental ability, difficulty concentrating or multitasking, short and long-term memory loss, collectively referred to as brain fog, via prolonged activation of mast cells
- Alzheimer’s disease.
- Huntington Disease
- Increased risk for schizophrenia
What is a Leaky Brain?
The brain, with its numerous functions critical to life, is protected from potentially harmful substances in the bloodstream by a fence-like structure called the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB)
The Blood Brain Barrier is a single-layered lattice of cells joined together by tight junctions that keep most substances out and allow few substances into the brain.
Toxic substances typically kept out include heavy metals, pesticides, pcbs as well as damaging proteins while substances allowed in are oxygen, hormones, and nutrients.
A brain is considered leaky when the Blood-Brain Barrier is not working how it should. Sometimes the tight junctions become loose or broken meaning more harmful substances can leak in. Harmful chemicals and proteins can damage the brain leading to inflammation - in other words, a Leaky Brain is an Inflamed Brain.
What Causes Leaky Brain?
More and more research confirm that there is a strong connection between the brain and the gut. We now know that microbes living in the gut affect the brain both positively and negatively.
Many of the same factors that cause a leaky gut—poor gut health, unhealthy diet, food intolerances, food sensitivities, toxins and infections—can also create a leaky brain.
Studies from Harvard show that wheat creates leaky gut in everyone as a protein called gliadin, found in wheat and gluten, increases another protein, zonulin. Zonulin weakens the tight junctions of the gut lining and BBB thereby contributing to leaky gut and leaky brain.
Five main causes of Leaky Brain
- Gut Dysbiosis (infections)
- Leaky Gut
- Autoimmune Disease
- Mental Health Conditions
- Stress & Vagus Nerve Dysfunction
In short, inflammation is the basis for leaky brain which often becomes more pronounced with other disease states such as
- Bacterial infections
- CIRS and Mould toxins
- Excess glutamate
- Free radicals
- High blood sugar and diabetes
- Elevated homocysteine
- High-fat, high-calorie diets and obesity
- Liver damage
- Low quality sleep
The Brain-Gut Axis: The Vagus Nerve Connection
The brainstem connects to the vagus nerve, which in turn connects to all the digestive organs. The brain sends signals through the vagus nerve to the organs. The organs also send signals through the vagus nerve to the brain.
The vagus nerve initiates many important digestive functions such as stomach acid secretion, enzyme production, gallbladder function and intestinal motility.
If there is poor brain communication to the vagus nerve there can be many negative effects including:
- Chronic inflammation
- Poor digestion
- Leaky gut
- Inflamed brain
- Depression and related mental health conditions
Are there Diagnostic Tests for a Leaky Brain?
With the assistance of an integrative health practitioner individuals can screen for their overall risk of Leaky Brain with some of the following tests
- GABA-EEG - Gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, is a neurotransmitter that inhibits neural impulses.
- Spectrophotometry and Optical Imaging – using Evans Blue dye to measure albumin, which would not cross the BBB under health conditions.
- MMP9 Level Evaluation - MMPs are enzymes that break down the peptide bonds that hold proteins together. They contribute to BBB damage by breaking the tight junctions that maintain BBB integrity. MMP levels elevate following tissue damage in the liver or brain (i.e., stroke, traumatic brain injury). Testing for high MMP in the blood can disclose a patient’s likelihood of Leaky Brain.
- Genetic Testing - can reveal if someone is innately inclined to develop a Leaky Brain. Alterations in any of the genes that express tight junction proteins, control oxidative stress, regulate inflammation, or fight autoimmunity can cause Leaky Brain. Knowing such altered genes are present can make it easier to identify if there is a need for treatment options
- Occludin and Zonulin – both are proteins that help determine both gut lining and blood-brain barrier permeability. Elevated antibodies against occludin and zonulin are another way to gauge leaky brain syndrome.