We all have days and moments when we feel 'stressed out of our minds', but serious neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders have strong links to oxidative stress and and NEUROINFLAMMATION. Neuroinflammation, or inflammation in our central nervous system, is divided into two types. Acute inflammation occurs as the result of an injury or traumatic incident; chronic inflammation is typically associated with with neurodegenerative disorders.
Inflammation in the body applies to the brain as well. Not all inflammation is bad. Cytokines are very important for the development of normal brain function and can influence neurocircuitry (brain wiring) and neurotransmitter systems (chemical brain messengers) to adapt to behavioural alterations. Social stress such as divorce/separation, social alienation, past experiences and childhood trauma can all lead to an increase in circulating inflammatory cytokines.
Bacterial and viral infections and gut barrier dysfunction can also lead to an increase in inflammatory signalling.
Continual exposure to these molecules can lead to mood disorders and cognitive decline (brain ageing).
The human brain is protected by the blood-brain-barrier (BBB) a structure that is semi-permeable and forms the barrier between the circulating blood and the brain. This allows molecules, such as glucose, water and amino acids to pass through, but prevents toxins and pathogens from crossing into the brain.
As in the gut, this barrier function can become faulty due to to inflammation.
The brain does not have the same antioxidant defence system as the rest of our organs and is lower in antioxidant activity compared to organs such as the liver.
The brain is one of the busiest organs needed to keep all the other organs functioning properly. The brain needs more oxygen and glucose to make energy and this requirement makes it susceptible to oxygen overload, which results in the release of more free radicals that need to be mopped up.
Our hardworking brains are poorly protected from oxidative stress and inflammation, and the links between an unhealthy gut, infections, genetics, molds, toxins, and our diets and lifestyles have a resounding impact on our brain functions.
Chronic stress. both physical and emotional has been shown to increase inflammatory markers as well as reduce sensitivity to cortisol.
Cortisol is an a very potent anti-inflammatory hormone, but under conditions of chronic stress, our immune and adrenal systems can no longer cope with the amount of cortisol being released and we may become glucocorticoid resistant , or 'burnt out'.
Exercise, sleep, nutrition and relaxation techniques are so important in these stressful times.
Following protocols to protect our bodies, brains and guts from the constant onslaught of stress and toxic exposure is a worthwhile pursuit in the search for optimal vitality.
Omega 3 fats, antioxidants from brightly coloured fruit and vegetables and ensuring the adequate supply of vital minerals such as zinc, selenium, manganese, magnesium, iron and the all-important B Vitamins is essential.
Adaptogens such as ashwagandha, rhodiola, siberian ginseng, liquorice root and reishi mushrooms can all be used effectively to assist the body to adapt to chronic stress.