Brain Inflammation and Sugar: A Surprising Connection

Inflammation has been a buzzword in recent years as researchers have continued to find links between inflammation and symptoms like headaches, fatigue, memory loss, brain fog and many more. In previous blogs, we have talked about the three needs of a neuron, or brain cell. These include glucose, oxygen, and stimulation. Your brain cannot branch out and make new connections unless it receives proper stimulation to specific areas, and to do this, you must provide the proper chemical environment for those cells to do so. This means having an adequate oxygen supply, and just as importantly, a proper glucose (blood sugar) response.  So, what happens when blood sugar levels are too low or too high? How can this lead to inflammation? And what can I do to prevent this from happening?

Blood Sugar Imbalances

One of the most important things you can do for your brain is to maintain stable blood sugars. When blood sugar is chronically low, it’s called hypoglycemia. On the flip side, if blood sugar is too high, it’s called hyperglycemia or insulin resistance.

Common Symptoms of Hypoglycemia

  • Feeling agitated or nervous
  • Eating to relieve fatigue
  • Becoming light headed if meals are missed
  • Increased energy after meals
  • Cravings for sweets between meals

Common Symptoms of Hyperglycemia/Insulin Resistance

  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Constant hunger
  • General fatigue
  • Fatigue after eating meals
  • Cravings for sweets that are not relieved after eating them

 

How This Leads to Inflammation

When blood sugars are too high, or if one is constantly fluctuating between low blood sugar and high blood sugar, this leads to activation of microglia, the brains immune cells. This directly leads to an inflammatory cascade in the brain, or neuroinflammation. When brain inflammation arises, there are immediate and long-term effects. It immediately slows down transmission speed of signals in the brain, leading to the feeling of brain fog and a drop in brain endurance. In the long-term, chronic brain inflammation will lead to sustained microglial activation and eventually neuronal death. This is why researchers are now referring to Alzheimer’s Disease as Type III Diabetes. Neuroinflammation has many more far reaching effects that we will discuss down the road.

What Can I Do?

Since chronic microglial cell activation has no automatic “off switch” to stop brain inflammation, there are things that can be done to dampen it. These include flavonoids such as apigenin, resveratrol, catechins, rutin, and curcumin. The providers at Team Health Care Clinic often recommend supplements that contain these natural compounds to help support the brain’s fight against inflammation.

Additionally, the same can be said for supporting proper blood sugar levels. Nutrients including chromium, inositol, and L-carnitine have shown to help with stabilizing blood sugar. We often recommend these supplements to a patient who has poor blood sugar levels. Of course, it is imperative to educate our patients on how to maintain proper blood sugar levels through lifestyle modification. This includes eating a breakfast high in quality proteins and fat, having snacks high in protein during the day to prevent hypoglycemic states, avoiding foods high in sugar, especially before bed, and avoiding or limiting caffeine.

Whether you are hypoglycemic, insulin resistant, or a combination of the two, we have the nutrients, knowledge, and education to help you stabilize your blood sugar and dampen or prevent brain inflammation. The health of your brain is as important as any other organ of your body, if not more, so learn to take care of it. Need help in this journey? Contact us today.

Erik Starr, DC

Erik Starr, DC