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

Is My Brain Degenerating?

People often ask me, “How do I know if my brain is degenerating?” At Team Health Care Clinic, we take the health of the brain as seriously, if not more, than any other aspect of the body and of one’s health. In many areas of our body, pain will help indicate when something is wrong. Pain is not the primary means of how the brain exhibits dysfunction and thus it shows up in other ways. Common signs of brain degeneration include depression or fatigue as a result of brain-related activity, such as reading or driving. Even when these signs aren’t apparent, degeneration may still be occurring.

Having a better understanding of what each part of the brain does leads to a better understanding of what degeneration of that area may look like.

Where does brain degeneration occur?

Let’s review the two most common regions that we see degeneration in the brain occurring in our practice.

Frontal Lobe

The frontal lobe sits behind the forehead and is the largest lobe of the brain. This area of the brain is what separates humans from other animals, as it gives us personality. It allows us to suppress impulses such as violent tendencies and socially unacceptable behavior, and provides emotional drive, planning, and motivation. It is also the area that is developmentally delayed in those with ADD/ADHD. When this area becomes impaired due to degenerative changes, depression, laziness, inability to control impulses, poor judgment and social behavior, and mental sluggishness may arise.

Cerebellum

The cerebellum is the “little brain” that sits off of the back end of the brain under the base of the skull. When it comes to the function of the cerebellum it’s easiest to think of a DUI test that a police officer may perform, as alcohol suppresses the cerebellum. The test entails looking at balance, coordination, and spatial awareness. The cerebellum receives information from eyes, muscles, and the inner ears to calibrate proper movements, and allowing us to know where we are in space. Do you struggle with frequent episodes of dizziness or vertigo? Have poor balance? Easily carsick? Or have subtle shakes at the end of hand or finger movements? These may be early signs that your cerebellum is degenerating.

Identifying early signs of brain degeneration

It is crucial that your medical provider can look for and identify these early signs of an aging brain. In our medical system, most physicians aren’t trained on how to identify and manage early stages of brain degeneration until it has progressed beyond the point of return. For example, Parkinson’s disease often isn’t identified until someone has a resting tremor. In contrast,  chronic constipation, loss of smell, or slowness of movement may be an early sign of the disease. By the time symptoms such as a tremor are present, the disease has progressed enough that little can be done functionally to address the severity of the condition and focus changes to prevention of further progression. This is why being aware of the early warning signs of brain degeneration is critical.

Here at Team Health Care Clinic, we utilize in depth neurological exams, Interactive Metronome, BTrackS Balance Plate assessments, lab tests, and at times Neurofeedback as part of our neurological work ups to assess the brain health of our patients. If you or anyone you know may be suffering from the changes mentioned in this blog, don’t wait! Call our office today for a free consultation.

Erik Starr, DC