The brain is made up of two types of cell: neurons and microglia cells. Neurons are responsible for communication within the brain and everything we associate with brain activity, such as our intelligence, emotions, and the ability to automatically breathe, digest or maintain a heartbeat.
The microglia cells are the brain’s immune cells. It’s their job to react to foreign invaders, clean up debris and plaque, and dissolve dead neurons. The microglia is necessary for optimal communication and healthy brain function.
Although microglial cells function as the brain’s immune system, they are unlike the immune system in the rest of the body. When a virus or bacteria invades your body, the body’s immune system orchestrates a complex and multi-faceted response. For instance, once an antigen (a foreign invader) is successfully killed, the immune system’s T-suppressor cells call off the attack and send the troops home.
Not so with the brain’s immune system. If an antigen makes its way into the brain, there is no complex orchestration, but rather an all-out assault by the brain’s microglial cells on the invader and, as a consequence, inflammation and degeneration of surrounding brain tissue. What’s worse is that there are no T-suppressor cells to call off the attack, and the microglia cells, in their unrestrained assault, create brain inflammation and chew up brain tissue in a degenerative cascade.
What Stops the Invaders?
The microglia cells not only make up more than half of the total mass of the brain, but they also make up the blood-brain barrier, a thin barrier that lines the brain and allows necessary, nano-sized substances to pass through. The blood-brain barrier is important for keeping antigen (foreign invaders, such as viruses or bacteria) and environmental toxins out of the brain.
Unfortunately, the blood –brain barrier can develop “leaks” for a variety of reasons, including poor blood-sugar stability(particularly insulin resistance), chronic stress, chronic inflammation, poor gut health, poor diet with unhealthy fats(fast food fats), and unchecked autoimmune activity, such as Hashimoto’s disease, alcohol and high homocysteine levels. If you are familiar with leaky gut, then you’ll understand leaky brain, as both the gut and the brain are immune barriers vulnerable to the same problem.
When the blood-brain barrier develops leaks, bad guys get in, the microglial cells go nuts, and a whole lot of brain tissue gets chewed up. This creates inflammation, which is felt in some as “brain fog” and leads to accelerated brain degeneration.
The Leaky Brain Challenge
How do we know if your blood-brain barrier is leaky? A simple and easy way to find out is to do a blood-brain challenge. To do this, simply take 1000mg of straight GABA (not GABA precursors such as theanine).
GABA is a neurotransmitter synthesized in the brain and is responsible for calming or inhibiting over activity. Although some companies sell GABA supplements, the reality is GABA molecule is too large to pass through an intact blood-brain barrier. The fact that this supplement sells so well is a testament to the integrity of the average American’s blood-brain barrier.
So, if several hours after taking 1000 mg of GABA, you feel calm, relaxed or sleepy, you know that GABA, a molecule too large to pass through the blood-brain barrier, has nevertheless made it into your brain and is performing its calming duties. This means your blood-brain barrier has become compromised and your brain is highly susceptible to the immune rampages I discussed above.
Some people, instead of feeling relaxed, will find GABA makes them feel more anxious or jittery. The bottom line here is that any reaction at all indicates a leaky brain barrier.
If you felt no change after taking GABA that is a good sign that your blood-brain barrier is intact and functioning well. For accurate results, be sure to take this test during the day and not at bedtime.
Dr. Dan Walker
A. K. Chiropractic & Massage
Erie’s Reviving Bodywork Studio
At Integrative Wellness Options
4906 Richmond St
Erie, Pa 16509