You may have heard about leaky gut syndrome – a condition characterized by intestinal permeability, which could be linked to autoimmune disease – but now, a new phenomenon is emerging: leaky brain syndrome. Researchers suspect this condition could be responsible for serious issues like depression and autoimmune brain problems, and may even reshape our understanding of mental health. Discover what the condition entails – and whether you could be suffering from it – below.
What is Leaky Brain?
Just like your gastrointestinal tract, your brain has a protective barrier which keeps issues like chemicals and harmful bacteria at bay. Unfortunately, this blood-brain barrier (BBB) can deteriorate over time, allowing harmful substances to infiltrate the brain. Clinical signs of BBB permeability include elevated antibodies against the proteins occluding and zonulin, two factors which cause the barrier to erode. Additionally, microRNA-155, a molecule which increases with inflammation, can cause tiny gaps in the BBB to form.
Over time, as materials seep through the barrier, patients experience brain inflammation and autoimmunity. Researchers are exploring whether this inflammation could impede neural activity, particularly in the frontal lobe of the brain in individuals with depression. Unfortunately, the antidepressants commonly prescribed to treat depression may fail to work, as they don’t address the root cause of the issue: the brain inflammation.
What Can You Do if You Have It?
If you suspect leaky brain syndrome could be the culprit behind your depression, brain fog, or a persistent symptom you’re experiencing, talk to your doctor. Tests for BBB proteins are available. Additionally, blood tests for homocysteine could help to identify damage, as spikes in the amino acid have been associated with BBB permeability. Chronic inflammation also contributes to poor brain health, and conditions like high blood pressure can contribute to the destruction of the BBB.
There are also things you can do to promote brain health on your own – many of which are also in line with practices that support overall wellness. For instance, regular exercise can enhance brain function by increasing the plasticity molecule brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Avoiding stress, heavily processed foods, and excessive alcohol consumption can also contribute to brain health.