March is Brain Injury Awareness Month.
One structure essential to brain health that is often damaged in a brain injury is called the blood-brain barrier. The lining of blood vessels in the brain called endothelial cells forms the blood-brain barrier. These cells fit tightly together and are surrounded by immune cells called astrocytes. This lining forms a semi-permeable lining, which means only certain molecules can pass from the blood stream into the brain, to help protect it. The blood brain barrier is crucial for preventing foreign substances, infections and toxins in the blood getting into the brain. This barrier can be broken down by a number of things including concussions, traumatic brain injury, alcohol, infection, inflammation and hypertension.
The permeability of the blood brain barrier can be assessed using a simple blood test. The test measures the levels of Blood Brain Barrier Protein Antibodies that are produced against antigens released by astrocytes, the immune cells that line the blood vessels in the brain. These antigens can cause damage to the tight junctions of the blood vessel walls. This test can help to determine the extent of blood-brain barrier damage caused by trauma or infection. It can also help to determine the risk of one developing a neurodegenerative disorder. One example is in multiple sclerosis the blood-brain barrier is “leaky” and allows white blood cells to pass into the brain.
Blood-brain barrier permeability testing is recommended for patients with:
- Concussion/Post-concussion syndrome
- Lyme Disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Brain fog/memory impairment
- History of stroke
- Chronic fatigue Syndrome
If blood-brain barrier dysfunction is identified a number of naturopathic treatments can help with restoring a healthy blood-brain barrier. Brain healthy diets, such as the ketogenic diet, can help to improve the integrity of the blood-brain barrier. It is also important to identify and treat underlying factors such as chronic infections, stress or toxins. Getting regular sleep can also promote a healthy blood-brain barrier. Therapeutic supplements such as alpha-lipoic acid, curcumin, and phosphatidylcholine are also used to heal the blood-brain barrier. Our naturopathic doctors can help you to assess your blood-brain barrier integrity, identify potential underlying factors and develop a plan to heal your brain.