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Is Your Brain on Fire? Know the Signs and What to do About It

Written by Isabella Boston.

Knowing the early signs of encephalitis is crucial for your brain health.

The brain is the control center for the entire body, and unlike other parts of the human anatomy, it does not cause pain when inflamed. However, it will produce some signs and symptoms such as brain fog, making a person feel disconnected or zoned out. If brain inflammation is left untreated or continues for a long period of time, it can degenerate the brain at a rapid pace increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, and other serious brain illnesses.

The good news is the brain has the ability to regenerate and heal itself. All it needs is some help from you.

Learning to recognize the early signs of brain inflammation could help you to prevent further damage, improve your brain function, decrease aging, and reduce your risk of degenerative brain diseases. Inflammation of the brain has also been linked to depression, and autism in children. In fact, brain imaging and autopsies have revealed more brain inflammation in persons of all ages who were diagnosed with autism. It is also worthy to note, patients suffering from depression oftentimes will not respond well to medication, because the prescribed medicine is not designed for brain inflammation.

What causes brain inflammation?

When inflammation occurs within the body, the cells of your immune system, known as cytokines, migrate together to fight infection. This can trigger or “activate” brain inflammation also known as encephalitis. Sometimes the immune system may even mistakenly attack the tissues of the brain.

Although the cause is not always known, there are many things which can cause encephalitis, such as infections: viral, bacteria, and fungus; leaky gut (gut inflammation); joint pain, arthritis, gout; unmanaged autoimmune disorders; allergies, such as food intolerances and external reactions to chemicals or perfumes; high levels of stress; injury or trauma; an unhealthy stomach, and eating too many processed, high salt and high sugar foods.

Possible signs of brain inflammation

  • Brain fatigue

  • Unclear thoughts

  • Needing more time to complete a task

  • Being easily distracted

  • Trouble with organizing your thoughts

  • Feeling “spacey” or confused

  • Difficulty with finding words

More severe signs

  • Fever

  • Flu-like symptoms

  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)

  • Weakness

  • Stiff neck (less common)

  • Severe headache

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Memory loss

  • Hearing and speech problems

  • Hallucinations

  • Seizures

  • Coma

What can you do?

Stay well hydrated. Water is essential in preventing inflammation, because it flushes out harmful toxins and irritants which can cause damage both in the body and also in the brain.

Stabilize blood sugar. Eat a healthy diet that does not cause spikes or drops in your blood sugar. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), insulin resistance (high blood sugar), and diabetes can all increase your chances of brain inflammation.

Nutrition therapy. Natural compounds have been shown to diminish brain

inflammation. Medical nutrition therapy (MNT) is a scientific based process used to treat certain medical conditions. A registered dietitian will conduct a therapy best for you after a comprehensive and personal assessment, nutritional diagnosis, and treatment plan.

Holistic medicine. This involves the healing of the whole person: mind, body, and soul. It is believed in the philosophy of holistic medicine one can achieve optimal health, the main purpose of holistic medicine practice, by establishing the proper balance in life.

Exercise. Studies show that as little as 20 minutes of exercise reduces inflammation. And the long-term benefits are incredible; they include a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, an improved metabolism and weight control, as well as an increase in muscle strength and bones.

Balance hormones. Low estrogen in women, low testosterone in men, and low thyroid hormones can contribute or activate inflammation of the brain. There are many ways to balance hormones naturally, such as through exercise and diet, or you could speak with a professional about hormone therapy. Please understand there are risk in hormone therapy so educating yourself is critical in making an informed and correct decision.

Food intolerances and gut health.

Gut health. There is a direct correlation between the brain and the gut; Inflammation of the gut has been attributed to inflammation of the brain. Chemicals and artificial ingredients in food as well as other toxins and pollutants are broken down and digested in the gut. Over time, this can lead to chronic low-grade inflammation, which is associated with anxiety, depression, cancer, neurodegenerative conditions, and neurological and heart disease.

Remove any foods from your diet known to trigger inflammation. This may include dairy, gluten, and processed meats and foods. Keeping a food diary is a good way to keep a record of what you are consuming and what symptoms you may be experiencing.

To reduce inflammation, a typical diet should include lots of fruits and vegetables, the more color on your plate, the better. Eat healthy fats, whole grains, cold-water fish, plant-based proteins, and herbs and spices such as ginger, turmeric, rosemary, lavender, oregano, and cinnamon.

You should also drink alcohol in moderation, or perhaps eliminate it altogether. For some people, alcohol consumption has been linked to a decreased libido as well as to poor sleep and anxiety.

Recommended foods and supplements

  • Walnuts are a rich source of anti-inflammatory vitamins and antioxidants including vitamin E, phenolic acids, tannins, and flavonoids. They are better than any other nut because of their high content of an omega-3 fatty acid known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

  • Green Leafy Vegetables and Broccoli. Kale and spinach have been scientifically proven to promote brain health and help to reduce age-related mental decline. Kale is rich in vitamin K which is essential for combatting inflammation. Broccoli also is high in vitamin K as well as choline, is an essential nutrient which helps to transmit signals to and from your brain and is involved in the memory process.

  • Coffee. Numerous studies have shown drinking coffee in moderation, no more than a couple of cups per day, is linked to a lower risk of brain inflammation and related conditions such as dementia.

  • Honey is not only used as a natural sweetener, but it is also known for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant agent. Holistic practitioners use it as one of nature’s best health remedies.

  • Cacao. A raw form of chocolate before any sugars and fats have been added. It contains concentrated amounts of brain-protecting flavanols and antioxidants, which help to lessen inflammation. If you cannot tolerate the bitter taste, try very dark chocolate which is a bit sweeter but still has the inflammation reducing properties.

  • Salmon. Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for good brain health and fighting inflammation. Wild salmon is best as farm salmon can include high amounts of mercury.

  • Prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotic foods include leeks, onions, garlic, and asparagus. They feed the gut microbes, microorganisms which help to digest food and protect against infection. Probiotics are found in fermented foods such as yogurt and kimchi. They provide healthy bacteria in our guts, reduce inflammation and support brain health.

  • Turmeric. This is currently a popular health food. The active ingredient in turmeric is curmin, a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory which promotes neurotrophic activities. This process not only promotes healthy brain function, but also prevents degenerative diseases.

  • Glutathione. This is known as the master antioxidant. Having sufficient glutathione, vitamin D, and essential fatty acids are all important in preventing inflammation of the brain.

  • Chia seeds. These tiny seeds are rich in omega-3 and can be sprinkled or mixed with cereals, smoothies, juices, and in other dishes. They can even be used as an egg substitute in vegan dishes.

  • Avocados are loaded with “good fats”, monounsaturated fats associated with having a healthy heart. They help to regulate blood sugar levels which is important to gut health and preventing inflammation. Avocados are also full of vitamin C which is essential for a healthy immune system and protecting the cells of the brain.

  • Ginkgo Biloba and Ginseng are supplements which can support memory and promote brain health.

Risk factors

Anyone can get inflammation of the brain, but there are certain groups of individuals who are at greater risk. They include:

  • Older adults

  • Children

  • People who have a weakened or compromised immune system

  • People who live in areas with a high population of mosquitoes and ticks

Mosquitoes and ticks can carry viruses and bacteria that can cause encephalitis. Most people do not experience any symptoms after being bitten or will only have mild flu-like symptoms. Those who do develop inflammation on the brain may experience symptoms within a few days or in approximately two weeks after being bitten, depending on the type of virus.

If you develop any signs of encephalitis caused by bacteria, you will need to see your healthcare provider for a prescribed antibiotic.

Stress and Inflammation

Your body’s response to stress can induce or worsen certain medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurogenerative diseases, and depression among others. A review published in June 2017 in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, showed that inflammation is an accepted route of stress-related illnesses. The authors wrote, “Chronic inflammation is an essential component of chronic diseases.” Managing the stress in your life is central to your overall health. Some ways you can reduce stress are through exercise, deep breathing techniques and meditation, and proper diet. It is also a good idea to cut off the things or people who are causing you stress. This might involve a job change or ending a toxic relationship, even if it is with a family member. You want to surround yourself with positive people, things, places, and ideas. A postitive life is a happy and healthy life.

Remember, the decisions you make today will mold and shape your health for tomorrow.

Author Bio

Isabella Boston

Isabella Boston is a multi-talented writer and the founder of Bella’s Attic Studio. She has several years of experience in medical content writing, copywriting, and social media strategies. She is a diarist and the author of Passion of Flames. Isabella has special interests in fashion and beauty, health and wellness, and natural healing as it pertains the body, mind, and soul. When she is not writing, Isabella enjoys playing the violin, learning new languages, and reading books of substance.


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