If you’ve worked with me before, you know that I emphasize the need for good gut health if somebody is ever to truly be well. Chronic low grade infections which exist in all forms of chronic illness, particularly when it comes to the gut, are commonly overlooked or under-diagnosed in the general population. One of the primary reasons for this is the poor sensitivity that exists for identifying gut infections, in particular parasitic infections. As I have detailed before (1), false negatives for parasites occur at least 40% of the time when the current “gold standard” testing for gut and parasitic infections are used. That means about half the people who have obvious symptoms of parasitic infections, never get the appropriate diagnosis and treatment and are therefore ultimately directed down the broken and deadly conveyor belt of the current medical model. They ultimately end up sicker than when they started, as their bodies become increasingly damaged by the parasites and the toxic medications which are given to address the symptoms (which may primarily appear mental/emotional) unknowingly caused by the parasites. It’s an all too common problem.
Infections initiate inflammation in the brain.
Over the last 15 years, research on the immune system and inflammatory processes within the body has established clear evidence that inflammatory processes in the periphery of the body can and do trigger destructive inflammatory processes in the brain. We now know that inflammatory process in the brain have been shown to fuel a number of diseases and disorders, including autism(2), anxiety(3), Alzheimers (4), ALS(5), Parkison’s(6), cancer(7), epilepsy (8)all endocrine disorders (by way of microglial activation within the hypothalamus)(9), depression(10) (11), heart disease (12)high blood pressure (13), schizophrenia (14) and arguably every chronic disease that exists. When you consider that about half of the population suffering from parasitic infections never gets an appropriate diagnosis, in the context of this finding, you can begin to appreciate just how big of a problem it is that we’re talking about here. Again, that’s not even taking into account other undiagnosed infectious agents such as bacterial, viral, fungal, or mycoplasm infections which may also drive such immune system activation.
Microglial activation damages nerve cells.
Within our central nervous system are a type of white blood cell called “microglia“, and these microglia work to fight infection, clean up plaque, and damaged cells within the brain and spinal cord. The blood brain barrier keeps them separate from the rest of the body, and this barrier also serves a function to prevent pathogens from migrating into the sensitive central nervous system. While these microglia are essential for our health, they can also become overly stimulated and actually damage the very cells which they are there to protect. This over stimulation is referred to as “microglial activation”.
Below is a presentation by Dr. Stephen F. Maier, a neuroscientist from the University of Colorado, who details what amounts to over 10 years of research the primary mechanisms that promote the aging process within the brain.
Among his findings were the following:
1) Immune molecules in the periphery of the body stimulated the production of similar molecules in the brain, by way of the vagus nerve, leading to potentially destructive inflammatory processes in the brain.
2) Repeated exposures to various inflammatory triggers (primarily infections) outside of the central nervous system, primed the microglia to become increasingly pro-inflammatory. In other words, the more times our bodies were hit with a pro-inflammatory process in our periphery, the easier it was to trigger the inflammatory process in the brain.
3) Exercise negated much of the inflammatory responses in the brain by inducing the brain to produce a molecule called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).
4) Conventional anti-inflammatories were ineffective at having a positive effect. (There is also good reason to believe that conventional anti-inflammtories would actually increase microglial activation over time due to the impacts such substances have on the gut.)
What else may be done to decrease microglial activation?
2) While not available legally in most of the US, compounds within marijuana have also been shown to very effective at decreasing microglial activation(19).
3) Optimize gut flora/gut wall integrity. Remember, a key point in the presentation was that a small amount of the cell wall of pathogenic bacteria (LPS) was all that was necessary to activate the immune systems pro-inflammatory response.
4) Eliminate periodontal disease with good oral hygiene, as gum disease is also a potential trigger for microglial activation.(20)
5) Use speaker phone, or an ear bud for talking on your cell phone as cell phone radiation has been shown to induce microglial activation.(21)
6) Magnets, when properly used, may decrease the microglial activation by increasing the production of free radical quenching molecules such as Superoxide Dismutase (SOD). The superoxide molecule is a known promoter of microglial activation. (22)