The study’s authors remind us that nothing in the body acts in isolation, something we’ve long known in functional medicine and functional neurology.
Understanding some brain basics helps you understand symptoms when your brain isn’t working right. The brain is our heaviest and most complex organ, using most of the body’s oxygen and about 30 percent of its energy supply.
The brain is divided into sections, each in charge of different functions although all working together. In functional neurology, we can identify areas of poor brain function and help you get them working better again with customized therapy and rehabilitation.
The frontal lobe is the area of your forehead that stretches between the temples. The human frontal lobe distinguishes us from other animals and governs much of our personality, impulse control, and the ability to reason. A frontal lobe injury can completely change your personality and ADHD is understood to affect the frontal lobe.
The frontal lobe also governs emotional drive, motivation, and planning. Poor frontal lobe function can result in an inability to set goals or follow through on projects or plans. You may feel lazy, unmotivated, or depressed if so. In fact, depression is simply a frontal lobe impairment.
The frontal lobe activates the muscles. Poor frontal lobe function can result in moving more slowly or not swinging your arms when you walk.
Fine-motor coordination also falls under the frontal lobe’s duties. This is needed for handwriting, embroidery, and other detailed movements of the hands. As the frontal lobe degenerates it’s typical for handwriting to worsen.
Symptoms and signs of possible frontal lobe impairment
The temporal lobes are located on either side of the brain above the ears. They govern hearing, speech, memory, emotions, and distinguishing smells.
Tinnitus (ringing in the ear) is a common symptom of temporal lobe dysfunction, although not all tinnitus is due to temporal lobe degeneration, as is difficulty distinguishing between different tones.
Within the temporal lobes is the hippocampus, the seat of learning and memory. Degeneration of the hippocampus leads to poor memory and eventually Alzheimer’s disease.
It is also involved with spatial orientation, sense of direction, and circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle).
Symptoms and signs of possible temporal lobe impairment
The parietal lobes are located behind the ears and perceive and interpret sensations such as touch, pressure, texture, weight, size, or shape. The parietal lobe function also tells the body where it is in its environment. Reoccurring injuries are common with parietal lobe impairment.
Symptoms and signs of possible parietal lobe impairment
Your cerebellum is two lobes at the back of the head, directly above your neck. It calibrates muscle coordination and balance and filters information before sending it to the brain.
Symptoms and signs of possible cerebellum impairment
The occipital lobe is in the back of the brain and processes visual information.
Symptoms of possible occipital lobe impairment
The good news is the brain is very receptive to improving with the right nutrients and input. Functional neurology excels in identifying areas of brain dysfunction and customizing brain rehabilitation specifically for your brain. Ask my office for more information.
You can contact our office at 317-848-6000 or contact Dr. Ralston directly at email@example.com.
It has long been thought the uterus’ only role was for housing a developing fetus, however, new research shows that the uterus may also play a vital role in the brain’s working memory. In functional neurology and functional medicine, we know how important female hormones and all the organs are to proper brain health.
The rat study divided rats into four groups:
The rats who only had the uterus removed also showed a different hormone profile compared to the other three groups.
Although the rats who lost their ovaries performed as well on the test as those that didn’t, human studies paint a different picture: Removal of the ovaries (oophorectomy) is associated with memory lapses and an increased risk of dementia. It’s also associated with an increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.
This is because the ovaries make the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone, which are both vital to brain health.
As for the effect of a hysterectomy on brain function, the researchers cite the role of autonomic nervous system. We know the vagus nerve, a large nerve that connects the brain with the organs, plays a key role in the effect of diet and gut health on brain health. It stands to reason the back-and-forth communication between the uterus and the brain also affects brain health, especially if that communication is suddenly halted by removing the uterus. This upends the conventional medical education that the uterus is a disposable organ with a “sole purpose.” The study’s authors remind us that nothing in the body acts in isolation, something we’ve long known in functional medicine and functional neurology.
The importance of the reproductive organs to the brain
Although an oophorectomy and/or hysterectomy may me medically necessary for conditions such as cancer, many oophorectomies and hysterectomies performed today are simply unnecessary and ignore the risks and side effects, which are severe for some women. Uterine fibroids, another common cause of hysterectomies, now have alternative treatments to removal.
Although women thankfully can use bioidentical hormone therapy to replace the loss of reproductive organ function in the case of ovary removal, an organ that communicates with the brain via the vagus nerve cannot be replaced when removed. However, functional neurology rehabilitation and vagus nerve exercises can help your brain compensate and find better function.
The importance of hormones to the brain
The female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone are vitally necessary to brain health. It’s important to use functional medicine strategies to balance your hormones for your brain’s sake.
If you are struggling with brain-based symptoms during perimenopause or after menopause, it’s important to determine whether an estrogen deficiency is the cause and to address that as low estrogen raises your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Common brain-based symptoms linked to estrogen deficiency include memory loss, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
Ask my office how functional neurology and functional medicine can help you protect your hormonal and brain health.
You can contact our office at 317-848-6000 or you can contact Dr. Ralston directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When managing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, you should not overlook the importance of addressing your brain health and function. Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism can have profound effects on the brain and you may need to support your brain in addition to managing your Hashimoto’s thyroid condition.
Because every cell in the body needs thyroid hormone for proper function, a thyroid hormone deficiency can significantly impact brain health and function. Likewise, the inflammation that accompanies unmanaged Hashimoto’s can inflame and degenerate the brain.
Your thyroid health affects brain inflammation, communication between neurons (plasticity), brain chemicals (neurotransmitters), and general brain health and function.
It is these reasons why many people with unmanaged Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism experience depression, fatigue, brain fog, memory loss, worsened cognition, and other brain-based symptoms.
Thyroid hormones perform vital roles for brain function. One of their most important roles is to dampen brain inflammation through their effect on the brain’s immune cells, called microglia cells. Unlike the body, the brain does not have an off switch for inflammation and it depends in part on sufficient hormone function to keep inflammation in check.
Unchecked inflammation can degenerate, or age, the brain too quickly.
While taking thyroid hormone medication may be necessary, it’s also important to address your autoimmune Hashimoto’s by removing inflammatory triggers, dampening inflammation, and restoring balance to the immune system.
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition that causes 90 percent of hypothyroid cases in the United States; the immune system must be included in care.
It is also important to address autoimmunity to lower the risk of developing autoimmunity in the brain or elsewhere in the nervous system. One autoimmune disease significantly increases the risk of autoimmunity to other tissues in the body, and many people have more than one autoimmune disease.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism to also have autoimmune attacks against their cerebellum, an area of the brain that plays a role in movement and coordination.
If you have Hashimoto’s and also have symptoms pertaining to balance, dizziness, or nausea, you may want to be screened for brain autoimmunity.
A worst-case scenario when it comes to Hashimoto’s and brain autoimmunity is Hashimoto’s encephalopathy (HE), also known as autoimmune dementia, HE is caused by the same immune antibodies that destroy thyroid tissue — thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies. In addition to memory loss, symptoms can include tremors, seizures, impaired speech, confusion, partial paralysis, fine motor problems, and poor coordination. However, HE is not common and you should not assume you have it.
This information is important because many doctors tell their patients to wait until their thyroid “burns out” and then remove it surgically. This does nothing to treat an overzealous immune system that is at the root of thyroid dysfunction and poor brain health.
If you have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, ask my office about how functional neurology can help you recover and optimize your brain health.
You can contact our office at 317-848-6000 or email@example.com.
While popular brain training gadgets and apps have their place, don’t overlook an age-old strategy to optimize brain health: Walking.
Humans are unique from the rest of the animal kingdom because of our ability to walk upright on two legs, a development that profoundly evolved our brains compared to our finned and four-legged friends.
Learning to walk freed our hands to do all manner of things and allowed us to conserve energy while moving over long distances, giving us more endurance than any other animal on the planet. The ability to walk also stimulated the development of the human brain into the most evolved in the animal kingdom.
Because walking played such an important role in the development of the human brain, it improves brain health in ways other physical activities don’t. Research shows that walking grows an area of the brain called the hippocampus, the seat of learning and memory. This makes it an excellent way to lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Also, the impact of the feet on the ground while walking has been shown to send more blood to the brain, improving oxygenation of the brain.
Maybe this helps explain why so many great thinkers and authors over the centuries were fans of long walks.
The many ways walking benefits the brain
Although walking confers myriad benefits, if you really want to super charge your brain, walk in nature.
A recent study found that walks in nature significantly decrease the obsessive, negative thoughts associated with depression and anxiety.
Researchers found that study subjects who walked through nature for an hour and a half showed less rumination and reduced activity in the subgenual prefontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with depression and mood and mental disorders.
The study subjects who took their walks in urban environments did not show the same results.
Another study showed getting kids with ADHD into a natural green environment significantly reduced symptoms. If you’re stumped for a creative solution to a problem, walking has been shown to increase your creativity by 60 percent compared to sitting. Many people report arriving at their “aha” moment while walking it out.
Walking better connects the various regions of the brain and improves memory and learning abilities.
In fact, one of the more interesting reasons walking is so good for creative problem solving is that its steady rhythmic pace facilitates and enhances our thinking abilities.
If you’ve ever had a functional neurology exam, then you know we ask you to walk as part of the exam. Sometimes we also ask you to walk while reciting every other letter of the alphabet or counting backwards by 7s.
This is because looking at how you walk, especially if you are multitasking, gives us insight into how different parts of your brain are working (or aren’t). Your walking gait, your arm swing, your leg stance, and your posture all give valuable information about what’s going on in your brain.
Any exercise is good, and certainly better than no exercise; but even if you work out regularly, don’t miss out on the brain benefits of walking. And if you don’t exercise, walking is perhaps the most inviting way to significantly improve your brain health.
Ask my office how functional neurology can help your brain better function.
You can contact our office at 317-848-6000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The brain is surrounded by a thin lining called the blood brain barrier, which prevents harmful compounds from entering the brain while allowing helpful nutrients in and cellular debris out. However, for a lot of people the blood brain barrier degrades, allowing harmful toxins and compounds into the brain. This causes inflammation in the brain and symptoms such as depression, brain fog, memory loss, and other brain-based symptoms and disorders.
The strategies for repairing a leaky blood brain barrier are similar to the strategies for repairing a leaky gut because the causes are similar. Some of the more foundations include balancing your blood sugar, removing inflammatory foods and chemicals from your diet and environment, and focusing on a whole foods diet that is abundant in produce.
However, beyond that certain nutritional compounds have been shown to help repair a leaky blood brain barrier:
Resveratrol. Resveratrol is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant (protects against damaging free radicals) known to help prevent development of neurodegenerative diseases. Resveratrol can increase your brain's growth hormone, support mitochondria, and protect and restore the blood-brain barrier.
Curcumin. Often used in conjunction with resveratrol, curcumin is the anti-inflammatory component of the spice turmeric. Heavily researched, curcumin can:
Sulforaphane. A phytochemical found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, this antioxidant has anti-inflammatory qualities similar to curcumin. Studies show it can prevent breakdown of the blood-brain barrier, reduce its permeability, and improve brain functionafter traumatic brain injuries and stroke. If you take sulforaphane in supplement form, make sure it contains the co-factor myrosinase.
Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a powerful tool in managing inflammation and autoimmunity. Every tissue in your body has vitamin D receptors. Studies show it can help prevent leaky brain by reducing inflammation and reducing blood-brain barrier disruption.
Ways our modern lifestyle contributes to a lack of vitamin D:
B vitamins. Several B vitamins support the health of the blood-brain barrier:
Magnesium protects the brain by:
EFAs are critical for:
Primarily found in fish, Omega 3s are EFAS that support your mitochondria, increase brain growth hormone, and support the blood-brain barrier. When consuming EFAs, it's important to consume the proper ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6. Omega 6 is a necessary EFA but taken in the wrong ratio to Omega 3 it is highly inflammatory. The average American consumes a shocking ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 of 25:1, contributing to the epidemic of inflammation-related health disorders. Researchers recommend a ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 that ranges from 1:1 to 4:1. A recommended dose is 3,500 mg for a person eating a diet of 2,000 calories per day.
As you now know, it's important to take great care of your precious blood-brain barrier. Many of the above suggestions also benefit other health issues, so by adopting them you are hitting more than one target at a time. For more information on how to fix your leaky brain, please contact my office.
You can contact our office at 317-848-6000 or email@example.com.
Are you following the right diet and taking all the right supplements yet still struggling with irresolvable gut problems? The problem could be in your head, or more exactly, in the large nerve that runs between your brain and your digestive system.
Called the vagus nerve, this large nerve sends communication back and forth between the brain and the organs, including the digestive organs. If your gut problems are accompanied by poor memory, brain fog, problems with cognition, or other brain symptoms, then you know you might have a sluggish vagus nerve.
Indigestion, acid reflux, constipation, burping, gas, bloating, diarrhea, pain, and irritable bowel disorders are some of the common problems that result from an insufficiently active vagus nerve. A problematic vagus nerve is also evidence that your brain is degenerating, or aging, too quickly.
The brain delivers commands to the gut via the vagus nerve. This function executes digestion, gut repair and regeneration, moves food through the intestines (motility), secretes digestive enzymes and juices, triggers digestive hormones, and more.
When brain function deteriorates or the brain degenerates, the vagus nerve does not receive sufficient communication from the brain to deliver to the gut. This poor communication between the gut and the brain causes constipation, leaky gut, food sensitivities, irritable bowel disorders, and other gut problems.
This is one reason gut problems are common among people with brain injuries, the elderly, or people struggling with poor brain function.
Exercise the vagus nerve to improve gut function
A functional neurologist conducts a thorough exam of your brain health and function and then customizes a rehabilitation program unique to your brain. This rehabilitation may include activating your vagus nerve to improve your gut function.
The good news is you can also activate your vagus nerve on your own at home with some simple exercises.
How to exercise and improve your vagus nerve
First, how do you know if you need vagus nerve activation?
So, it looks like you have a sluggish vagus nerve, now what? Here are some exercises to activate the vagus nerve, taken from Dr. Kharrazian’s book, Why Isn’t My Brain Working?. You can also contact my office regarding some other methods of activation. It is a growing field with many innovations.
Robustly gargle several times a day.Gargle each sip of a glass of water several times a day hard enough to make your eyes tear up.
Sing loudly. Sing as loudly as you can several times a day if you are in a place where you can do this, like the car.
Gag. Use a tongue depressor to gently press on the back of your tongue and make yourself gag several times a day until your eyes tear. This is one of the stronger approaches; just be careful not to poke the back of your throat.
Coffee enemas. Google coffee enemas and hold the enema solution as long as you can.
This is a very simple summary of how to activate the vagus nerve. For more advice unique to your brain’s needs, please contact my office.
Effects of complaining versus gratitude on brain health
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the brain compared to other organs in the body is how readily it changes and evolves based on how we treat it. For instance, research shows that even how we think and see the world — whether we complain frequently or express gratitude regularly — can be the difference between accelerated brain degeneration or enhanced brain function.
Understandably, when you’re stuck in a depressed state it can seem impossible not to complain when you everything about life seems miserable. Functional neurology can help steer you to a healthier metabolic environment for your brain and rehabilitate areas of brain under activity or over activity so that you’re better able to practice healthy brain habits.
The effect of chronic complaining on the brain
Researchers have divided complainers into several categories: chronic complainers, attention seekers, and complainers who are oblivious to those around them.
Chronic complaining results from a brain mechanism called negative plasticity.
Plasticity is a term used in neurology to explain how we learn new things via communication between neurons. When you learn something new, such as a language, new pathways of communication begin developing in the brain.
The more you practice, the more efficient those pathways of communication become so that the new skill eventually becomes automatic. This conserves energy in the brain.
Unfortunately, plasticity can be negative too, making you more efficient at something that is harmful to your health. Examples include bad habits, addictions, stress, PTSD, and chronic complaining.
In other words, the more you complain, the more efficient your brain becomes at so that it becomes automatic.
As a result, you start to see life through a bleak lens and this will affect your behaviors and belief systems for the worse.
What’s worse, chronic complaining can raise your risk of dementia by releasing excess cortisol, a stress hormone, that more rapidly degenerates areas of the brain related to learning and memory.
Being positive takes more effort
Why does complaining and negativity come so easily? In what serves as a survival trait, our brains and bodies respond more actively and readily to negativity than positivity. This phenomenon is called negativity bias.
In studying negativity bias in couples, researchers found that partners in successful marriages naturally employed a five-to-one ratio of positivity to negativity in their interactions with one another.
In other words, it takes a lot more effort in a positive direction to prevent a slide into negative plasticity and the health fallouts from chronic complaining.
Some complaining is healthy and normal
This isn’t to say you should never complain or express negative emotions. Repression also raises stress levels and sabotages health.
Researchers have found the key is to stay mindful about your negative situations. Accepting the negative situation and feelings and consciously choosing to respond within a positive framework takes more work but will net more benefits.
Practice gratitude to positively rewire your brain
The research on the positive benefits of gratitude on the brain and body are extremely encouraging. But like all good things in life, they take work on your part.
One of the most reliable paths to positivity is gratitude. You can develop a more positive outlook by thinking of or writing down things in your life for which you are grateful.
A grateful attitude has been linked to less anxiety and depression, sounder sleep, kinder behavior, and overall better health. One study showed participants who wrote down five things for which they were grateful only once a week were happier, more optimistic, reported fewer physical problems, and exercised more compared to the control group. Similar results were reported in polio survivors who kept a gratitude journal.
Using functional neurology to help you get unstuck
When in the throes of depression, practicing positivity or gratitude can seem like a tall order. Sometimes, metabolic or neurological forces conspire against your desire to feel and function better, and this is where functional neurology can help.
You may have an inflammatory disorder or gut bacterial imbalance that is sabotaging your brain health. Likewise, food or chemical sensitivities, an undiagnosed or unmanaged autoimmune condition, hormonal deficiency, or chronic infection could be weighing you down. An area of your brain may be under firing or over firing, creating neurological disharmony that promotes depression and negativity. You may be struggling with PTSD, a brain injury, or some other brain disorder that is hindering your chances at a good mood.
Depression, constant complaining, and chronic negativity are red flags that something deeper needs to be addressed. Managing your brain health through functional neurology strategies can help provide a sound platform from which to employ positivity and gratitude practices that will unwind the negative plasticity and build positive plasticity for a healthier and happier you. Ask my office for more advice.
You can contact our office at 317-848-6000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vertigo can seem to come out of nowhere and feel life-threatening, making it scary to drive or walk down the stairs. The bad news is there are many causes of dizziness and it can take some sleuthing to figure out which one is affecting you. The good news is functional neurology can help you identify what kind of vertigo you have and help you quickly rehabilitate it.
For instance, benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is one of the most common causes of dizzy spells and is easy to treat. By defining each word in this complex sounding condition, we can see it is not as grave as it sounds:
BPPV occurs when small crystals in the inner ear become dislodged and travel to areas in the ear canals where they don’t belong. In most cases the Epley maneuver or another similar maneuver can move the crystal back to where it belongs.
Sometimes vertigo can be caused when the individual eye muscles do not work together because one or more of them is weak. This weakness causes the eyes to move abnormally. This abnormal movement sends incorrect visual information to the brain and vestibular system, an area of the inner ear vital for balance. This can cause dizziness and light-headedness.
Although a person usually doesn’t notice this eye muscle weakness, in functional neurology we can spot it during a neurological exam and provide exercises that target areas needing rehabilitation.
The vestibular system plays an important role in balance and the prevention of vertigo. However, it is a fragile system and vestibular dysfunction is more common than people realize. For instance, if you’ve had a mild concussion, whiplash from a car accident, falls or hits from sports, or other impacts to the head or body, you may have damaged your vestibular system.
Inflammation or infection can also affect the vestibular system and provoke vertigo.
The cerebellum, an area at the base of the brain, works with the vestibular system in balance and the prevention of vertigo. If the cerebellum is damaged from a brain injury, stroke, or an autoimmune disease (a disorder in which the immune systemattacks and destroys tissue), this can cause dizziness.
Other symptoms of compromised cerebellum function may include poor balance, being unsteady on your feet, poor coordination, and anxiety (because the unsteadiness is a perceived as a constant stressor).
Other brain-related causes of dizziness can include an imbalance between the hemispheres of the brain or neck issues that hinder proper communication between the body and brain — always take whiplash seriously, it could impact your brain health.
If you are having dizzy spells, it’s important to identify the source of your vertigo because it will determine the best course of treatment. You need to know whether your vertigo stems from the vestibular system or the brain because each is rehabilitated differently.
Make note of other symptoms (below) you have in addition to vertigo; they can help your functional neurology doctor customize the right treatment for the cause of your dizziness.
Symptoms and signs often associated with vertigo, dizziness, and imbalance include:
Is your brain not working, severely impacting your quality of life, but it’s not bad enough to warrant medical treatment? It is very distressing when you become increasingly moody, you keep losing your keys or forgetting where you parked the car, or you’re tired and always in pain. However, chances are if you see a doctor or neurologist for these issues, testing will show you’re fine. You may even be told it’s normal to feel that way.
In functional neurology we take these kinds of symptoms seriously. Everything about your life reflects your brain health. Compromised brain health can be as basic — and serious — as having lost motivation, not being able to accomplish what you want, the feeling life is flat, not wanting to go out and socialize, dealing with memory loss, fatigue, insomnia, irritability, and so on. These are all issues that affect our experience on the deepest levels while we are alive, yet aren’t going to show up on an MRI.
In functional neurology, we help take the mystery out of your suffering. Through an in-depth neurological exam and, if necessary, functional medicine lab testing, we can identify areas of the brain associated with your symptoms that aren’t working properly. Having a concrete reason for what is robbing you of your quality of life helps people feel more invested in and empowered by rehabilitation.
This differs from a conventional medical approach in which, for example, you might be given a drug such as an antidepressant. That drug will bathe the entire brain with compounds in the hope it will improve function in the affected area of the brain causing problems.
However, in functional neurology, we can identify which area of the brain has compromised function and either activate or dampen that specific area as needed.
For instance, decreased activity in the left frontal lobe (forehead area) can present as depression. Instead of bathing the entire brain an anti-depressant or even a neurotransmitter supplement, we can give the patient rehabilitation exercises to target that area of the brain specifically.
Not only will this relieve symptoms, but it will improve the overall health of the brain and likely relieve other symptoms as well. Because all areas of the brain are so highly connected with one another, when function is low in one area, the whole brain can suffer.
While conventional neurology and medicine isdesigned to spot diseases and pathology, it often can’t diagnose a problem unless it has advanced significantly. For instance, for multiple sclerosis to show up on an MRI, about 90 percent of the nerve sheathes have to be destroyed by autoimmune attacks, even though patients may suffer from increasingly worsening symptoms for years prior. In functional neurology, we can screen for autoimmune attacks against brain tissue with just one test.
Sometimes conventional testing simply isn’t appropriate for common brain disorders. A study looking at brain scans for migraines, for example, showed only 1 to 3 percent showed abnormalities, and most of those abnormalities were not even related to migraines. That’s because the areas of the brain that could prevent a migraine often look normal in a scan even when they’re not doing their job; they’re either dormant or not firing correctly. The same can be said for scans of patients with ADD or ADHD.
Functional neurology helps by taking unhealthy neurons and making them healthier, as well as helping various areas of the brain better synchronize with one another for a more harmonious “neurological orchestra.”
Functional neurology is also different in that we take into consideration metabolic factors. For instance, undiagnosed hypothyroidism, autoimmunity, gluten intolerance, or gut bacteria imbalances all profoundly impact brain health.
If you know your brain isn’t working but your problem isn’t severe enough to be diagnosed or treated by conventional medicine or neurology, ask my office about how functional neurology can help you. You can contact Dr. Ralston directly at email@example.com or call our office to make an appointment at 317-848-6000.