Brain Inflammation and OCD
Brain inflammation shown to be higher in people with OCD
A recent study showed what functional neurologists have long since observed - obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is linked to brain inflammation. Imaging showed brain inflammation was more than 30 percent higher in subjects with OCD compared to the control group.
The study also found the greater the inflammation the more severe the stress and anxiety around avoiding the compulsive and repetitive rituals that characterize OCD.
Inflammation in the brain is similar to inflammation in the body in that it's necessary to respond to damage. However, unlike the body's immune system, there is no "off" mechanism for inflammation in the brain. This means once triggered, brain inflammation can continue on unchecked long after the original insult.
Unfortunately, many people unwittingly inflame their brain on a regular basis and don't know it. This can cause not only OCD, but also depression, anxiety, insomnia, brain fog, memory loss, fatigue, and even addiction. It also increases the risk of dementia.
Some sources of brain inflammation are obvious, such as head injury. Researchers also have discovered that mild and repetitive blows to the body, falls, crashes, and impacts can also inflame the brain, even if there is no direct injury to the head.
However, other sources of inflammation are well established in studies but don't seem to be on the radar in the standard health care model. This is inflammation caused by food intolerances, blood sugar imbalances, chemical intolerances, hormone imbalances, leaky gut, poor gut bacteria health, and brain autoimmunity.
For instance, gluten intolerance is linked to numerous neurological disorders, including OCD, schizophrenia, and depression.
These everyday factors not only inflame the brain, they also make damage from head injuries more severe and recovery more difficult.
Addressing brain inflammation to manage OCD
The OCD study is promising for options in the conventional medical model as drug treatments don't work for about one-third of patients.
Although the study's authors suggested developing new drugs to target brain inflammation, in functional neurology we knowaddressing diet and lifestyle factors are essential to taming inflammation.
For most people, this begins with learning which foods cause an inflammatory response. For many people, gluten and dairy are the two most common culprits,
but soy, corn, eggs, various grains, and other foods may trigger inflammation. The autoimmune paleo diet is a good place to start. Likewise, people can develop an intolerance to chemicals, such as perfumes or plastics, that can trigger inflammation, and should minimize their exposure.
Another common area to address is stabilizing blood sugar that is either too low or too high. This usually means avoiding sugar, lowering carbohydrate consumption, and eating meals at regular intervals.
Repairing gut health is essential to dampen brain inflammation as the gut and the brain have close communication with one another. Damaged and inflamed intestines, bacterial and yeast infections, and not enough good gut bacteria are typical areas of concern.
Good hormone health is necessary to keep brain inflammation in check. For instance, estrogen deficiency in women has been shown to worsen outcomes after head injury. Low thyroid hormones also impact brain health.
Brain autoimmunity, in which the body's immune system attacks and destroys brain tissue, has become increasingly common today and should be screened for with antibody testing.
Lastly, OCD can also arise because of developmental disconnects in the brain that began in infancy. Childhood brain development disorders are skyrocketing these days, and OCD is just one of many brain-based disorders that has its roots in childhood. OCD involves an area of the brain called the basal ganglia and its improper function and connection with other areas of the brain.
In functional neurology we can identify this disconnect and, along with dietary and lifestyle protocols, offer customized rehabilitative exercises to help improve function and dampen or turn off brain inflammation and OCD. Ask my office for more information. You can contact Dr. Ralston directly at email@example.com.
We are increasingly learning the effects of traumatic experiences on the brain, and now, newer research shows these effects can be passed on to children's genes. Research of Holocaust survivors showed that compared to control groups, their children exhibited genetic changes that increased the likelihood of stress disorders.
Other research shows post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, can be passed on to offspring. Plus, most trauma survivors are coping with the neurological effects of PTSD as they raise their children, which greatly shapes a child's environment and responses to stress.
In functional neurology, we frequently work with the neurological fallout of PTSD, which can include not only being triggered to re-experience the trauma, but also heightened stress response, sensitivity to light, sound, and crowds, emotional instability, depression and suicidality, anxiety and insomnia, disassociation and numbness, and addiction. How PTSD manifests depends on the person, and women's symptoms differ from men's. Men are more prone to anger and addiction whereas women struggle more with depression, anxiety, and health ailments.
Trauma turns on and off genes in offspring
In the Holocaust study, researchers discovered genetic differences in offspring of survivors. This finding upended traditionally held notions that environment and experience don't affect DNA in sperm and eggs of parents. Although it has long been believed conception delivers a genetic "clean slate," newer science on epigenetics shows that our environment and experiences constantly modify genes, even in egg and sperm. They found chemical tags on the DNA that regulates stress hormones in Holocaust parents and their children that were not found in the control group. However, they are not sure how those tags get passed on.
Is PTSD inherited?
Studies on whether PTSD is genetically inherited are not yet conclusive, although one study found genetic links in almost
30 percent of European-American women with PTSD. Understanding how big a role genetics plays in trauma would further understanding of why some people get PTSD when others don't, and how best to treat it. Also, researchers point to the fallout for children raised by adults with PTSD, which can perpetuate the disorder.
Functional neurology and PTSD
PTSD causes structural changes to the brain. The disorder shrinks some areas of the brain while enlarging others, keeping a person trapped in a neurological prison of hyper arousal, stress, and fear.
For instance, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex shrinks, predisposing one to extreme fear and anxiety. PTSD also shrinks the hippocampus, the area responsible for learning and memory. On the other hand, the amygdala, the area that governs the fear response, enlarges. Compromises in these and other areas of the brain result in an easily triggered and over exaggerated fear response that can be exhausting and debilitating to the sufferer.
Fortunately, the brain is very responsive to rehabilitation and PTSD sufferers can find considerable relief without drugs. In functional neurology, we use specific exercises and activities to dampen areas of the brain that are over responsive to stress and stimulate those areas that can help control the fear response.
Contact my office for more information at 317-838-6000 or you can contact Dr. Ralston directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.