If there were just one magic bullet to feel and function better, it would probably be exercise. Countless studies show the numerous benefits of exercise. Our bodies and brain were designed for constant physical activity and perform at their best when we provide that. Exercise releases chemicals that boost your overall energy and dampen inflammation.
But what to do if exercise actually makes you feel worse? Some people battling autoimmunity or brain inflammation suffer from exercise intolerance and see their symptoms worsen after physical activity.
Many autoimmune and brain inflammation patients see multiple doctors before receiving a diagnosis. Most of these doctors will tell a severely compromised patient they just need to exercise more. This advice can actually worsen a patient’s symptoms until they start bringing their inflammation under control.
What is exercise intolerance?
In the conventional medical model, exercise intolerance is most often associated with heart disease, particularly from the heart not filling adequately with blood. As a result, insufficient blood is pumped out to the rest of the body.
However, in functional medicine we frequently see exercise intolerance in people struggling with autoimmunity and brain inflammation.
It’s normal to feel sore or tired after a tough workout, but people who suffer from exercise intolerance experience more severe and unusual pain, fatigue, a flare up of their autoimmune symptoms, nausea, vomiting, or other negative effects that go beyond normal muscle tiredness. Some “crash” for a day or more with flu-like symptoms, feeling unable to get out of bed or function normally.
Exercise intolerance can be very emotionally distressing for people who care about their health and are working to improve it. After all, we are constantly bombarded with images of uber athletes and messaging about intense workouts.
What causes exercise intolerance?
When exercise intolerance is related to autoimmunity or brain inflammation, exercise intolerance is a result of compromised mitochondria.
Mitochondria are known as the “energy factories” inside each cell, as their role is to take nutrients and oxygen and turn that into energy.
Unfortunately, mitochondria are also very sensitive to inflammation and will under function when the body is struggling with intense inflammation. This means the cells don’t function well, the brain under functions, and you generally feel crappy and fatigued.
How to exercise if you have exercise intolerance?
One of the most common mistakes people make is to push themselves too hard and over exercise. Over training spikes inflammation and can make an autoimmune or brain inflammation condition worse.
Also, when you have an inflammatory condition, you must realize your immune system is never at a constant. Stress, viruses, diet, and myriad other factors keep our immune systems in a constant state of fluctuation.
People with autoimmunity or brain inflammation must always tweak and adjust their activity level to not overburden their immune system or neurological health.
If you are used to working out a certain level and then suddenly notice your workout make you feel worse, it could be an outside factor flaring up inflammation. So you need to dial it down or even take some time off. Listen to your body.
For instance, someone who does high-intensity interval (HIIT) and weight training four or five days a week suddenly feels fatigued and lethargic the day after each class. They may need to reduce the duration, the intensity, or the frequency of those workouts, or substitute in something that doesn’t push their inflammation over the edge, like a brisk walk.
Forget about cultural messaging around fitness
Managing autoimmunity and brain inflammation is highly individualized; no two people will have the same protocol. You must always be tuned in to what your body says. This can be difficult in our hyped-out fitness culture.
After all, for some autoimmune or brain inflammation folks, the mildest workouts can be triggering. The goal is to find what works for you and makes you feel good. When we stimulate blood flow through movement, it sends more oxygenation to our bodies and brains and triggers the release of beneficial chemicals. If it feels good, it’s lowering inflammation and helping you manage your autoimmunity and brain inflammation.
Autoimmune appropriate exercises for building exercise tolerance could be walks, light weight training, gentle yoga or stretching routines, water aerobics — explore and find what works for you. You are the ultimate expert on what’s right for your body. As you start to feel better you will naturally feel inclined to take on more.
Start low and slow so that you are able to stay consistent and keep it up on a daily basis. Once you have established that, then gradually increase intensity and duration.
Ask my office for more advice on managing autoimmunity or brain inflammation.
Should you have any health questions please call the office at 317-848-6000.
Have you been googling for ways to improve your hypothyroid or brain condition and come across suggestions to test MTHFR? What is MTHFR and what does it have to do with hypothyroidism or the brain? If you are one of the 60 percent of people with a genetic defect in the MTHFR gene, it could affect your ability to successfully manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or brain-based symptoms.
MTHFR is the acronym for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, an enzyme involved in processing folate, or vitamin B9, into a usable form the body can assimilate. It’s also necessary to metabolize folic acid, a synthetic form of folate used in supplements.
Thanks to the popularity of gene testing, people can now learn whether they have a mutation in the MTHFR gene. If so, it means their methylation pathways are impacted and contributing to health challenges.
Methylation pathways govern detoxification and many important metabolic processes in the body, which makes a MTHFR defect something worth paying attention to. If you are struggling to manage your Hashimoto's hypothyroidism or brain-based symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, or depression, you may find the MTHFR test valuable.
Methylation is a process of adding a methyl group to a molecule. Methylation’s roles jobs include the following:
Proper methylation means one can efficiently make proteins, use antioxidants, metabolize hormones, enjoy more balanced brain chemistry, detoxify toxins and heavy metals, and dampen inflammation. All of these factors are vital to managing Hashimoto's hypothyroidism and brain-based symptoms.
However, if you’re one of the 60 percent of people with a MTHFR genetic defect, you may not be able to properly break down folate in foods or folic acid in supplements.
An inability to properly process folate can raise levels of homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid in the bloodstream that can be dangerous when levels are too high. High homocysteine is linked to an elevated risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
Poor methylation also impacts another vital process — the production of glutathione, the body’s main antioxidant. When we become deficient in glutathione, we lose our natural defenses and are at higher risk of developing autoimmune diseases, food sensitivities, and chemical sensitivities.
An MTHFR defect can also impair the body’s ability to synthesize important brain neurotransmitters, so that brain-based disorders may arise. An MTHFR defect has been linked to depression, anxiety, brain fog, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia.
Because methylation is involved in so many important processes in the body, an MTHFR gene defect has been associated with many health conditions, including:
If you are trying to manage a condition like Hashimoto's hypothyroidism or brain-based symptoms, it’s imperative that you be able to dampen inflammation and raise glutathione levels. An MTHFR defect can work against you.
Fortunately, it can be easy to address.
First of all, you can test for MTHFR gene mutations through genetic testing companies such as Spectracell or 23andme.com, and get an interpretation at geneticgenie.org.
More than 50 MTHFR genetic mutations exist, but the two considered the most problematic are C677T and A1298C (written as just 677 and 1298).
Also, keep in mind gene defects don’t always become activated. If you show those genes on a test it doesn’t necessarily mean they have been expressed and are causing symptoms.
To address a MTHFR enzyme defect, support your methylation pathways with methylfolate and methylcobalamin (methyl B12). Avoid supplements with folic acid, boost your glutathione levels with high quality oral liposomal glutathione, and minimize your exposure to toxins. These are also beneficial strategies to aid in the management of Hashimoto's hypothyroidism and brain-based symptoms.
Ask my office for more advice on managing autoimmunity or brain inflammation.
Should you have any health questions please call the office at 317-848-60
If you have been researching how to improve your health, you may have heard of leaky gut, also known as intestinal permeability. If that conjures an unpleasant image of your gut contents leaking into the rest of your body — that’s not too far off the mark.
Leaky gut happens when contents from the small intestine spill into the sterile bloodstream through a damaged and “leaky” gut wall. This contamination of the bloodstream by not only partially digested foods but also bacteria, yeast, and other pathogens begins to create a foundation for chronic inflammatory and autoimmune health disorders.
Symptoms and disorders linked to leaky gut include fatigue, depression, brain fog, skin problems, joint pain, chronic pain, autoimmune disease, puffiness, anxiety, poor memory, asthma, food allergies and sensitivities, seasonal allergies, fungal infections, migraines, arthritis, PMS, and many more. Basically, your genetic predispositions will determine how leaky gut manifests for you.
Leaky gut is referred to as intestinal permeability in the scientific research. It means inflammation has caused the inner lining of the small intestine to become damaged and overly porous. This allows overly large compounds into the small intestine. The immune system recognizes these compounds as hostile invaders that don’t belong in the bloodstream and launches an ongoing attack against them, raising inflammation throughout the body. Also, some of these compounds are very toxic (endotoxins) and take up residence throughout the body, triggering inflammation wherever they go.
At the same time, excess intestinal mucous and inflammation from the damage prevents much smaller nutrients from getting into the bloodstream, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies and poor cellular function.
Leaky gut is increasingly being recognized as a common underlying factor in most inflammatory symptoms and disorders.
Medicine finally recognizes leaky gut
Conventional medicine has long ridiculed leaky gut information and protocols as quack science and alternative medicine folklore, but newer research now establishes it as a legitimate mechanism. In fact, pharmaceutical companies are even working on drugs to address leaky gut. Research has established links between leaky gut and many chronic disorders. It’s good this long-known information is finally being validated in the dominant medical paradigm as the gut is the largest immune organ, powerfully influencing the rest of the body, as well as the brain.
Current studies link intestinal permeability with inflammatory bowel disorders, gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, depression, psoriasis, and other chronic and autoimmune conditions. Given what we know about the connection between gut health and immunity, it’s vital to include a gut repair protocol in overall treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.
How to mend leaky gut
Sometimes, repairing leaky gut can be as simple as removing inflammatory foods from your diet. Other times it’s more complicated. Most importantly, you need to know why you have leaky gut. Either way, however, your diet is foundational.
Many cases of leaky gut stem from a standard US diet of processed foods and excess sugars. Food intolerances also contribute significantly, especially a gluten intolerance. A leaky gut diet, also known as an autoimmune diet, has helped many people repair intestinal permeability. Keeping blood sugar balanced is also vital. If blood sugar that gets too low or too high, this promotes leaky gut. Stabilizing blood sugar requires eating regularly enough to avoid energy crashes. You also need to prevent high blood sugar by avoiding too many sugars and carbohydrates. Regular exercise is also vital to stabilizing blood sugar and promoting a healthy gut.
Also, failure to eat enough fiber and produce leads to leaky gut by creating a very unhealthy gut microbiome, or gut bacteria. Our intestines (and entire body) depend on a healthy and diverse gut microbiome for proper function. A healthy gut microbiome comes from eating at least 25 grams of fiber a day and a wide and rotating variety of plant foods.
Other common things that lead to leaky gut include antibiotics, NSAIDs such as ibuprofen, excess alcohol, hypothyroidism, and autoimmunity.
A leaky gut protocol can help you improve your health, relieve symptoms, boost energy, make you happier, and clear your brain fog. Ask my office for advice on improving your well being through a leaky gut diet and protocol.
Ask my office for more advice on managing autoimmunity or brain inflammation.
Should you have any health questions please call the office at 317-848-6000.
Although tap water is treated to prevent waterborne diseases, you still need to filter your tap water for truly clean water. Treated water protects us from things like Cryptosporidium and Giardia, yet municipal water supplies are loaded with chemicals used for treatment in addition to the hundreds of pollutants that contaminate our water supplies.
The most common chemicals used to treat drinking water are chlorine and chloramine. Chlorine has long been used to treat most water supplies. Chloramine, a combination of chlorine and ammonia, is less commonly used. Unlike chlorine, chloramine stays in the water longer and cannot be removed through boiling, distilling, or letting water sit uncovered.
Both chlorine and chloramine are effective in killing disease-causing organisms, however they are somewhat toxic themselves. Chloramine corrodes pipes, increasing the exposure to lead in older homes. Water that is treated with chloramine should also not be used in fish tanks, hydroponics, home brewing, or for dialysis.
Toxic pollutants in our water supplies
Although chlorine and chloramine prevent water-borne diseases, they unfortunately create carcinogenic compounds by reacting with organic particles ordinarily found in water.
The byproducts they create in this process are more toxic than the chlorine or chloramine alone. Research shows these compounds cause cancer in lab animals, produce inflammatory free radicals, irritate the skin and mucus membranes, impact the nervous system, and are linked to birth defects. Some researchers believe these byproducts are also associated with thousands of cases of bladder cancer each year.
Chlorine, chloramine, and the toxic byproducts they trigger are only part of the picture — our water supplies are contaminated by an estimated more than 100,000 industrial chemicals and heavy metals. These toxins come from car exhaust, pollution, farming, and industrial waste.
Treated drinking water has also been found to contain almost 40 different pharmaceutical drugs. There is no regulation on pharmaceutical drugs in drinking water and experts warn they could accumulate in people’s bodies, potentially interact with medicine people are taking, or contribute to antibiotic resistance.
Use a filter for healthier water
Filtering your water with a quality water filter can help reduce your exposure to industrial chemicals, their toxic byproducts, and pharmaceuticals. Invest in a heavy-duty carbon filter, one that will remove particles 0.8 microns or under. Check if your water has chloramine, and if so, look for filters designed to remove it as it is harder to remove.
Also, consider filtering water coming from your bath faucet and shower head. Your skin is very permeable and also absorbs toxic chemicals. Whole-house filters are a good option for this. People who filter their shower water often report improved skin and hair condition.
Water bottles also contain contaminated water
Many people think drinking bottled water is the safe solution but bottled water is contaminated too. It also leeches harmful BPA chemicals from plastic bottles and sends them straight into your system. BPA is a hormone-disrupting chemical linked to multiple health disorders. Plastic water bottles also create serious pollution, particularly of our oceans.
Should you have any health questions please call the office at 317-848-6000.
Eating a vegetable-based diets has loads of proven health benefits, including enriching your gut bacteria diversity, loading you up with plant vitamins and minerals, and ensuring you get plenty of fiber. However, if your plant-based diet is strictly vegan or strict vegetarian you may be missing out on this essential dementia-fighting nutrient: Choline.
Choline is only found predominantly in animal fats and is a vital brain nutrient that helps prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.
In addition to supporting the brain — which is made of primarily fat, by the way — choline also supports healthy liver function. Good liver function is necessary to not only keep the body detoxified, but also to keep chronic inflammation in check. A choline deficiency raises the incidence of fatty liver.
Choline is also an essential part of cell membranes in the body and brain; cell membranes act as the cellular command center in directing cell function and communication.
Choline is found primarily in meats, fish, dairy, and eggs. Significantly smaller amounts are found in nuts, legumes, and cruciferous vegetables. The liver is able to manufacture a small amount, though not enough to meet the body’s needs.
Experts say that in order to meet the brain’s needs for sufficient choline, it needs to come from dietary sources rich in choline.
Most people are choline deficient
The bad news is most people aren’t getting enough choline, and some people are genetically predisposed to a deficiency. Research shows the rising popularity of vegan and vegetarian diets is raising rates of deficiency.
The recommended daily intake of choline is about 425 mg a day for women and 550 mg a day for men.
The two richest sources of choline are beef liver and egg yolk. Research has shown that people who eat eggs regularly have higher levels of choline (we can assume most people aren’t eating liver these days).
In fact, pregnant women who consume at least one egg a day are eight times more likely to meet choline intake recommendations compared to those who don’t.
Beef liver capsules can be a good source of choline if you don’t prefer to eat straight liver. Most products recommend 6 capsules a day. Look for a grass-fed source that has been tested for purity.
Choline is vital for the fetal and infant brain
The choline recommendation for pregnant and breastfeeding women is about 930 mg — choline is vital for the developing child’s brain.
Choline is vital for the adult brain
Choline is also recognized as a vital brain nutrient for the adult brain. In a study of mice bred to have Alzheimer’s like symptoms, a choline-rich diet resulted in improvements in memory and brain function in the mice and their offspring.
Choline protects the brain in several ways. First, it reduces homocysteine, an inflammatory and neurotoxic amino acid if levels are too high. High homocysteine levels are found to double the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Choline prevents this by converting homocysteine to the helpful compound methionine
Choline also reduces the activation of microglia, the brain’s immune cells that cause inflammation and damage to brain tissue when triggered.
Choline is an essential component of acetylcholine, a brain chemical known as the memory neurotransmitter. Sufficient acetylcholine is vital for memory and healthy brain function.
Choline also helps regulate gene expression.
Choline is just one of the many essential nutrients necessary for healthy brain function. Ask my office how we can help you support your brain health.
If your concerned about your brain health and want customized advice, please call us at 317-848-6000.
The cerebellum is located at the base of the skull where the spinal cord meets the brain. For years, scientists have believed its only roles were in helping to coordinate and regulate voluntary movement such as walking or writing. However, we've learned it plays a much larger role acting as the brain's “quality control unit.”
An ancient brain structure
Evolutionarily speaking, the cerebellum is an ancient brain structure common to humans, lizards, and fish. It takes up a relatively small portion of the human brain — about 10 percent by weight — but it contains about half of the brain's neurons, specialized brain cells that transmit signals.
More well-protected than other areas of the brain because it sits at the base of the back of the head, we've long known that the cerebellum coordinates voluntary movement.
Any time you shift your balance, coordinate multiple muscle groups, move your eyes, speak, or learn a new movement such as playing a musical instrument or riding a bike, you are using your cerebellum.
The primary integrator of information
The cerebellum is a primary integrator of information for the brain. The body's hundreds of thousands of receptors for vision, motion, and positioning constantly send information to the brain where the cerebellum condenses it and "gates" it on its way to the brain's cortex. The cortex then decides what the cerebellum will tell the body to do about the information.
The brain's ultimate quality control unit
Only a handful of researchers have explored cerebellum functions that might reach beyond motor control. Exciting new research out of Washington University has revealed that the cerebellum isn't only involved in sensory-motor function.
"It's involved in everything we do," says Dr. Jeremy Schmahmann, a neurology professor at Harvard and director of the ataxia unit at Massachusetts General Hospital who was not involved in the study.
It turns out that what the cerebellum does for motor control it also does for cognition and emotion.
The team found that only 20 percent of the cerebellum is dedicated to physical motion while a surprising 80 percent is dedicated to other functions such as:
"We already thought that the cerebellum was cooler than most people thought, but these results were way more exciting and clear than I could have ever dreamt," says Dr. Nico Dosenbach, a professor of neurology at Washington University whose lab conducted the study.
A compromised cerebellum results in poor balance and worse
When the cerebellum loses function, it starts to fail at this job of gating information to the cortex. This provides the cortex with more information than it can manage, causing a form of sensory overload resulting in symptoms such as:
Common signs of a damaged cerebellum also involve disturbances in muscle control such as:
In addition, the cerebellum easily falls prey to environmental toxins, oxidative stress, and food sensitivities — especially gluten. It also commonly degenerates with age, which is why so many seniors seem to have trouble with balance. Schmahmann also says that a poorly functioning cerebellum can lead to brain disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, autism, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. He and others will attempt to treat patients by improving their cerebellum function.
Is my cerebellum compromised?
One way to test if your cerebellum is not functioning optimally is to stand with your feet together and close your eyes. If you sway more to one side, it may indicate that side of your cerebellum is more compromised.
Other tests we can use to determine your cerebellum function include:
It's not uncommon for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism patients to have autoimmunity against their cerebellum. If you have Hashimoto’s and also have symptoms pertaining to balance, dizziness, or nausea, ask our office about screening for brain autoimmunity.
Our busy lives present many challenges when it comes to healthy brain function, such as non-stop stress, inflammatory diets, lack of exercise, unstable blood sugar, and sleep deprivation.
Functional neurology and functional medicine offer ways to improve cerebellar function through diet, lifestyle, and customized brain rehabilitation exercises to improve various areas of the brain. Ask my office for information about how we can use functional neurology to improve yours.You can contact our office at 317-848-6000 or at email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com.