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What is Brain Inflammation?

Inflammation on the feet

What is brain inflammation?

Inflammation in general is commonly referred to as swelling and it is essential to the healing process in the body. A trim level of inflammation in the brain is tolerated and when the swelling continues, special brain cells are activated to reduce swelling. Brain inflammation is activated by initial trauma to the head and other inflammatory conditions in the body.

How does body swelling relate to brain inflammation?

We are all familiar with inflammation. If you have visited a doctor for a sprain or persisting joint pain, that could be related to swelling. Often we notice this when there is swelling somewhere in the body after an injury, and we feel redness and heat with some swelling. You might even be familiar with diagnoses such as laryngitis, pancreatitis, and tonsilitis. Where is the swelling?

When an injury occurs anywhere in the body, the immune system releases white blood cells, which release chemicals to cause inflammation. Unlike joint swelling, brain inflammation is often not noticeable unless when brain tissue is damaged and when there is inflammation in the gut.

How brain inflammation occurs?

An injury that causes damage to the brain barrier, blood vessels, or cells can activate microglial cells (brain immune army, commonly referred to as the “trash-collector” crew). Other than trauma to the head, there are other issues and conditions that, if they exist in other parts of the body, would lead to the activation of the microglial cells.

  • Brain inflammation can result from a head injury,
  • An increased presence of immune cytokines, and
  • Food intolerance.
  • Other conditions that can activate Microglia cells include
  • Diabetes,
  • A high-carbohydrate diet,
  • Alcohol,
  • Drug abuse,
  • Systemic/bowel inflammation,
  • Head trauma,
  • An autoimmune condition,
  • Stress,
  • Over-exercise,
  • Poor circulation.
  • Emotional stress, such as anger, can also activate an inflammatory response.
  • Lifestyle stress, such as lack of sleep
  • PTSD can further exacerbate the inflammatory condition.

In a compromised blood-brain barrier or brain cell injury, the microglial becomes activated for an immune response. In a healthy individual, the microglial cleans up dead brain neurons and plagues, protecting the brain from damage. Microglial cells play a crucial role in aging and brain protection. However, when microglia cells are activated, it starts a cascade of inflammatory immune responses to protect the brain.

Inflammation can bring on brain fog symptoms below:

  • Slower mental speed,
  • Memory recall difficulties,
  • Slow reflex and function.
  • Increased neuroinflammatory processes,
  • if not addressed, it would cause more symptoms like challenges with
  • reading,
  • driving, and
  • other mental tasks.
  • The mid-brain contains cytokines receptors for particular cytokines and interleukin-6m(IL-6) that respond to
  • physical,
  • emotional, and
  • chemical stress from lack of sufficient sleep or
  • over-exercise or
  • anger,
  • argument.
  • In a healthy individual, the body can manage short-stressful situations; however, a prolonged period of extreme stress, such as
  • in war experience,
  • child abuse or rape experience
  • These experiences would lead to flooding the brain with inflammation cytokines. With continued stress, the brain becomes sensitive even to a hair strand. Such experience further stresses our fight or flight response.

What inflammation does to the body

Although, maintaining the blood-brain barrier is vital to prevent cranial inflammation from becoming systemic under these ongoing conditions. When chronic inflammation exists anywhere in the body can lead to brain inflammation, which often results in a leaky gut and vis-versa. A leaky gut equals a leaky brain, which contributes to joint and gut swelling without intervention, vis-versa. Finally, brain inflammation can lead to cell death since it can trigger neurons to tangle, called neurofibrillary tangles. If inflammation is not addressed, neurofibrillary tangles can lead to cell death.

What improve brain inflammation?

Improving brain inflammation can be as simple as participating in physical exercise. Although the exact mechanism is unknown, exercise increases brain plasticity and reduces inflammation in the hippocampus. Despite the lack of reliable evidence, some supplements are suggested to improve immune response, like vitamin C, vitamin D, Zinc, elderberry, echinacea, and probiotics. Furthermore, eating nutrient-dense food, proper hydration, getting seven-nine hours of sleep per night, addressing infection, and dental hygiene can help reduce inflammation in the body and the brain.

What to do when brain inflammation is activated?

So, brain inflammation is activated due to tissue or cellular damage anywhere in the body. Furthermore, brain inflammation can be due to gut inflammation because to the gut-brain connection—a leaky gut results in a leaky brain. When microglial cells in the brain are activated, there is protection and cleaning to be done. And this leads to further inflammation and clean-up. A situation like this requires medical mitigation and the kind of support a brain health coach can provide click here.


Michopoulos, V., Powers, A., Gillespie, C. F., Ressler, K. J., & Jovanovic, T. (2017). Inflammation in Fear- and Anxiety-Based Disorders: PTSD, GAD, and Beyond. Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology42(1), 254–270.

Tejera, D., Mercan, D., Sanchez-Caro, J. M., Hanan, M., Greenberg, D., Soreq, H., Latz, E., Golenbock, D., & Heneka, M. T. (2019). Systemic inflammation impairs microglial Aβ clearance through NLRP3 inflammasome. The EMBO journal38(17), e101064.

De Miguel, Zurine et al. “Exercise plasma boosts memory and dampens brain inflammation via clusterin.” Nature vol. 600,7889 (2021): 494-499. doi:10.1038/s41586-021-04183-x

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