Got a Leaky Brain?

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

February 17, 2021

It doesn’t matter where… a leak is usually bad news.

A leak in your boat… a leak in a pipe… even a leak in that tupper ware with last night’s leftovers can cause a real mess.

But, what about a leak in your BRAIN?  Surely that must be the worst disaster of all.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Since your brain is made up of tissues and fluids, it is possible to have a leaky brain.  Really, anytime you have a one-cell-thick membrane with moist blood flow and exchange of materials, you can spring a leak.

In this particular case, we’re talking about a membrane called the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB).  This barrier naturally has junctions — like doorways — that allow certain materials to pass in and out.

Things like heat, high levels of insulin, inflammation, and infection can make those openings larger than they should be.  Then materials — like chemicals and proteins and microbes– which shouldn’t pass through are able to get in and cause inflammation.[1]

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What Causes a Leaky Brain?

You’ve probably seen me talk before about a “leaky gut.” Turns out, there’s a strong connection between the brain and the gut.  Any microbes living in the gut can affect the brain in both good and bad ways.

In fact, the stomach and small intestine have a very similar lining as the BBB which keeps harmful substances from entering the gut.

This means that many of the same things that cause a leaky gut can cause a leaky brain.  This list includes poor gut health, an unhealthy diet, certain food sensitivities, toxins and infections.

Then, there’s the biggest troublemaker of all… gluten.

Gluten causes the junctions in a membrane to loosen — leading to a leaky brain.[2]

Once your BBB starts to leak, you’re at risk for a long list of neurological problems.  This includes autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s, depression, and schizophrenia and other major psychiatric illnesses.[3]

Then, a brain may become leaky when people have certain auto-immune conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS), brain trauma, edema, and brain cancers.[4]

People who are experiencing a leaky brain due to gluten may experience a condition called “gluten ataxia.”  On the outside, it may seem like a person with this is simply drunk.

They’ll feel dizzy, bump into walls and show an unusual gait.  People suffering from gluten ataxia will also have problems with simple tasks involving fine motor skills.

For instance, they might have trouble buttoning up their shirt or using a pen to write in cursive.[5]

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Other people slur their speech and have difficulty swallowing. They also experience tingling fingers and toes[6] and eyes which move rapidly back-and-forth.

When folks experiencing these symptoms come to my office, I’d do a test to look for tissue transglutaminase 6 antibodies (TTG6) . A positive result told me they were experiencing neurological symptoms due to gluten and a leaky brain.

When looking at patients with gluten sensitivities, we also look for TTG3 present on their skin — something that can lead to an awful skin condition called dermatitis herpetiformis.

This nasty blistering skin disease that can appear at any age.  Often patients will be put on a gluten free diet as part of their treatment.[7]

Why is gluten such a problem these days?

If gluten is such a villain when it comes to leaky gut and brain, we must ask a natural question… why?

First off, remember the foods we eat today are not the same as they were ten thousand, eight thousand, five-hundred, or even one-hundred years ago.

Today, the wheat we eat (which contains the protein gluten) has different genes than it did years ago.  Food scientists have genetically modified the crops so they can resist insects.

We’ve also changed the genetic code of these plants so they grow faster, bigger, and are ready for the market more quickly.

These days, gluten isn’t just bad for your gut health.  It can also affect your brain.  It can change how you act and cause serious problems with your skin.

All in all, it’s a terrible thing to eat.

That’s why I strongly recommend that you do your best to avoid gluten in your diet.  Stay away from foods containing wheat, rye, spelt, and barley.  Many of your favorite foods with these ingredients are now available in “gluten-free” varieties at the grocery stores.[8]

Then, I’d suggest you focus your meals around healthy fruits and vegetables containing all colors of the rainbow.  This will help promote a healthy gut microbiome AND a healthier brain.

Sources:

[1] Anyia, A. (2018). Leaky brain: Signs, symptoms, causes, treatments and more. Retrieved from Consumer Health Digest at https://www.consumerhealthdigest.com/brain-health/leaky-brain.html

[2] Cohen, J. (2017, October). What is the blood-brain barrier? Causes and tests for a leaky brain. Retrieved from Self-Hacked at https://www.selfhacked.com/blog/blood-brain-barrier-causes-tests-leaky-brain/

[3] Shalev, H.; Serlin, Y.; Friedman, A. Breaching the blood-brain barrier as a gate to psychiatric disorder. Cardiovasc. Psychiatry Neurol. 2009, 1–7.

[4] Schneider, S.W.; Ludwig, T.; Tatenhorst, L.; Braune, S.; Oberleithner, H.; Senner, V.; Paulus, W. Glioblastoma cells release factors that disrupt blood-brain barrier features. Acta Neuropathol. 2004, 107, 272–276.

[5] Mearns ES, Taylor A, Thomas craig KJ, et al. Neurological manifestations of neuropathy and ataxia in celiac disease: a systematic review. Nutrients. 2019;11(2). doi:10.3390/nu11020380

[6] Vinagre-Aaragón A, Zis P, Grunewald RA, Hadjivassiliou M. Movement disorders related to gluten sensitivity: a systematic review. Nutrients. 2018;10(8). doi:10.3390/nu10081034

[7] Fry L, Seah PP, Riches DJ, Hoffbrand AV. Clearance of skin lesions in dermatitis herpetiformis after gluten withdrawal. Lancet 1973;i:288–91.

[8] Singh, J., and K. Whelan. “Limited availability and higher cost of gluten‐free foods.” Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 24.5 (2011): 479-486.

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