By Katherine Lambert, Certified Nutrition Specialist
Your brain on fire? That sounds terrifying! What we are referring to here is inflammation in the brain also known as neuroinflammation. It can wreak havoc on mood, cognition, focus and memory. It can lead to many neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s.
Inflammation is a healthy part of the body’s immune response. It is generally of two types. The first one is an acute response familiar to us all: you hit your finger or bump your knee followed by the familiar symptoms of swelling, redness, heat and pain.
The other kind of inflammation is systemic inflammation and it often goes undetected in the absence of overt symptoms. This occurs when inflammatory pathways are triggered and the body is unable to turn these inflammatory processes off.
Systemic, chronic Inflammation is now widely recognized as the common underlying factor for such conditions as Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and even autism. And it now turns out to be linked to depression, anxiety and other mood disorders.
It was thought for decades that our blood-brain barrier protected our brains from the effects of these inflammatory processes. More recent science, however, has discovered that certain components involved in these inflammatory pathways can cross this once-regarded impenetrable barrier. The harm can occur because immune cells in the brain triggering this inflammatory process do not turn off.
Common causes of brain inflammation
|Diets high in sugar and processed foods||Food intolerances (gluten is a common one)||Chronic stress, both physiological and emotional||Weight gain and obesity|
|Head injuries, even minor ones||Hormone imbalances||Hypothyroidism||Gut inflammation|
The good news is that food can be powerful medicine to reduce inflammation in the brain!
Here are a few examples of foods that contain powerful compounds which will help reduce brain inflammation:
|Green tea||Blackberries||Dark cherries||Blueberries|
|Turmeric||Raw red onions||Elderberries||Goji berries|
|Cruciferous vegetables||Dark leafy greens like Lacinato kale||Swiss chard, spinach (not baby spinach)||Artichokes|
Here’s a recipe for your brain – have it with some celery sticks or slices of green peppers for a powerful dose of phytonutrient medicine proven to put out those fires in the brain.
Parsley Pumpkin Seed Spread
Makes a little over 1 cup
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
2 cloves garlic peeled and coarsely chopped
1 packed cup coarsely chopped parsley
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tsp lemon juice
Heat a dry skillet to medium. Add pumpkin seeds and keep them moving with a wooden spoon. After a few minutes, they will begin to pop, puff up and give off a nutty aroma. Remove them from the heat.
Place the toasted pumpkin seeds with all the other ingredients in a hand or small food processor and pulse several times. The finer the mixture, the more it will stick together. If you are using this for a spread or dip, a finer mixture works well. If you are using it to garnish a soup, a coarser mixture works well.
You can adjust the consistency by adding a bit more oil or additional pumpkin seeds for a thinner or thicker mix.
Find out more about our Nutrition Services