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Brain Inflammation and Mental Illness

Brain Inflammation and Mental Illness

Brain Inflammation and Mental Illness

The Link between brain inflammation and Mental illness in Australia and worldwide is getting a lot more validated research.  Neurologist, Dr. Perlmutter, stated: most brain diseases are diseases of brain inflammation. But when the brain is inflamed, it doesnt effect you like inflamed joints or a sore throat. It takes form as other cognitive problems. Depression, anxiety, autism, ADD, Alzheimers, Parkinsons disease are all inflammatory diseases of the brain. [1]

Neuroinflammation is incredibly important. A lot of the things that we see in our day to day practice are tied in with neuroinflammation in the immune system.

Depression is not just about serotonin. Yes, serotonin is an important neurotransmitter, but a large part of depression is actually related to neuroinflammation. In fact, studies have shown that people who have depression have a higher risk for dementia. So its not just about a serotonin deficiency.

As with cholesterol, thats not the main contributing factor in heart disease. Heart disease is about inflammation. Neuroinflammation is about inflammation. Its not just about these single molecules like cholesterol and serotonin. [1] Its really important to look at the whole big picture and how that relates to conditions that we see all the time. Conditions like Alzheimers disease,  ALS, multiple sclerosis even conditions like even schizophrenia. Are all tied in with neuroinflammation in the immune system.

We commonly hear phrases such as  Well, Alzheimers runs in our family.”  Actually, Porphyromonas gingivalis may run in your family. You may be spreading the bacteria from person to person. This bacteria which is found in saliva, stimulates the immune system in genetically susceptible individuals and can really lead to profound neuroinflammation. [1]


Extensive research has shown that brain inflammation is connected to virtually all types of mental illness. Mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, as well as more serious conditions like autism, dementia, and even schizophrenia, have all been linked to inflammation of the brain.

Brain states that produce mental illness also tend to activate inflammation. And inflammation is equally capable of producing depression, anxiety, fatigue, and social withdrawal.

Other health issues have also been linked to inflammation, such as

What do we mean by inflammation, and why does it affect us negatively in so many ways?

Inflammation is an immune system response to environmental irritants, toxins and infection.

When the immune system is activated by one of these intruders, pro-inflammatory hormones signal the white blood cells to rush in and clean up the infected or damaged tissue. Once the invaders have been subdued, anti-inflammatory agents move in to begin the healing process.

In a normal immune system, a natural balance exists between inflammation and anti-inflammatory agents. But in some cases, the immune system gets stuck in high gear, and symptoms of inflammation do not recede. This is known as chronic inflammation. [2]

Over a long period of time, improper inflammation can damage or destroy tissue; this damage can eventually result in cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, ADHD, autism, and mood disorders like depression and anxiety.

If you have had or are currently experiencing more than a few of the following health issues, this may be a sign that you have chronic inflammation:

  • Seasonal/Environmental Allergies
  • Frequent colds, infections, sinusitis
  • Asthma or bronchitis
  • A history of frequent cold sores or canker sores
  • Acne, eczema, or skin rashes
  • Hepatitis
  • Exposure to environmental toxins (pesticides, heavy metals, industrial chemicals)
  • A work environment with poor lighting or ventilation
  • Food allergies, sensitivities
  • Inflammatory bowel disease or colitis
  • Spastic colon
  • Osteoarthritis
  • An autoimmune disorder (rheumatoid arthritis, hypothyroid disease, lupus)
  • Cardiovascular disease, including a history of heart attack
  • Type II diabetes or obesity
  • Alzheimers or Parkinsons disease, or a family history of either
  • Autism
  • Mood or behavioural disorders (depression, anxiety disorders, etc.)
  • Consumption of more than 3 alcoholic beverages per week
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Less than 30 minutes of exercise 3 time a week

If you are experiencing more than seven of these warning signs, you should be assessed for inflammation and the underlying reasons why it is occurring. [2]


Digestive Imbalances can cause inflammation in the brain and our bodies.

Several studies have suggested that inflammation is rooted in the gastrointestinal tract. As the body’s first line of defence against infection and disease, the digestive system is designed to remove toxins, bacteria, and viruses from our food before they reach the rest of the body.

Our diet often overwhelms the digestive tract. [2] Nutritional deficiencies, medications, stress, and environmental toxins can damage the gut and cause inflammation, which then if left unchecked spreads throughout the rest of the body.


  • C-reactive protein test is the most decisive test for detecting inflammation. This simple blood test can reveal high levels of C-reactive protein; CRP is produced by the liver in response to inflammation, infection and injury.
  • Food allergy testing can uncover immune responses which may point to inflammation.
  • Advanced stool testing and organic acids testing can also uncover a range of inflammatory markers in the body


Your gut helps to manage levels of inflammation and therefore, keeping your gut healthy with the right foods is essential to keeping your brain healthy and reducing your risk of brain inflammation.


  • Refined sugars
  • Processed and refined flours (white bread, cookies, pasta, crackers, and more)
  • Highly acidic foods
  • Dairy products
  • Rancid Animal fats
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Food Allergens (hidden food allergies cause body and brain inflammation) [2]


  • Exposure to toxic metals (mercury, lead, cadmium)
  • History of infections
  • Environmental toxins (pesticides, herbicides, food additives and preservatives)
  • Chronic stress
  • Lack of exercise, sedentary habits
  • Nutritional deficiencies (B12, vitamin D, essential fatty acids, vitamin C)
  • Overuse of antibiotics and acid blocking medications
  • Poor sleep habits


There are many things you can do to encourage your body’s natural anti-inflammatory response and restore your immune system’s natural balance.

  • Exercise stimulates the body’s anti-inflammatory mechanisms and improves blood flow. At least 20 to 30 minutes of exercise a minimum of 3 times per week
  • Keep your immune system functioning properly by getting enough sleep and finding a relaxation technique you enjoy.
  • Deep-breathing exercises are also an excellent way to mitigate inflammation


  • Get enough Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. These oils are in short supply in our diet, and most people need a supplement to ensure they are getting enough Omega-3’s. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are salmon, sardines packed in water or olive oil, herring, omega-3 fortified eggs; hemp seeds and flaxseeds; or take a fish oil supplement.
  • Avoid eating excessive amounts saturated fat; reduce consumption of butter, cream, cheese and other full-fat dairy products.
  • A high-alkaline diet – one that includes plenty of green, leafy vegetables – is invaluable in combating inflammation.
  • Eat cruciferous (cabbage-family) vegetables regularly.
  • Avoid refined foods. Sugars, convenience foods, and refined carbohydrates have little nutritional value and may trigger inflammation. Essentially, don’t eat anything that comes from a bag or a box.


These Bioflavonoids and anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements are extremely useful in reducing inflammation. [2]

  • Digestive Enzymes
  • Turmeric
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids (fish oil)
  • Ginkgo Biloba and Ginseng
  • Activated B Vitamins
  • Alpha Lipoeic Acid
  • Quercertin

When you make a few changes to your diet and lifestyle, you will feel energised, refreshed, and full of vitality. By reducing inflammation, you will dramatically improve your health.

Functional Medicine and Natural Mental Health Treatment

Functional Medicine addresses the underlying dysfunctions that contribute to mental illness. Balancing neurochemistry, key nutrients, clearing excess toxic burdens and pathogens in the gut are all part of our functional medicine approach.

Our practitioners have experience with inflammation and mental health.  Contact us to find our more.

The above information is intended to be general, educational advice only, on topics which are of interest to us. It is not intended to represent specific or individual health or medical advice and is not specific to your situation. The below information is educative and is not intended to advertise any service.

Before making any decisions in relation to your health, you should always discuss your individual situation with your own health practitioners to ensure that any advice you have read is right for you.

Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper - ND is the founder of Advanced Functional Medicine Australia. He is a Naturopathic Doctor with extensive functional medicine training from leading practitioners in the USA and worldwide.

He is leading the way with advancements of functional medicine, clinically implementing worldwide best practices in Functional Medicine throughout Australia.

Jarrod consults in person from Perth, Western Australia and also online via Telehealth throughout Australia and worldwide.

If you are looking for personalised treatment, we highly recommend contacting Jarrod Cooper’s Advanced Functional Medicine clinic in Australia.

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