How does inflammation affect the brain?

Over the last 20 years, ample evidence has accumulated to prove that inflammation in the body causes changes in the brain that lead to depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and memory problems.

Inflammation affects hormones and other neurotransmitters in your brain. Inflammation drives down the level of serotonin, which can lead to feelings of depression or anxiety, and problems with memory. It prevents melatonin from being produced, which causes insomnia. It causes dopamine levels to rise, which contributes to insomnia, and feelings of anxiety and agitation. The excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate, goes up. Over time or with excessive levels of glutamate, anxiety can result. In extreme amounts, glutamate can be toxic to brain cells. In fact, in depression, a certain type of brain cell called an astrocyte actually deteriorates under these circumstances, which permits the inflammation to continue. Now you have a brain that is, if not on fire, at least smoldering.

Inflammation, fueled by increased blood sugar, can damage the tissue in our brains and put us at higher risk for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Watch as neurologist David Perlmutter, MD, explains how our dietary choices directly impact inflammation.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.