Brain on Fire — How Inflammation Damages Mental Health

From depression to dementia: 5 ways to reduce inflammation naturally


Inflammation is often visible and painful. Red, angry swellings make their presence felt. Yet sometimes inflammation is invisible and painless; you would never know it was there. When inflammation flares in the brain, it does so silently.

Inflammation is not always detrimental to health — it is a normal immune response to injury or infection and means that the healing process has begun. The body repairs itself or prepares to fight off an intruder. Sometimes, however, things go wrong. The inflammatory process goes on for longer than necessary, or is activated when it is not required.

The response may be either acute or chronic. Acute inflammation is healthy and short-term. It is usually localized and triggered by a wound or an infection. When it begins, inflammatory substances called cytokines are released by the affected tissue to alert and prime the immune system.

The body produces many types of cytokines, including the interleukins IL-1, IL-6, IL-12, IL-18. In the brain, the cytokine TNF-α is also produced.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is systemic and less obvious. Internal organs — the heart, lungs and kidneys — may be affected. It is involved in virtually every chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and cancer.

With chronic (sometimes called low-grade) inflammation, you won’t see any redness or swelling, and the only way you know it’s there is by testing for something called C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker for inflammation in the blood.

Chronic, low-grade inflammation in the brain is a factor in the development of many neurodegenerative diseases, including depression and dementia. It is also seen in Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Huntington’s disease.

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Copyright © 2020 Maria Cross All rights reserved.

Image: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay





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