Brain permeability is linked to depression and other mental health problems. How to mend the gaps.

Your brain is like a powerful command centre, surrounded by a wall to prevent enemy elements from breaching security. Damage to the wall undermines the strength of the command centre. The blood brain barrier is that wall. If compromised, the brain is left vulnerable to assault and subsequent mental health problems.

“Leaky brain” may sound comically implausible, but increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) is a well-known phenomenon in neuroscience.

The role of the blood-brain barrier

You may be familiar with leaky gut syndrome. This is where the gut lining becomes damaged, and all sorts of undesirables — toxins, undigested food particles, bacteria — are…

Your brain is made of what you eat. Change what you eat.

People see a nutrition consultant for a variety of reasons: to improve energy, have better digestion, lose weight — that sort of thing. Increasingly, the goal is to improve mental well-being.

Over the course of my practice, I have noticed a pattern. Often when people seek advice for physical problems, what they really want to address is their mental health.

My role is to find the cause of physical and mental imbalances. Diet won’t change past trauma, if that is what lies behind depression and anxiety, but in the absence of external events there is a good chance that food…

Smart weight loss is about knowledge, not willpower

What makes you want to eat? However complex your motivations may seem, the hunger game is essentially a game of hormones. Don’t turn it into a power struggle — you can learn how to trigger or suppress the hormones involved in the desire to eat, and stay in control of your appetite.

These hormones were forged during the evolution of our species. Evolution is about survival. That’s why, when you reduce your food intake, you automatically trigger a cascade of hormones whose mission it is to break your will and force you to eat, in order to prevent starvation. …

And how to put a stop to it

Feeding potato chips to rats makes them want more, even when they are already full. Humans are remarkably similar. Open that bag and you know how it will end. Even so, go easy on yourself; you’re not weak, you’re normal. Your brain is responding the way it is programmed to respond. The trick is to short-circuit the system — the brain’s reward system.

Potato chips (or crisps, depending on where you live) are a typical snack food, one of many available to purchase at an outlet near you. The permutations of bagged snacks are boundless, but in essence they are…

It also sharpens your memory. Keep moving

You exercise to keep your muscles strong and your stamina high, along with your buff ratings. Perhaps you also exercise for your cardiovascular fitness. Now here’s further motivation to move that body: exercise changes your brain chemistry to promote better mood and memory.

Exercise works, and not just because of the buzz you get from having gone out and done something. Yes, exercise triggers the release of endorphins, chemicals that create a sense of euphoria. But there is much more to it than that.

Beyond the runner’s high lies a biochemical process that is part of the brain’s growth and…

From anxiety to depression — why you should hold that cake.

Sugar makes you fat, which is bad enough. But can it really make you depressed? Clinically depressed, even? The evidence is compelling, and it’s a journey that starts with a mild blood sugar imbalance and can end with serious mental illness.

Each step of that journey is fuelled by sugar, or more specifically, glucose.

How it begins: blood sugar imbalance

Blood sugar imbalance (aka dysglycemia) is a common health problem, one that may be familiar to you. Ask yourself: How do you feel if you eat no food for three or more hours? Does the mere thought induce a sense of mild panic? …

Here’s what you need to know about the role of vitamin D.

There is good news and there is bad news, regarding the latest Covid-19 developments. The good news is that a vaccine to protect against infection is looking highly promising, with preliminary analysis revealing 90% success rate in trials.

The bad news is that for the vast majority of people, the vaccine won’t be available for quite some time. And winter’s coming. But here’s more good news: trials on the efficacy of vitamin D are also looking very promising, and it’s something you don’t have to wait for.

Vitamin D can’t stop you from getting infected, but it can mitigate the…

IBS patients in the US frequently test positive for a common parasite

If you have irritable bowel syndrome, you are familiar with the misery of abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhoea, and/or constipation. It just so happens that these are also common symptoms of a gut parasite infection. If your symptoms have not responded to standard IBS treatment, taking a simple test may be the first step on the road to recovery.

It is well known that the gut is inhabited by trillions of bacteria, some good and some not so good. But parasites?

If you have ever thought that your innards appear to have a life of their own, it’s because they…

Yes, he lost a lot of weight and yes, he survived. Here’s how he did it.

In June 1965, a 27-year-old Scottish man weighing 456lb (207kg) decided to stop eating until he reached his desired weight of 180lb (82kg). Angus Barbieri ate nothing whatsoever for 382 days, achieved his goal, and lived to tell the tale.

Morbidly obese, Barbieri certainly needed to lose weight, but no, this is not one to try at home. His approach was potentially life threatening, which is why this superhuman feat was achieved under strict medical supervision. Before embarking on his fast, Angus checked into the Maryfield Hospital in Dundee, returning regularly for evaluation and occasionally staying overnight.

Quite wisely, under…

Good oral hygiene protects your brain as well as your gums

The human gut houses trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that are part of your immune system and are collectively known as the gut microbiome. Similarly, your mouth teems with microscopic life, collectively known as the oral microbiome.

Just like bacteria in the gut, some are friendly and helpful, while others are downright hostile and harmful.

Around 700 species of bacteria make your mouth their home. Around a dozen or so species are considered “bad”, or pathogenic. These rogues are responsible for more than just gum disease; they are also involved in the development of Alzheimer’s.

Before dementia takes hold…

Maria Cross

MSc. Registered nutritionist, specialising in diet and mental health. Visit AllYouCanEat.Org.UK for free brain food guide, or to book a consultation

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