They say, 'you are what you eat,' and it's true. If you look at the days when you are eating more vegetables and less sugar, you notice that you have better skin and good sleep too.
But, have you ever wondered if what you eat affects your thoughts?
If not, then this might be the time to start considering it. If you do, you are not alone. Scientists and doctors worldwide are studying the correlation between our diet and how it affects our mental health.
But… how closely are these really connected? Let's start with the blood-brain barrier.
The Blood-Brain Barrier or BBB
The brain is not just protected by the skull from harm. It is also being shielded from the potentially harmful toxins coming from the bloodstream by a fence-like barrier called the blood-brain barrier (BBB). This barrier prevents toxins, pathogens, heavy metals, bad proteins, and pesticides from entering into our brain while allowing oxygen, hormones, and nutrients in. The BBB is made up of a tight junction of the three cells that work together to do the filtering job for the brain.
But when this barrier breaks, this causes what scientists are calling “a leaky brain”.
How Can Your Brain Leak?
The brain is considered leaky if there is a disruption of the blood-brain barrier. If the junction of the three cells becomes loose or broken, the BBB becomes more penetrable, and harmful toxins can leak in. These substances can cause brain damage to inflammation; in other words, a leaky brain is an inflamed brain.
According to Dr. Alesso Fasano of Mucosal Biology Research and Center for Celiac Research, more factors can cause leaky gut, mainly poor diet means poor gut health and toxins can create a leaky brain. Some food such as wheat creates leaky gut in everyone as a protein called gliadin, found in wheat and gluten, increases another protein, zonulin. Zonulin loosens the three cells of the BBB, thereby contributing to leaky gut and leaky brain.
These lifestyle factors also contribute to leaky brain and dramatically impact the health of the brain:
- Unstable blood sugar
- Long term stress
- Chronic inflammation
- Digestive disorders
- Autoimmune conditions
- Alcohol abuse
- Poor diet
How the Food You Eat Can Damage Your Brain
The strong link between the brain and the gut cannot be overlooked as microbes residing in the gut have a positive and negative effect on the brain. The stomach and small intestine, in fact, contain a lining similar to the blood-brain barrier that also prevents potentially damaging substances from entering the intestine.
Having said that, regular consumption of these foods are mainly responsible for both leaky brain and leaky gut:
- Refined sugars
- Processed and refined flours (white bread, cookies, pasta, crackers, and more)
- Acidic foods
- Dairy products
- Animal fats
- Food Allergens (hidden food allergies cause body and brain inflammation)
Not to mention the toxic environmental factors to consider like, bad sleep habits, overuse of antibiotics, lack of exercise, and stress.
Can An Inflamed Brain Lead To Distorted Thoughts?
Inflammation is an immune system response to toxins. When the immune system is challenged, pro-inflammatory hormones signal the white blood cells to fix the damaged tissues immediately, then the anti-inflammatory agents begin the healing process. Naturally, a balance exists between inflammation and the anti-inflammatory agents, but if the fight always puts the immune system in high gear and inflammation does not subside, it's already chronic inflammation.
Having leaky brain or chronic inflammation of the brain can take a toll on your mental health and really impact the way you think. In fact, leaky brain has been connected to several mental illnesses, including:
- Schizophrenia, a severe mental illness that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves, a person with schizophrenia often gets out of touch to reality. This is caused by the destroyed BBB cells, and other supporting cells around the brain trigger the release of inflammatory agents, further breaking the BBB and leaking the toxins inside the brain.
- Depression, a feeling of sadness or loss of interest. An unhealthy lifestyle and poor diet intensify depression. Insufficient blood flow and low brain activity, as seen in patients living with depression.
- Brain fog or memory loss. A person's inability to have a sharp memory and attentive mind.
- Huntington's Disease, a fatal genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It crumbles a person's physical and mental abilities, usually in their prime years, and has no cure. Huntington's is caused by a decreased number of proteins coming to the brain and adverse changes from the transport of molecules from the bloodstream to the brain.
Can the Damage Be Reversed?
Taking steps to help reverse leaky brain means starting with the gut. That means changing a significant part of your lifestyle and diet. We recommend you use the Stop, Start, and Seek method, or simply the SSS method.
Stop ignoring stress and eating high animal fat and gluten foods.
Start detoxifying your body, exercising, and eating healthy, plant-based foods.
Seek supplements that help to rebuild the blood-brain barrier.
If you are suffering from depression and also still practice some of the harmful lifestyle factors mentioned above, there is hope. You can transform and prevent leaky brain. If you want to know more, don’t miss out on the incredible event that is coming up this summer!
The Leaky Brain Summit
Join Dr. Elena Villanueva and Dr. Ryan Wohlfert as they host this year's much-awaited Leaky Brain Summit. This coming June 29-July 5, 2020, the online summit will be attended by 36 scientists, doctors, and researchers that specialize in mental health.
Learn more about the leaky brain and improve your mental health.
1. Ball, K. (2018). Could your leaky gut be causing a leaky brain? Retrieved from Mr Vitamins at https://www.mrvitamins.com.au/news/digestion/could-your-leaky-gut-be-causing-a-leaky-brain/
2. Cohen, J. (2017, October). What is the blood-brain barrier? Causes and tests for a leaky brain. Retrieved from Self-Hacked at
3. The link between brain inflammation and mental health
4. What Causes a Leaky Brain
5. The leaky brain can cause
6. What Causes Leaky Brain
We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below - we read each and every one of them!