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Have you heard of Leaky Gut? Well, we can have Leaky Brain too!

If you have read my previous Blogs, been on my retreats or are aware that we are greatly exposed to a multitude of toxins each and every day. Toxins are in our water, our food, our soil, and our air, cosmetics, shampoo, cleaning agents…just about everything. But we can’t start living like Howard Hughes. But the good news is there’s a lot we can do to reduce our daily exposure to toxins by stocking up on chemical-free and natural cleaning products and cosmetics, organic food AND of course, Detox…sometimes daily!

Why? Because these toxins and their metabolites can accumulate and have detrimental effects on our entire body—but particularly our brain function.

Can we have Leaky Brain?

The blood-brain barrier tries to protect our central nervous system from exposures to compounds. But when we are chronically exposed to toxins and contaminants, the usually tight and very selective blood-brain-barrier begins to warp under the pressure of these inflammatory compounds and becomes a bit “leaky” so that it allows molecules through that would have otherwise been prevented from entering the compartment that encases our brain. The loosening up of the tight junctions of the blood-brain barrier also occurs from cellular damage by reactive oxygen species (free radicals) produced by inflammation in the body.

When toxins are allowed to enter the central nervous system, there can be many changes that occur in the natural milieu of the brain. The presence of toxins may result in:

  • Impaired blood flow leading to inefficient oxygen and nutrient delivery Decreased dopamine production and function
  • Hypometabolism of regions of the brain, often of the temporal lobes
  • Altered ratios of glutamate/GABA
  • Decreased serotonin levels and function

Sounds a bit too technical, right? But the bottom line is that these physiological alterations can manifest as:

Lack of mental clarity

  • Anxiety
  • Slow processing of new ideas
  • Sadness
  • Impatience
  • Irritability
  • Lack of motivation
  • Cognitive decline

Don’t worry, be happy…there is hope!

Luckily, we can easily detox with a commitment to lifestyle choices, and one does not necessarily need an online program or to purchase a detox-in-a-box. The first thing to understand is that there are different phases of detoxification, and the first step is heavily reliant on the micro-nutrients and macro-nutrients we consume. This first phase is based on the function of the cytochrome P450 enzymes in the liver that need to be present and effectively active to start the process. After the first phase, these toxicant metabolites are even more reactive and can cause cellular damage and must undergo further phases of detoxification to convert them to less inflammatory compounds that are more easily excreted via the feces and urine. If not, these toxic metabolites will bind to parts of the cellular membranes and our DNA and result in progressive damage that affects our overall health and well-being and increases our risk of acute and chronic diseases.

That’s why, most importantly, a continuous supply of plant derivatives ensures the nutrients necessary for detoxification do not run out, as they can—and they do! In fact, it doesn’t even take that long for depletion of vital nutrients. Think about how sluggish you feel after the holidays and increased consumption of alcohol, processed foods, and sugary treats and also with fewer hours of sleep and less regular exercise. The cytochrome P450 enzymes can also be easily inhibited by chronic disease states but also by some commonly prescribed medications, pro-inflammatory foods such as trans fats, animal meats, and alcohol. Some individuals also have mutations and polymorphisms, which can render the enzymes less efficient.

How to start detoxing for better brain health? Where do we start adjusting our lifestyle?

Considering the myriad nutrients necessary for detoxification, food as medicine should become a mantra of living. This means consuming a largely plant-based diet for the wide array of bioflavonoids, carotenes, polyphenols, thiols, anthocyanins, and other vitamins and minerals—such as copper, ascorbic acid, and manganese—important for their role in detoxification, but they also confer anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticarcinogenic activity. Food-as-medicine living also requires avoidance of foods that can increase the burden of toxins. Foods that should generally be avoided include non-organic produce, processed animal meats, trans fats, sugar, and processed foods.

Because of our modern lifestyle we also need to better focus on what and how we eat, how much we sleep, how often we move, and ways to manage our stress responses. Active and intentional detoxification is likely more important now than ever.

Detoxing each season is recommended and also continuing to utilize juice, enzymes and the appropriate vitamin supplements to support your life.

Yesenia Johnson
Vida Cleanse by Yesenia retreats are hosted at The Spring Resort & Spa and provides a program of yoga, colon hydro-therapy, spa, infrared sauna, massages, light hiking excursions and the best mineral spas in the world.

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