Can your brain become inflamed? Can you have a sore or swollen brain—like a sore throat—that causes everything from brain fog to dementia to depression to autism?
You brain can become inflamed just as your body does. And in the 21st century, our bodies and brains are on fire.
Today, the fires of inflammation are raging all over the body. That’s why we are seeing an epidemic of diseases including autoimmunity (24 million people), allergy (50 million), and asthma (30 million), as well as cardiovascular disease (60 million), cancer (10 million), and diabetes (14 million). These, it has been recently discovered, are primarily inflammatory conditions.
Now, new research proves that almost all brain problems are connected to or caused by inflammation as well.
In this blog I will review just a few examples of the research that points to the link between inflammation and our epidemic of broken brains and tell you what you can do to reduce the sources of inflammation in your life.
Is Depression Caused by a Virus?
Well, it may be.
Researchers recently discovered a new virus called Bornavirus, which is found in the limbic system (or emotional center) of the brain in 30 percent of the population. One in 6 of the people who carry this virus have depression. This virus inflames the brain. It is this inflammation that leads to depression in some cases.
Interestingly, the problem can be cured by treatment with short-term antiviral medication.
Think about what that means.
A virus can cause inflammation, which leads to depression. Treating the virus can CURE, not just reduce, the symptoms of depression.
Even the best antidepressant drugs don’t cure depression.
And NO amount of psychotherapy will ever cure depression caused by a virus.
This is like the discovery that ulcers are caused by bacteria and not stress. It completely upsets our thinking about mental illness and neurological disease.
And it should!
The cure for your broken brain may not lie in searching through the intricacies of your past, but in healing your body. One of the key ways you do that is by reducing inflammation.
That even holds true for “neurological diseases” as radical as autism—which very well may be an inflammatory condition.
Autism and Inflammation
Dr. Martha Herbert, a Harvard neurologist, has found that the brains of kids with autism appear swollen on MRI scans. Dr. Vargas from Johns Hopkins found inflammation in the spinal fluid and in autopsy studies of kids with autism. Researchers from UC Davis found that more than 70 percent of kids on the autistic spectrum have altered immune function.
And 95 percent of these kids have swollen bellies and gut problems. That’s not a coincidence, since 60 percent of the immune system is in the gut. I’ll tell you more about this later in my blog series.
This suggests that autism may primarily be an inflammatory condition. Reduce the inflammation and you reduce the sources of autism.
I have seen this happen over and over again in my practice. When you treat inflammation and the other keys to an UltraMind, autistic children can literally wake up from their silent worlds.
I’ll say it again: Treat the inflammation in your body and you can heal your brain!
But how do you do that?
You do it by finding and eliminating the sources of inflammation.
The Sources of Inflammation
Everything in the body is connected, but there are only a few things that cause inflammation.
The list is short:
1. Our inflammatory diet, which consists of enormous amounts of sugar (158 pounds per person per year) and refined flours, as well as trans fats and saturated fats
2. Food allergens—mostly delayed reactions to food or hidden allergens that lead to “brain allergies” (allergic reactions in the body that cause inflammation in the brain—more about these in a moment)
3. Imbalances in digestive function and the gut immune system that produce widespread systemic effects
4. Toxins such as mercury and pesticides (and the 85,000 mostly untested toxins in our environment), which have been linked to immune dysfunction and autoimmune diseases
5. Low-grade, hidden, or chronic infections such as HIV-associated dementia, syphilis, and Lyme disease, which can cause many neurologic and psychiatric “diseases”
6. Stress—emotional or physical, such as trauma
7. Sedentary lifestyle
8. Inadequate sleep—less than 7 hours a night
9. Nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin C, B vitamins, vitamin D, zinc, and omega-3 fats
Are you starting to see how all these keys are connected?
If you go to the doctor and you are depressed, but you also have irritable bowel, or eczema, or headaches, or sinus congestion, or joint pain, it doesn’t mean you need to see five different specialists. It means that there are a few underlying systems that are out of balance and cause ALL your problems—and you don’t need to treat each one separately with medication!
Let me share the story of one of my patients who went through the mill of drugs and therapy and was given all sorts of labels. But she only had a few things out of balance that were easy to fix—so she simply followed the UltraMind Solution.
Elizabeth’s Story – A Brain Inflamed
Elizabeth was a 21-year-old woman who came to see me, as many of my patients do, with a whole list of problems—which is why I call myself a “whole-listic” doctor.
At the top of the list were mood problems that had plagued her since childhood. She had been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and even borderline personality disorder because of her wild mood swings.
At work, people avoided her, never knowing what to expect, and she was always fighting with her parents.
She was high-strung, irritable, and also had trouble concentrating. Sugar cravings drove her to the fridge every day after work—pudding, pizza, and junk food were staples—and her late-night snacking was hard to control.
She had been on antidepressants since she was 13. Her weight ballooned up to 170 pounds. Not only was she tired (though she was sleeping 10 hours a night) but also had allergies, post-nasal drip, sinus congestion, and fluid in her ears, and snored.
She had delayed allergies to eggs, wheat, rye, dairy, and yeast, which made her brain inflamed. She also had low levels of omega-3 fats.
I put Elizabeth on an elimination diet, giving her a break from foods that triggered her immune system. I added a few vitamins, including vitamin D and B6 and omega-3 fats.
Two months later she came back. She had lost 23 pounds and her cravings were gone. But it was the mood change she experienced that was truly astounding. Her mood improved for first time in her life. She no longer had wild mood swings or irritability.
Her energy level improved dramatically as well. She only needed 7 hours of sleep to feel fully and vitally awake.
After 5 months she had lost 33 pounds without trying, felt deeply happy for the first time in her life, and was thriving at work and in her family. All her other symptoms—sinus problems, post-nasal drip, and premenstrual syndrome—were gone as well.
Elizabeth’s main problem was an inflamed brain. She had “brain allergies,” which are one of the main sources of brain inflammation.
These brain allergies manifest themselves as brain fog, trouble focusing, irritability, depression, or mood swings after eating.
Most of these brain allergies are due to mild, hidden, delayed food allergies: you eat a piece of bread on Monday and feel depressed on Tuesday, but you never make the connection. As a result, your brain becomes inflamed.
Hidden food allergies are a major unrecognized epidemic in the 21st century. Despite the fact that the immune system and the brain are intimately linked and food has a MAJOR impact on the brain and body, most of us (including physicians) don’t make the connection between what we eat and how we feel. In fact, most physicians practicing today don’t acknowledge the critically important role food allergies play in health.
The result is that we have an undiagnosed epidemic of people whose lives are affected by low-grade, delayed food sensitivities or allergies. What they eat causes allergic reactions that make them feel bad—and no one is making the connections.
You can take some simple measures on your own to heal from brain allergies. You just have to take away the substances that most often cause allergic reactions for a few weeks and let your immune system cool down. Then try them again and see how you feel.
It is a simple, very effective solution for identifying the foods that cause your brain allergies, and it is one of the core components of The UltraMind Solution. You’ll find more in Part III (on page 287) of my book.
Without addressing the core underlying causes of all your body AND mind symptoms, you will never have optimal brain function or mood.
You can never achieve an UltraMind with the current medical roadmap. The UltraMind Solution is a new roadmap that will take you to a place where you feel happy, at peace, alert, and connected to everything important in your life—rather than living in a chronic state of brain fog!
Remember, you can get a free sneak preview of that new roadmap by going here:
In my next blog you will learn how your gut and brain are connected in surprising ways, and that often the first thing to do to fix your brain is to fix your gut!
Now I’d like to hear from you ...
Have you noticed the connections between inflammation and your broken brain?
Which of these sources of inflammation have you identified in your own body?
What steps do you plan to take to ease inflammation?
Please let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.
To your good health,
Mark Hyman, MD
PS – Remember, you can download a free sneak preview of UltraMind right now by going to www.ultramind.com.
And since I know many of you have friends, family members, or coworkers who may also suffer from a broken brain, please pass this message along to them. It may provide them the hope that they’ve been looking for.