Anti-Inflammatory/Anti-Aging Strategies
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From the time of the ancient Greeks, it has been clear that the mind-gut-body connection influences one’s health; however, only during the last century have we begun to understand why this is the case.

With new tools, scientists can show that there is cross-talk between the brain, the gut and the immune system.  Immune molecules from white blood cells send messages to the brain and the gut and in turn, these organs signal back to the immune system, up-regulating (increase) or down-regulating (decrease) inflammation.

 Image stress stomach immune system brain

©2017 Dr. H. C. Greenblatt

Chronic, long-term stress, affects immune cells by changing their gene activity.  This prepares them to fight infection or trauma and increases inflammation. More immune cells are then enlisted for the fight, resulting in increased inflammation.

Inflammation is necessary for survival, but too much inflammation is linked to heart and autoimmune disease, diabetes, depression, and cancer.  This is why it is essential to maintain the right balance of signals.

Stress responses are part of a vicious cycle in which stress triggers inflammation and inflammation triggers additional stress.

In stressed mice, there are four times the numbers of immune cells than found in non-stressed mice.  Additionally in mice that are stressed 1100 genes are responsible for increasing (up-regulating) inflammation.  These genes in non-stressed mice are not activated.

Similar outcomes are seen in humans under chronic stress. For weeks and months following natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes,  individuals, especially those who have suffered great personal loss, have imbalances of the immune system that affects them both physically and emotionally.

The immune system and its inflammatory responses are in exquisite balance (homeostasis).  The body expands much of its energy maintaining its balance in a steady state.  This may be the reason that people who are stressed out tend to be “tired a lot of the time”.

Let us say that your immune system consists of 30 billion cells and that 15 billion of these cells are in the attack mode with excessive inflammation (up-regulation).  Let us propose that another 15 billion cells are trying to limit the inflammatory response (down-regulation).

A total of 30 billion cells expending a “trivial” amount of energy is a great deal of wasted energy. No wonder people become exhausted when they are not in homeostasis, balance.

CONCLUSION:

The key to reducing stress  is to help the immune system return to homeostasis, to its natural balance.

To better manage stress especially during the holidays:  incorporate an immune support supplement into your daily diet, be physically active 2-2.5 hours/week, spend time outdoors, eat smart, stay within healthy weight limits and remember that you are only one person—be kind to yourself; give yourself a break.

Achieving immune homeostasis will make all the difference in the quality of your emotional and physical well-being. 

Contact Dr. Hellen at: DrHellen@DrHellenGreenblatt.info, use the form or give her a call at 302.265.3870 (ET, USA) at no charge to you. 



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During a recent 5-day cancer conference in Washington, D.C. additional evidence was presented about the fact that inflammation produced by fat cells (adipose tissue) contributes to the growth and spread of tumors.

Dr. M.Kolonin of the University of Texas Health Science Center in Texas has been quoted as saying: “Obesity is the leading preventable cause of cancer in the U.S. Extra body fat not only increases one’s risk of developing cancer, it is also associated with poorer prognosis [outcomes]”… “Ten percent to fifteen percent of cancer deaths may be attributed to obesity”.

Exactly how body fat influences cancer development is still under investigation, but the key appears to be the inflammatory responses of the body to cancer cells and vice versa. Macrophages are one of the major classes of white blood cells responsible for starting the inflammatory response when the body is threatened by cancer cells, and  reducing inflammation when the challenge is over.

Typically, the breast tissue of overweight and obese young women is more inflamed, and has more immune cells, such as macrophages compared to women of healthy weight.  Also cancer in obese women is more difficult to treat than in women at healthier weight.

Metabolic syndrome is associated with a group of factors that puts one at greater risk of having heart disease,diabetes and stroke. If a person has three of the following factors, or are on medication for them, it is called having a metabolic syndrome.  These factors are: excess stomach fat, high blood pressure and triglycerides. low levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL), and high blood sugar.

Image Fat cancer inflammation

In one study of 100 women, half of the women with inflammation of their breasts and early-stage breast cancer also had metabolic syndrome. 

Since obesity contributes to growth of tumors, investigators wondered whether weight loss might reverse the tendency to grow tumors.  In mice, tumors grew more slowly in obese mice that had previously lost weight.   

The body tightly regulates its inflammatory responses by balancing the amount of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory immune factors it produces. Fat cells naturally produce inflammatory molecules.  High amounts of body fat encourages growth of cancer cells.`

Note:

Controlling one’s weight at healthy levels, being physically active for 2.5 hours/week, getting outside every day for a few minutes and using a superior immune-balancing supplement will go a long ways toward helping the body stay in immune balance, stay in immune homeostasis,

Dr.Hellen is available to help you enhance your quality of life to its maximum.  She can be contacted by using this form, contacting her at: drhellen@drhellengreenblatt.info or feel free to call her at:  302.265.3870 (ET, USA).

 

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The second leading cause of death for people under the age of 44 years is suicide. Overall, it is the the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, with veterans comprising 22.2% of this statistic.  Women are three times more likely to attempt suicide, but for every woman who takes her own life, four men will die from their attempt.

Although older adults make up only 12% of the population in the States, they account for 18% of all suicides. These fatal events in the elderly are probably under-reported by 40% with “silent suicides”, dehydration, “accidents”, medication over doses, etc. ending in death.  Additionally, double suicides involving spouses or partners occur most frequently in this population. Since the elderly are the fastest growing segment of the population, these later-life deaths are predicted to result in suicide becoming a major public health issue in the too-near future.

Inflammation and Suicide

C-reactive protein (CRP) is associated with high levels of inflammation found in people with inflammatory disorders, burn and trauma victims, in obese individuals, in people with infections or with cardiovascular disease. People with suicidal thoughts (known as suicidal ideation) or attempts, also exhibit high levels of C-reactive protein compared to people without such behaviors.

Inflammatory factors are triggered during stress and are associated with depression.

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When compared to patients being treated for psychiatric disorders who are not suicidal, individuals who have contemplated or attempted suicide have increased levels of inflammatory cytokines, immune cell molecules in their blood and/or brain.

The ratio of inflammatory molecules to anti-inflammatory molecules in the body either promotes inflammation or limits it.  A healthy immune system constantly strives to maintain these factors in a delicate balance, in immune homeostasis. 

Importance of Balancing Immune Factors

Imbalances in immune regulators are harmful and lead to disease. Taking the following steps should make a major difference in helping the body and mind return to homeostasis, to its natural, healthy balance:

  • Engage in physical activity at least 30 minutes a day 5 days/week.
  • Add one or more daily servings of a superior immune support supplement to your diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
  • Spend some time outdoors.

For decades I have helped people enhance their quality of life.  I can be contacted at: DrHellen@DrHellenGreenblatt.info, use this form or give me a call at 302.265.3870 (ET USA) and let us talk. Your first 30 minutes are on me!  You’ve tried everyone and everything else, let me help you feel good again, you deserve it!

 
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An article in a recent trade publication opened with the following: “Charles couldn’t believe the intensity of the pain – and he had been shot during a tour in Iraq with the Marines. “I was lying in my sleeper and my big toe just went on fire. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. I thought I was going to pass out from the pain,” Charles explained. “My big toe was red, swollen and when I touched it, even a little, it hurt like hell”. Charles’ problem is that he suffers from gout.

 Gout is a type of arthritis that seems to run in families and results from the presence of crystals that form in the body. For example, during digestion and metabolism, the body produces uric acid which is eliminated via urine. Any uric acid that the body cannot excrete accumulates in the blood. For reasons not understood, about 30% of people with high levels of uric acid in their blood form needle-like, sharp urate crystals that end up in their joints and/or other parts of the body.

 Herbert Baraf, MD, Chevy Chase, MD, has a great analogy: “Imagine pouring packets of sugar into a glass of tea; can only hold so much in solution. And sooner or later, the sugar is going to start accumulating on the bottom of the glass.

 People with gout may go weeks or months without an attack, but when it flares up it can be excruciating and last for days. Over time, repeated attacks can eat into bone and cartilage, causing permanent damage to affected joints.

Inflammation

The presence of crystals triggers an intense inflammatory response and painful swelling the result of the body’s attempt to break down the crystals. Typically the crystals end up in joint cartilage, and for unknown reasons, especially the big toe.

gouty toe

In others, crystals settle in kidneys or the urinary tract, impairing their function or forming stones. White blood cells migrate into the joint spaces and fluids and the lubricating membranes that line the joints, the synovial membranes trying to eliminate the crystals. The immune cells attracted to the area release biological factors, cytokines and chemokines, into the surrounding area. This attracts more inflammatory cells with a result of redness, swelling and debilitating pain.

Certain immune factors are typically only in small amount in normal uninflamed joint fluids, but in individuals undergoing a gout attack (flare) the levels of the factors are significantly increased.

 Since inflammation is associated with many diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular health, it is not surprising to find that patients with gout are at higher risk of these diseases when compared to the general population.

 Summary:

Gout is caused by an overactive immune system using inflammation unsuccessfully to get rid of the crystals that are causing the discomfort.

Returning the immune system to balance, immune homeostasis, can result in a higher level of quality of life (QOL) for people with gout.

For years I have helped people promote  joint, digestive, energy and overall health.   Feel free to contact me DrHellen@DrHellenGreenblatt.info, use the form, or give me a call at 302.265.3870 (ET) and let us talk. Let me help you help yourself, it is  time!

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As of this writing, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta is strongly recommending that pregnant woman postpone travel to many countries across the world, including the popular Caribbean islands.  The CDC is taking these steps due to the possibility that these women may become are infected with a mosquito borne virus called Zika.  The World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr Margaret Chan, has said that Zika had gone “from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions” and expects the virus to spread through the Americas and affect between three million and four million people.

Eighty percent of individuals who are infected with Zika do not show symptoms.  However, when symptoms do occur, they can last up to a week or so and include fever, rash, pink eye, and joint pain. Some clinicians suggest that Zika virus infection may result in the autoimmune [against oneself] condition,  Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS).  This is rare disorder where too much inflammation damages the nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and may lead to paralysis.

The greatest concern however right now is that health agencies “strongly suspect” that when a pregnant women is bitten by a mosquito that is carring the virus, that even if she does not experience symptoms, that her offspring may develop brain malformations.

This latest outbreak adds to concerns that infectious diseases are one of the top threats challenging our world—a major topic on the agenda of last week’s World Economic Forum world leader attendees.  Until vaccines or treatments are developed, viral infections such as Zika, Ebola, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) remain a threat to the world’s population.

Currently, there are no commercially available vaccines or treatments for Zika.  Until recently the cost to develop a successful vaccine was far greater than what the manufacturers would recoup in vaccine sales.  However, development of a vaccine for Zika will likely now escalate since Zika has spread so widely, infecting over 1.5 million individuals and its being linked to neurological problems, especially in newborns.

In addition to a lack of vaccines and treatments for a multitude of viral diseases, another significant health-care crisis we are facing is treatment of infection by anti-microbial-resistant pathogens. As Dr. Keiji Fukudaof the World Health Organization has stated:  “We really hope to pull the world back from the brink where antibiotics don’t work anymore”.

When bacteria are stressed, for example by a killer antibiotic, their genetic material may change, mutate, so that they can tolerate and become resistant to such compounds.  The bacteria can then replicate easily and outgrow bacterial strains that were not resistant to the antibiotic.

Fifty percent of antibiotic prescriptions written by U.S. physicians are of no benefit to the patient, and when used to fatten livestock and poultry it gives bacteria even more opportunity to acquire antibiotic tolerance.

It is our immune systems that identify, destroy, and remove invading pathogens.   When our body recognizes that it has been invaded by foreign agents, a strong inflammatory responses is triggered to meet the onslaught of the pathogens.  White blood cells accumulate in the area to combat the invaders.  These immune cells release cytokines and other immune messages  recruiting more white blood cells in an attempt to “burn out” the infection. Without a powerful inflammatory response, we cannot limit or survive infections.

In the absence of drugs or treatments that prevent and control the growth of viruses and other microorganism the immune system must be optimized to protect the body against them.

 

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Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a viral disease of the lungs that was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and has now spread to several other countries, including South Korea and the United States. Genetic material isolated from an individual that died of MERS was identical to genetic material found in one of his own camels. The infected camel possibly infected the owner and is responsible for the death of the man.

 People infected with the virus initially report mild symptoms of a cold, chills, body aches, sore throat, fever, difficulty in breathing, and a cough.  Some individuals report gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.  When symptoms become severe, death may follow failure of the lungs and kidneys.

Most of individuals that have succumbed to infection with MERS suffered with other medical conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, chronic lung conditions, heart, or kidney disease.

MERS and SARS

There is limited scientific information on MERS.  However, the MERS virus is in the same family of viruses as SARS, the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome. Infection with this virus results in severe breathing difficulties which too frequently results in death. (Both the traveling businessman and his World Health Organization physician, Dr. Carlo Urbani who identified the infection as a new disease in the business person, died of the virus.)

 Although there are similarities in symptoms, two major differences between MERS and SARS are: a) MERS progresses to lung failure more rapidly than SARS and b) MERS affects older individuals more than it does younger people. [The high numbers of fatalities from MERS may be related to the older age of infected persons and the fact that individuals with other conditions are more susceptible to respiratory failure].

 Since so little is understood about the disease, people with diabetes, lung, kidney, and immune disorders should take precautions if they are exposed to infected individuals.

The Immune System and Infections

The only part of the body that protects us from infection is our immune system. The role of the immune system is to recognize threats from pathogens, stop, and then up regulate inflammatory responses to destroy the pathogens before they can multiply.

 When the immune system is recognizes invasion by pathogens, immune cells are triggered to produce antibodies and other immune factors, such as cytokines. Cytokines are proteins that help recruit immune cells into an area to help fight the battle, and orchestrate the protective immune responses.In SARS, an over-response of the immune system,  a “cytokine storm” occurs that too often results in the deaths of infected persons.  It is likely that infection with MERS triggers the production of high levels of cytokines, resulting in excessive inflammation and death.

Summary:

People with unbalanced immune systems are at higher risk of having severe symptoms when infected with pathogens.  It is essential that the immune system always be in balance, in homeostasis for optimal protection from disease.

The inflammatory response to infection has to be a controlled, limited response. There must be enough of an immune response to defend the body against disease, but not so great an inflammatory response that the body is harmed.


www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers/
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Parkinson’s is a disease of the nervous system that affects mobility, memory, and cognition.  Individuals may eventually experience rigid muscles, tremors of the limbs and head, loss of muscle control, monotonous speech levels, and a slow, shuffling gait.

Individuals tend to develop the disease as they age. Having a close relative with Parkinson’s disease (PD) increases the likelihood of developing Parkinson’s, with men more than 1.5 times more likely to develop the disease than females.

Although the causes of Parkinson’s disease are not clear, a recent study suggests that individuals with a specific gene are at a higher risk of getting Parkinson’s disease if they were exposed to pyrethroids, a class of chemicals found in the majority of household insecticides.  Exposure of individuals to these pesticides may result in brain tissue inflammation.

Inflammation and Autoimmune Responses

In Parkinson’s disease, the body mounts an inflammatory response against its own brain cells, its dopaminergic neurons. (An immune response against oneself is called an autoimmune response.)

These specialized brain cells produce a biochemical called dopamine with many functions including controlling bodily movements, memory, ability to think, mood, and learning.  The body’s long-lasting inflammatory response against its own nervous cells gradually destroys the dopaminergic neurons resulting in abnormal dopamine levels and brain activity, symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Microglial cells are specialized immune cells located in the brain. They are considered the “canary in the mine”.  When microglial cells sense a threat, they become “activated” and release immune factors that may, depending on the types and amounts of these molecules, be beneficial or cause damage to nerve cells.

Activated microglial cells are found in large numbers in the brains of Parkinson’s patients, along with high levels of cytokines, biochemical molecules responsible for inflammation.

The brain and spine of the nervous system are cushioned by cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid helps to provide nutrients to the nervous system and removes waste products from the brain.

Individuals with Parkinson’s disease have high levels of immune inflammatory molecules in their spinal fluid.  The more concentrated the molecules, the more likely the person is to severe fatigue, depression, and cognitive impairment.

Summary

Certain genes that control immune system responses are also strongly linked with the development of Parkinson’s disease.

Increasingly, scientific studies suggest that inflammation and autoimmune responses result in Parkinson’s disease.

Helping the body limit out-of-control inflammation, and achieving a more homeostatic, more balanced immune response, may go a long way towards changing the quality of life in individuals with Parkinson’s.

Feel free to contact Dr. Hellen. There is no fee for speaking with her. Dr. Hellen may be contacted by using this form or at: 302.265.3870 (ET).

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Borrelia burgdorferi, is a bacterial infection that results from an infected tick, originally from mammals or birds, biting and injecting the microorganism into a human host. Individuals treated early in infection are likely to recover completely; however, delaying treatment may result in long recovery times, or result in disease that will last for years, or for life.

Infection Affects Multiple Organ Systems
Lyme disease can affect any organ or multiple systems including, skin, joints, nervous system, muscles, and skin. Early symptoms are a red, expanding rash, erythema migrans, that often appears at the tick bite site, and flu-like symptoms such as body aches, fever, chills, headache, and fatigue.

Left untreated, unfocused severe pain may, irregular heart beat and other heart problems, chronic inflammation of the joints (especially the knees, i.e., Lyme arthritis), liver inflammation (hepatitis) and eye problems. Unremitting fatigue, memory problems, and brain “fog” may also accompany the disease.

Incomplete recovery from Lyme disease may result in significant neurological problems, including Bell’s palsy (paralysis of one side of the face), weakness or numbness of limbs, impaired muscle movement, and meningitis (inflammation of brain membranes).

Twenty to fifty percent of patients with neurological issues may continue to experience difficulties for years.

Immune Responses to Lyme Infection
The extent of recovery from Lyme disease depends on factors such as the numbers of bacteria initially injected and the types of immune responses triggered by the infection.

As with healing from most infections, recovery from Lyme disease is a highly complex process requiring the correct interplay of inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines, immune regulating molecules. Successful recovery requires a homeostatic, a balanced immune attack with enough inflammation to kill the organism without damaging by-stander cells and organs.

For example, the cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) stimulates inflammation but is also, depending on what the body needs, able to decrease inflammatory responses. (IL-6 is also triggers pain receptors and helps nerve cells regenerate.) Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) is another cytokine that helps the body control the amount of inflammation produced in response to infection.

Another cytokine, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) is an inflammatory cytokine that stimulates certain immune cells to find, engulf, and digest invading organisms. Mice susceptible to Lyme disease are unable to manufacture enough of this factor which may account for their susceptibility.

In humans as well, patients that were recovering well had significantly higher levels of tumor necrosis factor-α compared to those with on-going disease. Once again, these responses likely reflect the powerful inflammatory response that helps the body eliminate the disease.

Additionally, recovering infected individuals had higher levels of transforming growth factor than individuals with severe symptoms. These findings suggest that transforming growth factor was successfully limiting the amount of inflammation being produced in response to infection.

Similarly, in mice with Lyme arthritis, animals that did best were those in which high TNF-α cytokine levels helped kill the bacteria, followed by an aggressive IL-6 response that dampened the inflammatory response.

In further support of these findings, patients with rashes (early infection) had high levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine, transforming growth factor, as compared to those who had more severe neurological involvement.

Conclusion:
The body uses inflammatory responses to protect itself from infection and heal itself. Inflammation helps the body destroy organisms, almost as if the body was “burning” the infection out. However, just like a forest fire, if inflammation is not well controlled the person with Lyme disease may suffer symptoms for years or for life. This is why it is essential for the body to produce a balanced, immune inflammatory response to infection.

 

Contact Dr. Hellen at: 302.265.3870 (ET), DrHellen@DrHellenGreenblatt.info, or by using the contact form: http://drhellengreenblatt.info/contact-dr-hellen.


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Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive and treatment-resistant cancer that appears to be driven by pancreatitis, inflammation of the pancreas.   Although most people with pancreatitis never go on to develop pancreatic cancer, drinking alcohol in excess, obesity, and particularly smoking, has long been associated with a greater risk of having pancreatic disease.

The Role of The Pancreas
The pancreas is a digestive organ with two main functions.  It produces digestive enzymes to break food down in our intestines, and it contains clusters of cells, Islets of Langerhans, that help the body regulate its blood sugar levels.

Inflammation as a Contributor to Pancreatic Cancer
Inflammation is a complex immune response.  Pancreatic inflammation, mediated by cytokines, immune messengers, up-regulate (increase) inflammation which may lead to pancreatic cancer. Once inflammation is triggered, more immune cells are attracted to the inflamed pancreas and additional cytokines are released that damage pancreatic tissue and attract other damage-causing immune cells.

One of the roles of the immune system is to recognize and destroy cancer cells.  There is a significant amount of “cross-talk” between cancerous cells and immune cells.  On one hand immune cells track down cancer cells in an attempt to destroy them.  They can “turn-on” (up-regulate) or “turn-off” (down-regulate) cancerous cells.  Signals from cancerous cells can result in marked imbalances of immune cells, or make them function in odd ways.

Role of Cytokines in Pancreatic Cancer.
For example, pancreatic tumor cells are able to dampen some of the immune responses of the immune system leaving pancreatic cancer cells to multiply more easily. Cytokines from immune cells can change the environment around tumor cells and act directly on them, triggering their growth and migration to other parts of the pancreas and body. Some cytokines transform cancer cells into becoming resistant to chemotherapy.

Others may act either to trigger inflammation or stop inflammation depending on circumstances. In one study of pancreatic cancer, the most invasive parts of a tumor were found in the midst of heavily inflammatory centers.

Bacteria May Drive Inflammation and Cancer
Interestingly, the studies of our microbiome, the bacteria that inhabit our digestive tracts and other parts of the body, suggest that the bacteria that inhabit us may trigger inflammation, thereby promoting the growth of cancers.

In summary, limiting inappropriate inflammation and achieving a state of immune balance, homeostasis, may be a significant contributor in reducing the risk of pancreatic disease.

Dr. Greenblatt  looks forward to assisting you in reaching your health goals:   http://drhellengreenblatt.info/contact-dr-hellen or 1.302-265.3870 [USA, ET].

 

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The brain, being the “control center” of the body is cushioned by fluid, and is protected by bone and layers of membranes that support blood vessels that feed the brain.

Concussions
Direct or indirect mechanical impact to the brain may result from sports activities or workplace accidents. These may result in trauma to the brain. Rapid acceleration or deceleration, e.g., motor vehicle accidents or intense changes in pressure, e.g., blast exposures can also lead to brain damage.

The term “concussion” is commonly used to refer to a brain injury resulting from the head being hit with a great deal of force. Shaking the upper body and head violently can also cause brain damage.

Concussions alter the way the brain functions. The effects are usually short-lived, but may include being dazed, headaches, and problems with concentration, memory, balance, and coordination.

Brain injuries may result in loss of consciousness, but since the majority of cases do not end in “blackouts”, concussions often occur without the individual realizing they have had damage. The impact may seem relatively mild, and the individual may appear only to be dazed and with time and rest they may heal properly.

Serious untreated concussions can result in long-term brain damage and may even end in death.
Repetitive head injuries are a major issue especially when an individual sustains additional head injuries before the damage from the prior injury has been completely resolved.

The effects are cumulative. Cumulative sports concussions increase the likelihood of permanent neurologic disability. Complete recovery from an initial trauma can take from 6-18 months, and multiple concussions over time may result in long-term problems, including neurological deterioration, dementia-like symptoms, memory disturbances, behavioral, and personality changes, Parkinsonism, and speech and gait abnormalities.

In a minority of cases, additional trauma to the brain, even occurring from days to weeks following a prior event, can lead to collapse and death within minutes.

How quickly and completely one heals, depends on a number of factors including one’s genetic makeup. (This would be expected since genes determine a cell’s ability to withstand mechanical stress, regenerate, and heal.)

Inflammation and Concussions
For years it was thought that the membranes around the brain acted as a blood-brain barrier which stopped the brain from responding with inflammatory responses when it was confronted by infection. However, it has now been shown that concussions and other brain injuries, or infection or disease, will trigger inflammatory responses.

The types of immune cells found throughout the body are also found in the brain, but additionally, the brain has unique immune cells. When activated, brain-specific microglia and astrocytes, produce inflammatory cytokines that remain localized in the brain.

In response to brain injury, the immune system releases a tidal wave of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, molecules that trigger and/or stop an inflammatory response depending on what is needed.

In small amounts, these cytokines help protect the brain and heal it. However, prolonged exposure to inflammatory cytokines, or too high a level of these proteins, will result in damage that accumulates after injury. High levels of inflammatory cytokines are localized at the injury site, and may be found on the opposite side of the head from the side that was hit.

There is increasing evidence suggesting that much of the neurological damage that occurs after the brain is injured is the result of a delayed inflammatory response that lasts hours, days, or even for months after the injury. This chronic inflammatory response may cause more damage to the brain tissue than the mechanical impact itself.

Immune Homeostasis, Immune Balance is the Key
Unfortunately, pharmaceutical treatments known to reduce inflammation appear to interfere with the brain’s natural repair mechanisms. Therefore it is necessary for the body to control its inflammatory responses. It has to produce enough of a response to help brain tissue heal, but not an overly exaggerated inflammatory response which may cause more damage after injury.

In order for the brain to heal after trauma, the immune system must generate the proper balance, and types, of pro-inflammatory and inflammatory cytokines. For those with brain injuries, maintaining immune homeostasis, immune balance, may be the best way to minimize damage.

 

Dr. Hellen is available at 302.265.3870 for discussion on the role of inflammation and immune homeostasis in our health.  She may be contacted at: drhellen@drhellengreenblatt.info, or use the contact form.  Thank you.

emedicine.medscape.com/article/92189-overview#a0107
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2945234/
emedicine.medscape.com/article/92189-overview
www.headcasecompany.com/concussion_info/stats_on_concussions_sports
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3520152/

 

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