Human Brain & Mind

Mechanisms of Brain Disturbances

The brain's main function is to track desirable molecules in the environment and cause them to flow through the body. Since the brain is the organ of the mind, molecular influences on the brain are manifested as mental influences. We can assume that if a person's brain gets the right signals from inhaled and ingested chemicals, then he or she will remain on a stable, adaptive course. If, on the other hand, the wrong signals are received from the ingested chemicals, then he or she follows a wobbly course, unstable and maladaptive. Mind-brain-body is one, interacting, whole-system. Disturbances in mental states have physical causes - cellular, biochemical dysfunctions. Food, as body-input, is the molecular substrate of body-mind, the foundation level, which permits or denies healthy function at higher levels of integration.

Without a healthy body-input, mental health is an impossible goal. People tend be unrealistic about what substances they can safely ingest, inhale and inject into their bodies. Alcohol and other chemicals easily and profoundly affect their mind. They believe that they are tougher than they really are.

The brain is fed by blood vessels bringing materials from the digestive tract. They form a stream of molecular information that links the environment to the conscious experience of mind. This molecular stream contains a variety of substances which feed and titillate brain circuits in a variety of ways. You could argue that impaired blood flow is the most common cause of brain function in older people, and the wrong stuff in normal blood flow is the most common cause of brain impairment in younger people. There are filters in the path from digestive tract to brain, but the frequency of food related dysfunction suggests that some of the "wrong stuff" can get through. It all depends on what goes into the mouth. The last filter before the tender circuits of our mind are influenced is the blood brain barrier (BBB). If the permeability of the BBB is increased, brain dysfunction can be expected. The BBB is a property of capillary endothelial cells that are connected by tight junctions that force molecular traffic to pass through cells rather than around them. The BBB allows the passage of nutrients, but, in the best case, excludes potentially harmful substances. Brain capillaries are closely associated with astrocytes that act as “nurse cells” to neurons. BBB mechanisms include physical and metabolic barriers. The close association of capillaries, astrocytes and neurons is now described as a neurovascular unit. The BBB's tight junctions can open briefly under normal conditions to allow the passage of growth factors and antibodies into the brain. Inflammation in the brain causes and is caused by major increases in BBB permeability. [i] Immune activity outside the brain can affect the BBB.

[i] Abbot, N.J. et al Astrocyte–endothelial interactions at the blood–brain barrier. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 7, 41-53 (January 2006)
[ii] Stamatovic S. M. et al. Monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 regulation of blood-brain barrier permeability. Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism 25, 593-606; 2005

One of the common causes of misunderstanding human behavior is ignorance of food and environmental chemicals that affect brain function. The bad chemicals come from many directions in the food, air, water, from a street vendor, from a pharmacy, from a pub, from a cafe, from a health food store, from a friend, from an enemy, from an unknown donor who lives thousands of miles away. Workplace exposures to neurotoxic chemicals are perhaps the most obvious neurotoxic events and are somewhat regulated by government agencies in the US and Canada.

Bad chemicals can disturb brain function in entire populations. Bad chemicals are more powerful than good intentions and good ideas unless the good idea is to remove the bad chemicals from the environment. Behavioral adaptation to environment is intermeshed with molecular adaptation. This means that mind and body interact with environment as a single integrated unit. Molecular events are more likely to determine mindbodybrain events than mental or behavioral events are likely to determine molecular events.

The food supply is critically important to brain function. There are many ideas which link food ingestion and the environment to brain dysfunction and disease. Food is the most intimate part of the environ­ment because we ingest it. Food causes dysfunction and disease in many ways. Every cell in the body needs nutrients delivered every day and food is the origin of these nutrients. Wrong materials are also distributed to every cell in the body. We can expect a bewildering array of adverse effects from any modern food supply. Since there are multiple effects following ingestion of food, no explanation of food-related problems based on one mechanism alone will ever account for the multiplicity of effects reported and observed. Our best theories assume complex interactions; simultaneous immunological, physiological, and biochemical mechanisms. We can ask some simple questions to inspire further inquiry, such as: Are mental and neurological diseases food related?

Are the victims deficient in critical nutrients, or poisoned by excesses of nutrients? Are some dementias caused by the toxicity of food additives, pesticides and/or food contaminants? Do these diseases combine food toxicity and food allergy and emerge slowly in complex combinations? Do the most afflicted people drink more alcoholic beverages, tea, and coffee; eat more fast foods, cheese, bread, or meat? Where do they live? What environmental toxins are common in their food, water and air?

These and related questions about diet and disease have seldom been answered in terms of meaningful research; however, there are a thousand clues in the research literature which point to diverse problems and many potential solutions. My experience with food-related psychopathology suggests that modern diets are probably responsible for cerebrovascular disease, most strokes, all diabetic neuropathies, some learning and behavioral problems in children, some mental illness, some depressions, some dementias and some neurological disease of unknown origin. The mechanisms are of these disorders are multiple and complex.

Patients with delayed pattern food allergy (as I define it) often present with neurological symptoms, especially memory loss, lack of concentration, emotional instability, motor and perceptual problems. Many of these people functioned in an adaptive dysfunctional state for many years. Some may hold responsible jobs. Their slowly increasing cognitive disability was concealed or overlooked by family, friends, co-workers, and by the patients themselves.

Here is a short check list for identifying food-related problems:

  1. Nutrient Deficiencies Nutrient Excesses
  2. Nutrient Disproportion Toxic Effects
  3. Metabolic Diseases Food Allergy
  4. Proteins, Peptides Food Additives
  5. Colon Metabolites Food Contaminants

An overview of brain dysfunction


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