Why the Blood-Brain Barrier Is So Critical (and How to Maintain It)

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You all know about intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut.” The job of the gut lining is to be selectively permeable, allowing helpful things passage into the body and preventing harmful things from getting in. Nutrients get through, toxins and pathogens do not. Leaky gut describes the failure of this vetting process. But what about “leaky brain”?

A similarly dynamic barrier lies between the brain and the rest of the body: the blood-brain barrier. Since the brain is the seat of all the conscious machinations and subconscious processes that comprise human existence, anything attempting entry receives severe scrutiny. We want to admit glucose, amino acids, fat-soluble nutrients, and ketones. We want to reject toxins, pathogens, and errant immune cells. Think of the blood-brain barrier like the cordon of guards keeping the drunken rabble from spilling over into the VIP room in a nightclub.

The blood-brain barrier (or BBB) can get leaky, just like the gut lining. This is bad.

A compromised BBB has been implicated in many neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and vascular dementia.

More generally, the BBB regulates passage of inflammatory cytokines into the brain, prevents fluctuations in serum composition from affecting brain levels, and protects against environmental toxins and infectious pathogens from reaching the brain. A leaky BBB means the floodgates are open for all manner of unpleasantries to enter the brain.

Some pathogens even wield chemical weaponry that blasts open the blood-brain barrier, giving them—and anything else in the vicinity—access to the brain. To prepare for that, you must support the integrity of your blood-brain barrier.


Optimize your B vitamin intake

In adults with normal B vitamin levels, mild cognitive impairment, high homocysteine levels, and a leaky BBB, taking vitamins B12, B6, and B9 (folate) restored the integrity of the blood-brain barrier.

Review this post and make sure you’re getting the B vitamins you need. Primal folks tend to overlook them.

Nourish your gut

A leaky gut accompanies, and maybe causes, a leaky brain. Funny how that works, eh?

It’s a rodent study, but it’s quite illustrative: a fecal transplant from healthy mice with pristine BBB integrity to unhealthy mice with leaky BBB and pathogen-filled guts restored the integrity of the blood-brain barrier.

DIY fecal transplants are an extreme intervention. Until that becomes more feasible, simply eating more prebiotic fiber, experimenting with resistant starch, taking a quality probiotic, and eating fermented foods on a regular basis will get you most of the way there.

Eat plenty of magnesium

Okay, Sisson. Enough already with the magnesium. We get it! But magnesium can attenuate BBB permeability, even if you inject an agent explicitly designed to induce leaky blood-brain barriers.

This is yet another reason to eat enough magnesium-rich foods (like spinach, almonds, blackstrap molasses, winter squash), drink magnesium-rich mineral water (I love Gerolsteiner, but you can also just go down to the local Euro food market and check the labels for high-Mg waters), or take a good magnesium supplement (anything ending in “-ate” like magnesium glycinate or citrate).

Don’t eat a 40% cocoa butter diet

Rodents given a 40% saturated fat (from cocoa butter) diet experienced elevated BBB permeability.

Except wait: The remaining 60% of calories was split up between white sugar, wheat starch, casein, and dextrin (PDF). So this isn’t the type of 40% SFA diet you folks are eating.

Except wait again: Adding in either aged garlic extract, alpha lipoic acid (ALA), niacin, or nicotinamide completely abolished the increase in permeability.

It looks like a refined diet high in saturated fat and sugar/starch and absent any phytonutrient-rich plant foods like garlic or antioxidant supplements like ALA will cause elevated BBB permeability (in rodents). I’m not sure I’d recommend a 40% SFA diet either way, however. Balance is probably better.

Use phytonutrient-rich plants and spices

Recall the study from the last section where some garlic extract was enough to eliminate the bad BBB effects of a refined lab diet. That’s because aged garlic extract is particularly rich in phytonutrients with strong antioxidant effects. What about other fruits, vegetables, and spices with different phytonutrients—do those also help BBB function?

Curcumin (from turmeric) certainly helps. Astragalus root, used in many ancient medical traditions, can help. Sulforaphane, from cruciferous veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage, shows promise.

Drink coffee and/or tea

As phytonutrient-rich plants, they technically belong in the previous section, but coffee and tea are so special that they deserve their own space. Both are sources of caffeine, a noted protector of BBB integrity.

Supplements can help

Supplement forms of the aforementioned nutrients are worth a look. Also:

Alpha-GPC (a type of choline that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier) has been shown to reduce BBB permeability in hypertensive rats.

Inositol (which you can get from foods like egg yolks but not in very large amounts) improves BBB integrity. Another option is to consume phytate-containing foods; if you’ve got the right gut bacteria, you can convert phytate into inositol.

Berberine, noted anti-diabetic compound, reduces BBB permeability and increases resistance to brain damage following head trauma.

Control your blood pressure

Both acute and chronic hypertension increase BBB permeability. This means you’ll have to control your sleep and stress. You’ll need to reduce insulin resistance. Eat dark chocolate (the horror). Figure out if you’re salt-sensitive (you may even have to increase salt intake if it’s too low). Get enough magnesium (yes, again) and potassium.


Sleep really is everything. You can’t avoid it, and if you skimp on it, things fall apart. The blood-brain barrier is no exception: sleep restriction impairs BBB function and increases permeability.

If you can’t stick to the bedtime you know is ideal, a little (0.25-0.5mg) melatonin can help set your circadian rhythm. Plus, supplementary melatonin may also preserve BBB integrity.

Don’t drink too much alcohol

Alcohol is a tough one. While I just wrote a big post explaining the merits of wine consumption, ethanol is undoubtedly a poison in high doses, and I derived real benefits when I gave it up for a few months. One way alcohol exerts its negative effects is by inducing BBB dysfunction. This allows both the pleasant effects of alcohol (low-dose ethanol migrating across the BBB and directly interacting with neurons, triggering endorphins and interacting with GABA receptors) and the negative effects (high-dose ethanol migrating across the BBB to damage the neurons, leaving the door open long enough for immune cells to sneak in and cause all sorts of trouble).

Stimulate your vagal nerve

After a traumatic brain injury or stroke, the resultant increase in BBB permeability floods the brain with inflammatory cytokines, causes swelling and neuronal death, and worsens the prognosis. Stimulating the vagal nerve after such an injury decreases the BBB permeabilityand improves the prognosis.

One treatment for epilepsy is to wear vagal nerve stimulators which send light electronic pulses to the nerve, akin to a pacemaker for the brain. Easier options include humming, cold water exposure (even just splashing the face can help), singing, chanting, meditating, deep breathing, coughing, moving your bowels (or summoning the same abdominal pressure required for said movement; girding your core for a heavy squat or deadlift should also work along the same lines), and many more.

Perhaps an entire post on the vagal nerve is in order. It’s an interesting area that impacts more than just the BBB.

Stop eating so often

Ghrelin is the hunger hormone. When you haven’t eaten in a while, ghrelin tells you that it’s time to eat. It also increases blood-brain barrier stability after (again) a traumatic brain injury.

So, never eat? No. But make sure to feel actual hunger. It’s the best spice, and it confers a whole host of other benefits, including better blood-brain barrier function. Heck, try intermittent fasting for the ultimate boost to ghrelin.

You might notice that a lot of the studies I cite involve traumatic brain injuries to rodents. Dropping a weight on a rat’s head or triggering a stroke in a mouse are two of the most reliable ways to induce BBB permeability. Brain injuries are also quite common in humans, and the BBB permeability that results is a major therapeutic target, but we can’t study it so easily in people. While acute and chronic BBB permeability are different beasts, and mice are not men, they operate along the same rough pathway.

That’s about it for today, folks. I hope you feel encouraged and able to fortify your blood-brain barrier. Don’t wait for cognitive decline to set in. Get started now.

How do you improve the integrity of your blood-brain barrier? Have you even considered it prior to today?

Thanks for reading!

Written By: By Mark Sisson  Article Source: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-the-blood-brain-barrier-is-so-critical-and-how-to-maintain-it/

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The real truth: antidepressants actually deplete these 3 crucial nutrients for the brain

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I experienced this firsthand.

When I took antidepressants, I felt better initially.

But then something just didn’t feel right.

I started suffering from cognitive decline, something I hadn’t experienced before.

I eventually got fed up with the medication and tried getting off them.

 But then I felt remarkably worse – much worse than I did before starting the medication.


Doctors simply told me I was experiencing a relapse of my depression and anxiety.

But that couldn’t be it, because not only were my symptoms much worse, but I also had new symptoms – symptoms I didn’t experience before I went on medication.

So, I did some research and discovered something called “drug-induced nutrient depletion”.

Studies show that pharmaceutical drugs can deplete your body of critical nutrients through multiple mechanisms, including increased excretion of nutrients, and impaired digestion, absorption and storage of nutrients. Over time, nutritional deficiencies can develop. And these deficiencies can cause additional symptoms and increase side effects. In fact, many drug “side effects” are simply nutritional deficiencies.

This is clearly a problem because nutrient deficiencies can be one of the main causes of mental illness. Being prescribed medication that further deplete nutrients from your body will make you worse. It’s an epidemic that seems to be ignored by the conventional medical system.

You may even develop new symptoms or side effects months or years after starting a medication because it takes time for nutrients to be depleted from your body. So both you and your doctor may not make the connection between the original medication and new symptoms.

These additional symptoms and “side effects” are often diagnosed as a new disease, leading to a new prescription, which further depletes nutrients.

So it’s clearly a downward spiral where you could end up being on multiple medications.

At my worst, I was on four psychiatric medications. Thankfully I’m off them all now and very healthy.

This article discusses the three key nutrients that are commonly depleted by psychiatric medication.

Your drug package insert won’t list these deficiencies, and your doctor is likely not aware of them.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

Coenzyme Q10 is a molecule found in every cell of your body and plays a key role in the production of energy.

It’s also an antioxidant and protects your body and brain from free radical damage.

Higher levels of CoQ10 have a “significant antidepressant effect” in rats because of its “well-documented antioxidant effect”. This makes sense considering the increasing amount of scientific literature suggesting that oxidative stress contributes to depression.

Unfortunately, studies show that a number of psychiatric medications, including antidepressants and antipsychotics, deplete CoQ10.

Low levels of CoQ10 can cause brain fog, mental fatigue, difficulty concentrating, memory lapses, depression and irritability.

Other deficiency symptoms can include increased blood pressure, muscle cramps, high blood sugar, and shortness of breath.


Magnesium is a vital mineral that participates in more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body. This includes neurotransmitter, enzyme, and hormonal activity, all of which can have a huge effect on your mood and brain function.

It’s one of the most important nutrients for optimal brain health, and reduces anxiety, depression and irritability. Yet, many people are deficient in magnesium today and may experience the following symptoms because of it:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness, cramps, tremors, and spasms
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Insomnia
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Osteoporosis
  • Nausea

Interestingly, these symptoms sound very similar to the list of side effects of some psychiatric medications.

In fact, research has shown that many antidepressants and stimulants do deplete magnesium from your body, increasing the likeliness of developing a deficiency.

Inadequate magnesium levels can then contribute and worsen many neuropsychiatric problems. This includes depression, anxiety, insomnia, seizures, ADHD, pain, schizophrenia, irritability, premenstrual syndrome, drug abuse, and short-term memory and IQ loss. Case studies have shown that patients with schizophrenia or major depression who have attempted suicide had significantly lower levels of magnesium in their cerebrospinal fluid.

So if you have mental health condition, or take medication to deal with it, you should consider supplementing with magnesium.

Also, you should make sure to eat lots of food with magnesium, including avocados, almonds, pumpkin seeds, swiss chard, spinach, dark chocolate, halibut and beets.

B Vitamins

A number of B vitamins are also depleted by psychiatric medication, including B2, B6, B12 and folate.

Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, plays a key role in energy metabolism throughout your entire body.

As a result, a deficiency can affect the entire body, leading to low energy, weight gain, and skin and thyroid problems.

Antipsychotics, antidepressants, anticonvulsants and mood stabilizers can inhibit the absorption of vitamin B2, increasing your need for supplementation.

Lower levels of vitamin B2 have been found in people with depression, so giving them psychiatric medications can actually make them feel worse in the long run.

Healthy food sources of riboflavin include pastured eggs, leafy vegetables, beef liver, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, and almonds.

Vitamin B6 is another key nutrient that boosts mood, deepens sleep, and supports your entire nervous system.

It accomplishes this by playing a key role in the production of many neurotransmitters in your brain, including serotonin, GABA and dopamine.

But since psychiatric medications alter these neurotransmitters, vitamin B6 levels can be affected as well.

When I took antidepressants, multiple functional and integrative doctors suggested I supplement with vitamin B6.

This is because antidepressants and benzodiazepines have been shown to deplete B6.

Symptoms of deficiency include weakness, mental confusion, depression, insomnia and severe PMS symptoms.

Some of the best food sources of B6 include potatoes, bananas and chicken.

Lastly, vitamin B12 and folate are essential B vitamins that play a key role in methylation, one of the most important processes in your body and brain for optimal energy and nervous system function.

If you are depressed, you likely have lower levels of B12 and folate circulating in your blood, and people with low blood folate and B12 are at greater risk for developing depression.

Yet, instead of looking at folate and B12 levels in the blood, doctors often prescribe antidepressants, benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants and mood stabilizers that have been shown to deplete folate and B12.

B12 and folate deficiency can lead to an inability to methylate properly and increased homocysteine levels. This can worsen your depression, irritability, fatigue, confusion and forgetfulness.

Good dietary sources of natural folate include leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries. B12 is found primarily in animal foods, and beef liver is a good source.


The bottom line is that the medication that you take to manage your mental health can actually reduce nutrient absorption and rob your body and brain of essential vitamins and minerals. This can lead to unwanted side effects and declining health.

On top of this, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are actually a huge underlying cause of mental health issues to begin with.

Luckily, you can avoid side effects, and even control and overcome chronic mental disease without medication, by restoring these missing nutrients.

Unfortunately, in my case, I was given a prescription that made my underlying deficiencies worse, and dug me into a deeper mental health hole.

If you’re required to take a prescribed drug, you can offset many of the side effects and experience much better health by supplementing with the above nutrients.

So why isn’t this information passed on to patients who are taking psychiatric drugs? Because unfortunately, almost all doctors are unaware that medications can deplete nutritional reserves.

So, for now, you’ll just have to be aware of drug-nutrient depletions yourself.


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Article Source: http://www.healthy-holistic-living.com/antidepressants-side-effects.html

This fantastic article was written by Jordan Fallis, a brain health journalist and biohacker. We encourage you to ckeck out his website here

“The Greatest Health of Your Life”℠

Boston Testosterone Partners
National Testosterone Restoration for Men
Wellness & Preventative Medicine