The blood-brain barrier is composed of brain capillary endothelial cells that are linked together by what’s called “tight junctions,” (occludin and zonulin) similar to the tight junctions lining your intestines. The tight junctions in the blood-brain barrier are semi-permeable, meaning they allow helpful substances through, such as amino acids and nutrients while blocking dangerous substances. It is a delicate balancing act, but one a healthy blood-brain barrier handles well.
What is the effect on your brain?
But when the blood-brain barrier is compromised, all manner of dangerous substances freely make their way through the barrier and right into the brain. Once there, they activate the microglia cells causing inflammation, which leads to many mental and physical problems. Why is inflammation such a big deal?
Well, inflammation usually isn’t a big deal. Acute inflammation is the body’s first response to a foreign invader, such as a pathogen or injury. It occurs to trap the invaders so they can be removed from the body and so healing can take place. After the healing has been sufficiently accomplished, the inflammation recedes.
By contrast, chronic inflammation does not go away. Either the immune response is repeatedly triggered, or it cannot get rid of the foreign invader. In either case, the continual inflammation damages tissue, causing more inflammation and more of an immune response. This leads to health problems, the nature of which depends upon the tissues affected.
What does any of this have to do with the brain? Well, because the brain is the control center of the body, neither acute nor chronic inflammation should ever occur in the brain. The blood-brain barrier is supposed to protect it from any dangerous substances.
But when it becomes leaky, allowing these dangerous substances to enter, chronic neurological inflammation is the result. This causes a variety of disturbing and even dangerous mental and physical health problems.
What is a leaky brain’s effect on mood?
Mood disorders are a huge mental health issue today. Two of the most common mental illnesses in the United States are anxiety and depression. Let’s look at some statistics from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America:
- 40 million U.S. adults suffer from one or more anxiety disorders every year. That is 18.1% of the U.S. population.
- More than 16 million adults suffer from a major depressive disorder (MDD) in a given year. That’s 6.7% of the adult population.
- MDD is the leading cause of disability for those aged 15 to 44.3 in the U.S.
- Almost half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
Depression and anxiety can be two of the most crippling mental illnesses, yet there has never been a treatment that offers a 100% cure or relief to everyone who suffers from them.
Interestingly, this brain syndrome effect on mood disorders via neurological inflammation is pretty well established.