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How to Recognize and Treat Neuroinflammation

How to Recognize and Treat Neuroinflammation
Picture of Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

Not every mental health issue is related to genetics… brain inflammation is the most common source of mental health and behavioral issues that I see in my Ridgefield, CT clinic. 

Most parents are surprised to learn that neuroinflammation affects the mental and physical health of many children and teens. If your child is experiencing brain inflammation or you’ve noticed changes in their mental health, try to understand what's happening and explore potential treatments. In my program, I guide parents through the steps of understanding and treating root causes of mental health and behavioral issues. 

Neuroinflammation contributes to the sudden onset of psychiatric symptoms observed in PANS/PANDAS but it also can contribute to conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, OCD and so on. 

Understanding the role of neuroinflammation in PANS/PANDAS and other clinical issues is crucial for developing effective treatments.  Adding in approaches that focus on reducing inflammation in the brain, such as diet, brain tools, stress reduction or using anti-inflammatory medications or treatments that modulate the immune response are frequently used by my center clients. 

What is Neuroinflammation?

Neuroinflammation is the inflammation of the brain or spinal cord. It's a response by the body's immune system to various triggers such as infection, toxins, or trauma. When this happens, inflammatory cells like microglia and astrocytes activate to protect the brain, but chronic cellular inflammation can lead to further complications. 

Recognizing the symptoms of neuroinflammation in your child can be challenging. Look out for:

  • Cognitive changes such as memory issues or difficulty concentrating.
  • Emotional instability, including anxiety, depression, or irritability.
  • Physical symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and changes in motor skills.
  • Behavioral changes, including withdrawal from activities they once enjoyed.

How to Recognize and Treat Neuroinflammation

What Causes Brain Inflammation?

Neuroinflammation can significantly impact your child’s mental health. The inflammatory cells release chemicals that can alter brain function, leading to symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even cognitive decline. This neurological inflammation can affect neurotransmitter production, vital for mood regulation and cognitive function.

Microglia are special cells in the brain that act like the immune system's soldiers. Their job is to keep the brain safe and healthy by fighting off harmful invaders like viruses and bacteria. However, in some brain conditions like Parkinson's, these microglia can become too active and start causing trouble. 

When they get too active, they release substances that cause neuroinflammation, which can end up harming the brain cells instead of protecting them, worsening the condition. Understanding what causes brain inflammation is crucial for managing and preventing it. Some common causes include:

  • Infections like meningitis or encephalitis
  • Autoimmune diseases, mainly when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy brain tissue
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Trauma
  • Exposure to toxins or environmental pollutants
  • Chronic stress can lead to prolonged inflammatory responses
  • Poor gut health 
  • Poor diet

Chronic inflammation in the brain can disrupt neural pathways, affecting:

  • Emotional regulation: Your child may experience heightened emotional responses or mood swings.
  • Cognitive abilities: There can be a decline in memory, focus, and problem-solving skills.
  • Behavioral changes: Increased aggression or social withdrawal are also common.

Treatments for Neuroinflammation

When treating neuroinflammation, a multifaceted approach is often necessary to effectively reduce inflammation in the brain and alleviate associated symptoms. 

One study by Shao et al. (2022) highlights the factors that can trigger neuroinflammation, such as oxidative stress, protein misfolding, and immune dysregulation. It also examines potential therapeutic strategies to target neuroinflammation and mitigate its harmful effects on brain health. Below are several methods to consider:

Strategies to Counter Neuroinflammation

Medical Interventions

  • Immunotherapy: This involves modifying the immune system’s response to decrease inflammation in the brain
  • Antibiotics or antiviral medications: These can be effective if the inflammation is due to an infection

Lifestyle and Dietary Changes

  • Anti-inflammatory diet: Incorporate foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins
  • Regular exercise: Physical activity can help reduce systemic inflammation
  • Stress management: Techniques like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can reduce inflammation

Natural and Holistic Approaches

 

  • Supplements: Magnesium, Omega-3 fatty acids, and resveratrol have anti-inflammatory properties
  • Herbal remedies: Herbs like turmeric and ginger can help reduce inflammation
  • Acupuncture: This traditional Chinese medicine practice can alleviate symptoms by reducing inflammatory responses
  • Neurofeedback and PEMF: Brain tools can regulate the nervous system and counter a sympathetic dominant, stressed response. 

Preventing Neuroinflammation

Prevention is always better than cure. Regular check-ups with healthcare providers can help monitor inflammatory markers and overall brain health. It’s also crucial to provide emotional support and understanding to your child as they navigate these challenges. Here are some steps to prevent neuroinflammatory diseases:

  • Healthy lifestyle: Encourage a balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep.
  • Reduce exposure to toxins: Limit your child’s exposure to pollutants and chemicals.
  • Strengthen the immune system: Ensure they get sufficient vitamins and minerals to support their immune health.

Understanding and managing neuroinflammation is vital for the well-being of your child. By recognizing neuroinflammation symptoms, seeking appropriate treatment, and implementing preventive measures, you can help your child maintain a healthy brain and improve their quality of life.

If you’re ready to get a clear parent's path to understanding and managing children's dysregulated behaviors and emotions, download the Self-Regulation Mastery Blueprint and join our community.

What causes brain inflammation? 

Brain inflammation can be caused by a variety of factors, including infections (such as meningitis or encephalitis), autoimmune diseases (where the immune system attacks healthy brain tissue), traumatic brain injuries, exposure to toxins or environmental pollutants, and chronic stress, which can lead to prolonged inflammatory responses. Understanding these causes is crucial for effectively managing and preventing brain inflammation.

How does neuroinflammation affect mental health?

Neuroinflammation can alter brain function by disrupting neurotransmitter production, vital for mood regulation and cognitive processes. This can lead to symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline, impacting emotional stability and mental abilities.

Can brain inflammation be cured?

The potential to cure brain inflammation depends on its underlying cause. In some cases, such as infections, appropriate treatment with antibiotics or antiviral medications can effectively resolve the inflammation. While a complete cure may not be possible for chronic or autoimmune conditions, various anti-inflammatory medications, lifestyle changes, and holistic therapies can manage symptoms and reduce inflammation, significantly improving quality of life.

What are common treatments for neuroinflammation?

Common treatments for neuroinflammation include anti-inflammatory medications, immunotherapy, dietary changes, supplements with anti-inflammatory properties, and lifestyle adjustments like regular exercise and stress management techniques. These approaches aim to reduce inflammation and improve overall brain health.

What is the medical term for inflammation of the cerebellum?

The medical term for inflammation of the cerebellum is cerebellitis. This condition can affect balance, coordination, and motor control, leading to dizziness, difficulty walking, and tremors.

How can you reduce brain inflammation?

Reducing brain inflammation can involve anti-inflammatory medications, dietary changes (anti-inflammatory foods), regular exercise, stress management techniques, and supplements known for their anti-inflammatory properties.

What is the difference between neuroinflammation and brain inflammation?

Neuroinflammation is inflammation within the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). In contrast, brain inflammation is a broader term that can include inflammation in various parts of the brain.

What are neuroinflammatory diseases?

Neuroinflammatory diseases are conditions characterized by chronic central nervous system inflammation, such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease, which involve prolonged immune system activation.

How can parents support a child with neuroinflammation?

Parents can support a child with neuroinflammation by ensuring they receive appropriate medical treatment, implementing lifestyle and dietary changes to reduce inflammation, providing emotional support, and seeking professional guidance from healthcare providers specializing in neurological inflammation.

Citations

Shao, F., Wang, X., Wu, H., Wu, Q., & Zhang, J. (2022). Microglia and Neuroinflammation: Crucial Pathological Mechanisms in Traumatic Brain Injury-Induced Neurodegeneration. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 14. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2022.825086

Dr. Roseann is a mental health expert in PANS and PANDAS who frequently is in the media:

 

Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.

Are you looking for SOLUTIONS for your struggling child or teen? 

Dr. Roseann and her team are all about science-backed solutions, so you are in the right place! 

Empower Your Child and Help Them Achieve A Calm Brain Without Relying on Medication. Download the NATURAL PANS/PANDAS CALM BRAIN KIT

Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Licensed Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of media outlets including The Mel Robbins Show, CBS, NBC, PIX11 NYC, Today, FORBES, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Business Insider, Women’s Day, Healthline, CNET, Parade Magazine and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.

Dr. Roseann - Brain Behavior Reset Parent Toolkit

She coined the terms, “Re-entry panic syndrome” and “eco-anxiety” and is a frequent contributor to media on mental health. 

Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge has three decades of experience in working with children, teens and their families with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, concussion, dyslexia and learning disability, anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), depression and mood disorder, Lyme Disease, and PANS/PANDAS using science-backed natural mental health solutions such as supplements, magnesium, nutrition, QEEG Brain maps, neurofeedback, PEMF, psychotherapy and other non-medication approaches. 

She is the author of three bestselling books, It’s Gonna Be OK!: Proven Ways to Improve Your Child's Mental Health, The Teletherapy Toolkit, and Brain Under Attack. Dr. Roseann is known for offering a message of hope through science-endorsed methods that promote a calm brain. 

Her trademarked BrainBehaviorResetⓇ Program and It’s Gonna be OK!Ⓡ Podcast has been a cornerstone for thousands of parents facing mental health, behavioral or neurodevelopmental challenges.

She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health, Neurotastic™Brain Formulas and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Mental Health Professional (CIMHP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach.  She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF).

© Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2024

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