The Hungry Brain

By John Upledger, DO, OMM
May 29, 2009

The Hungry Brain

By John Upledger, DO, OMM
May 29, 2009

Many serious diseases result from chronic inflammatory processes. Reversing these inflammations can help you avoid cancers, brain diseases, heart problems, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases and a whole host of chronic pains. Craniosacral therapy, which increases the healthy circulation of fluids, is a powerful method of ridding the body of these painful and silent inflammations. It's also vitally important that you pay attention to what you eat.

Obesity is closely related to inflammation. Either one of these two factors can be the cause or effect of the other. That's why reducing excess body fat can reduce and even eliminate inflammatory processes. This can greatly improve the comfort zone in which you enjoy the rest of your life.

One of the major reasons Americans are getting more obese is because our brains are hungry. The average brain weighs about 3 percent or less of total body weight. On the flip side, the average brain uses about 70 percent of the blood's glucose for energy. When the blood glucose level drops, the brain loses some of its energy. That's when your hypoglycemic (low-sugared) brain immediately wants more glucose. So you become seriously hungry. You may even feel irritated, angry and irrational. This often leads to the desire to grab some sweets. Your sugar intake then raises the blood sugar, which in turn increases the delivery of glucose to your brain. This makes you feel better, even joyful, which is wonderful. But it also raises the level of blood sugar in your body, which signals the pancreas to secrete excessive amounts of insulin to quickly reduce it.

As the insulin reduces the blood glucose, the brain's glucose delivery is also reduced. Now the brain cries out for more glucose. In response, you take in more sweets. Then, blood glucose goes up again and increased insulin rapidly reduces the blood glucose. The brain then "orders" you to take in more glucose in an ongoing cycle.

In the meantime, the insulin that lowered the blood glucose in the first place did so by putting the excess glucose into cells to be used or stored, leading to more and larger fat cells. When you exercise, you metabolize (burn up) glucose molecules. Additionally, if you eat fructose instead of glucose, the insulin response is not nearly as rapid. So the situation may not necessarily make you more obese. Insulin also drives some glucose into your liver to be stored and used later. When your brain needs more glucose, protein causes a liver hormone called glucagons to release some of this stored glucose for use in the brain. So consider this: If you satisfy the brain's request for glucose by eating protein instead of sweets, the brain can get what it wants - and you won't have that powerful release of insulin that draws you into the cycle I just described.

Indeed, fruit and dairy also can help you avoid the glucose/insulin loop. Grains and starches, on the other hand, are made up of long chains of glucose that can cause powerful insulin secretions, leading to the same result as a candy bar in terms of developing fatty cells. By getting into this cycle, you not only get fat, but you develop inflammations that can foster chronic destructive disease processes. (The type of disease fostered depends on the location of the inflammation.) A powerful defense against this is the long-chain omega-3 fatty acid. It reduces arachidonic acid, which is the building block for the development of inflammations.

Of course, you want to be sure your omega-3 fatty acid isn't derived from fish that have been exposed to mercury or dioxins. (Dioxin happens to be the active component in the Agent Orange that was used in Vietnam.) Both mercury and dioxins are toxic to humans, animals and fish. If you can get your omega-3 fatty acid without the total fish oil, it's much safer.

Here are a few other points that can be helpful when you're trying to avoid or rid yourself of inflammations:

  • 1-2 glasses of red wine daily are anti-inflammatory.
  • Extra virgin olive oil may be helpful if it contains hydroxytrosol. Read the label.
  • Ginger used as a spice with various foods and salads can help. The ginger should be rich in xanthines. You can get this in most health food stores.
  • Aloe vera prevents the development of inflammatory sites.
  • Coenzyme Q10 prevents inflammatory processes.
  • Vitamins A, C and E are helpful in preventing inflammations.
  • Routine daily exercise also is an effective inflammation preventative.

So in your quest to stay healthy, consider satisfying your hungry brain with smart food choices. Your efforts can go a long way toward reinforcing the effects of craniosacral therapy and other bodywork that can increase fluid circulation, reduce chronic inflammation and help eliminate disease.