Brain Fog and Irritability Linked to Glial Cell Health
September 11, 2023
Do you feel like your brain energy is running low? Is your mental stamina and ability to work plagued by brain fog? Do you feel on edge and frequently irritable? Or experience sensory overload more easily? Was there a stressful event in your life years ago that you never quite rebounded back from with good mental and emotional energy or stress tolerance?
These feelings and experiences are greatly impacted by your brain’s ability to manage your daily repair needs. Sleep quality and quantity, emotional stress, hormone levels, blood pressure, blood sugar, nutrient status, oxygenation of tissues, trauma, illness, etc. affect the internal environment of your brain. To manage these stressors, specialized cells in your brain work daily to maintain a healthy environment. Keeping these resident housekeeping cells in a “happy” balance is critical to brain health and aging well in the face of numerous stressors.
Your central nervous system is made up of many types of nerve and immune cells including some called glial cells. Glia is a Greek word which means glue. There are 3 types of glial cells - astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and microglial cells. Glial cells make up about half of the mass of your brain. Microglial cells are the smallest of the glial cells and make up about 10% of all brain cells.
Microglial cells were first identified 100 years ago, but their amazing supportive role for brain function is currently at the forefront of research. Microglial cells are the first line of immune defense cells in the central nervous system. They actively work to keep your brain cells clean, healthy, and within a stable microenvironment.
The Clean Up Crew
Microglial cells perform essential maintenance functions in your brain. They remove nerves and cells that aren’t working well. Microglial cells provide protection and nutritional support to nerves. They clean up protein debris and trash from nerves. They regulate inflammatory responses and nerve connections. Microglial cells are on constant surveillance in the brain for signs of stress within your brain, spinal cord, and eyes throughout your lifetime. They are extraordinarily sensitive sensors to any disturbance and respond rapidly. They may also affect neuroregulation elsewhere in your body.
Acute, Fast-Acting Response
When stress occurs in the brain, microglial cells undergo a multistage activation process to become an “activated microglial cell.” They migrate to areas within the nervous system to support and stabilize tissues under stress or threat. During this process, the glue-like functionality of microglial cells allows them to change shape, move, investigate, engulf, and remove the stressor.
The response provokes a targeted pro-inflammatory release of reactive oxygen species or ROS to destroy the attacker. This rapid process sets the stage for immediate clean-up and helps protect against further damage from the initial stressor.
When microglial cells become chronically activated, it creates a stressful and toxic response in your brain. If microglial cells stay engaged in active duty, higher amounts of ROS free radicals, NF-Kappa B, TNF-alpha, cytokines, and nitric oxide are released creating more oxidative stress.
This creates a neurotoxic response to nerves, cell membranes, mitochondria, and cellular DNA, etc. that can hurt and destroy healthy brain cells. This is especially problematic to cells when antioxidant levels are suboptimal or depleted.
Stressors That Activate Microglial Cells
Microglial cell activation is triggered by many different types of stress. These include sleep deprivation and insomnia, disrupted circadian rhythms/shift work, illness/infection, chronic inflammation, trauma, elevated homocysteine levels, lipopolysaccharide (LPS) toxins, aging, alcohol, chronic stress, drug side effects, radiation exposure, and other factors.
Prolonged microglial cell activity may contribute to brain fog, brain fatigue, difficulty with concentration, mood changes, word finding difficulties, and changes in your memory. You may feel like you are aging faster.
Supportive Activities and Nutrients for Microglial Cells
Maintaining or restoring a healthy environment and antioxidant levels for microglial cells requires good daily choices. Adequate quality sleep and regular physical exercise are essential. Combine these with a whole foods diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, fiber and fermented foods, quality protein, a variety of good fats, and complex carbohydrates that are essential for brain and microglial health.
The Western diet, GMO foods, Roundup, and other environmental chemicals have contributed to loss of brain resiliency. Many individuals fail to reach the minimum RDA/RDI intake for nutrients and antioxidants required for healthy microglial cell activity, protective function, and stability.
Important antioxidants for microglial cell function include r-alpha lipoic acid, turmeric/curcumin, fisetin, NAC, coenzyme Q10 ubiquinol, melatonin, glutathione, resveratrol, quercetin, broccoli/sulforaphane, palmitoylethanoliamide/PEA, magnesium, manganese, zinc, omega-3 DHA /EPA, and choline. Combining antioxidants with B vitamins helps manage stress and homocysteine metabolism, mitochondria, and energy production.
Other compounds that influence microglial cell activation include proper balance of hormones such as cortisol, estrogen, and progesterone. Excess or unnecessary iron intake can further stress microglial cells. If you are unsure of your iron and serum ferritin status, it is best to avoid iron supplementation.
If you have noticed that your brain fog, fatigue, irritability, or absent-mindedness has increased or that your mood is off or you have several microglial activator factors going on in your life, it is time to be proactive about supporting a healthy brain and optimizing your nutrient status. Studies show that it can take years, even decades for microglial cell activation to resolve from significant stressors.
Optimize Your Antioxidant Reserves
Provide your brain with the nourishment it needs for its daily duties and optimal reserves today! Great supplemental support to start with includes Daily Energy Multiple Vitamin, Daily DHA, Brain Protector, and RelaxaMag.
More in-depth support includes PEA Ultra, Repair Plus, Super Brain Booster or Activator Plus, and Glutathione Ultra, and others. Use enough support consistently to notice improvements with sleep, mood, stress and sensory tolerance, cognitive sharpness, and less brain fog.
Your microglial cells are on watchful duty 24/7. Protect and support your brain and microglial health so these sentinel soldiers aren’t overworked and provoke more stress.