Brain inflammation. It occurs in young and old alike, and it can be so mild that your symptoms are dismissed. In other cases, it is severe enough to cause symptoms and it correlates with Lyme disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease or schizophrenia. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have low level brain inflammation. Today I’ll focus on new research. It is just natural help that you can talk to your doctor about since I am just educating you, not advising. Now I have to take you deep inside the brain to the “microglial” cells.
These beautiful cells are like the die-hard “Pac Man” army in your brain and spinal cord providing the majority of immune system defense. We used to think the microglial cells didn’t do much, but today we know they have mad skills when it comes to dealing with plaque, pathogens and damaged neurons in your nervous system.
When these nerve cells are called upon too much, they become hot, irritated, and overactive. The end result is inflammatory chemical soup. Microglial cells get ignited by mast cells, your “allergy” cells. Mast cells dump histamine in response to allergenic foods, dust and weeds. Some other cytokines that are released include interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor (TNF). Researchers recently evaluated these two cytokines in autistic children and found some interesting stuff out.
Apparently, some autistic children, but not all, had very high levels of each of these markers.
They tested natural antioxidants and their research showed two stand-out flavonoids, luteolin and quercetin. Both of these blocked the release of these inflammatory chemicals and suppressed mast cell dumping of it’s garbage! Luteolin specifically stopped the microglial cells from overwork that led to ramped up levels of damaging inflammatory chemicals. In animal studies, luteolin protects the brain from thimerosal-induced (vaccine) mast cell activation and mercury-related mitochondrial damage. It helps with nerve and muscle function. ASDs children who received luteolin in an open-label clinical study, showed improved sociability.
Their social interactions didn’t just improved, blood testing revealed reductions in both IL-6 and TNF. The children treated with luteolin experienced several months of growth in communication skills, daily living skills, and social abilities. Other children, who did not have the same inflammatory lab elevations, did not experience the same improvement so the antioxidant’s effect is only helpful if those two biomarkers (IL-6 and TNF) are elevated to begin with. Measure them in with a blood test. It’s worth measuring, TNF has been found to be as much as 50 times higher than normal in ASD children.
Quenching IL-6 and TNF is critical to all sorts of neurological disorders including memory, learning capabilities and migraines. When mast cells are activated they dump obnoxious amounts of cytokines including TNF, lighting your brain on fire. While you determine your specific allergies, and thus, what causes your mast cells to ‘spill the beans,’ I think luteolin and quercetin can help.
Luteolin is found in parsley, thyrme, peppermint, basil, celery, and artichoke. Quercetin is commonly found in capers, whortleberries, apples and red onions. Both of these compounds are also sold as supplements in health food stores nationwide.
I need to make a quick distinction. Luteolin is NOT lutein. Lutein is a type of flavone (related to flavonoids) and it’s known as the “eye vitamin” and it is a carotenoid like beta carotene. Luteolin is also an antioxidant, a flavonoid but they are not the same. You will find supplements of either lutein, or luteolin so you have to read the labels carefully.
Since I have been focusing on diabetes lately, I want you to know that luteolin is sometimes dubbed a “diabetes vitamin” as it improves insulin sensitivity and may reduce blood sugar over time. Thousands of you who already take my custom formula for healthy blood sugar support called GlucoScript will wonder if you can combine “Luteolin” with it, and the answer is YES, that is fine to do since there is no interaction. Please keep in mind that when taking natural supplements for diabetes you have to be patient, supplements don’t work like drugs over night, they are not drugs, they are vitamins and not intended to be a substitute for medication or insulin. If you’re child is going to respond to luteolin, it won’t happen overnight. It takes time. For that matter, it may take weeks to months. (Same with GlucoScript).
The research I’ve outlined today presents compelling evidence for luteolin to help with brain-related illness. In addition, luteolin may reduce the formation of amyloid proteins and defend your mitochondria from oxidation (free radicals), making it a wonderful, multifaceted holistic supplement for neurological and cognitive support. It specifically dampens down NF Kappa B (the gateway for all sorts of pro-inflammatory cytokines). When you downregulate a pathway that spits out pain-causing, inflammation chemicals, good things happen, but again, it takes time to rebuild your tissues because you are starting from the inside out.
Suzy Cohen, has been a licensed pharmacist for over 30 years and believes the best approach to chronic illness is a combination of natural medicine and conventional. She founded her own dietary supplement company specializing in custom-formulas, some of which have patents. With a special focus on functional medicine, thyroid health and drug nutrient depletion, Suzy is the author of several related books including Thyroid Healthy, Drug Muggers, Diabetes Without Drugs, and a nationally syndicated column.