Optimizing brain function and preserving its integrity is one of the most important aspects of regaining and maintaining health, vitality, and quality of life. Functional Neurologists are specialized in improving brain and body function by applying strategic exercises to activate specific areas of the brain.
The importance of Functional Neurology is not yet widely understood. It can be a crucial aspect of optimizing the health of those with autoimmune disease, and frequently is a missing component. (You can learn more about it here.)
Why is Functional Neurology important for those living with autoimmunity?
1) Brain imbalances
Although this is a simplification, in general, the left side of your brain tends to be like a “green light” and the right side acts like a “red light.” The left side promotes activity and the right side dampens it or settles it down.
This is the case for several functions, including your immune responses. The left brain promotes an immune response, which is very important in times of infection and injury, but the right side should inhibit this uptick in immune response when it is not appropriate. If the right side of your brain isn’t as strong, the immune system activity is not appropriate and autoimmunity becomes more likely.
2) Dementia and other degenerative diseases
Stress, which often is a precursor and complicating factor in autoimmunity, massively destroys a very important area of the brain, the hippocampus. The hippocampus is where memories are stored. It is where dementia begins.
The hippocampus also has a huge impact on your blood sugar management and circadian rhythm. When your blood sugar management and cortisol levels are dysfunctional, it perpetuates a vicious cycle of stress and hippocampus destruction. It also sets a person up for creating the protein tangles that are responsible for some devastating degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. That is why there is an increased prevalence with autoimmunity and these degenerative diseases and dementias.
There is hope, however, as there are many strategies to prevent and slow progression of these scary diseases.
3) Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction
Many people try to address adrenal health, only to feel like they are getting nowhere. Part of the reason for this struggle is that dysfunction in the hippocampus negatively affects the HPA axis. The HPA axis sends chemical signals down to your endocrine glands. This includes the thyroid, adrenals, and reproductive glands.
If your HPA axis is miscommunicating, it’s very hard for your body to get hormone levels right. Addressing the brain-based source of adrenal, thyroid, and sex hormone dysfunction is devastatingly missing from the approach of most practitioners to these ailments.
4) Autonomic imbalances
When your brain has areas of decreased activity, there is less firing down into the brainstem, which has a group of neurons responsible for calming down the sympathetic “fight or flight” response. When that “fight or flight” response is overactive, your parasympathetic “rest and digest” response is not adequate.
This would be part of the common autoimmune symptoms of poor digestion, poor sleep, high heart rate, inappropriate temperature control, dizziness with changing positions, and many more. Adequate brain activity is so very important!
5) Integrity of your gut and brain barrier systems
Inflamed gut and leaky gut creates inflamed brain and leaky blood brain barrier, and vice versa! They just go hand in hand.
Even if you have taken the appropriate actions to heal your gut, if you haven’t repaired the blood brain barrier and inflammation, the brain will not be able to signal adequately to the brainstem. The brainstem is where the vagus nerve lives that makes your gut motility efficient. Poor gut motility predisposes you to constipation and absorption issues, as well as various gut pathologies, such as small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO).
If you feel that you are still missing a component to your healing plan, you may want to consider consulting a Functional Neurologist, particularly one who is well versed in both Functional Neurology and Functional Medicine. Although not a complete list, many Functional Neurologists are listed on acnb.org.
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