Why does the blood-brain barrier matter in MS?
While no one knows why someone develops MS, there are a few things we do know about how the disease impacts the body.
You may have heard that MS is caused by white blood cells, programmed incorrectly, begin attacking the myelin surrounding the nerve cells of a persons central nervous system.
You may have also heard the term Blood Brain Barrier (BBB). Under normal conditions the blood-brain barrier is a tightly packed layer of cells that provides separation between the while blood cells and the myelin, which would prevent the blood cells from being able to attack the CNS.
The Encyclopedia of Natural medicine states that “MS patients typically show to have an abnormal BBB due to damage caused by increased or excessive platelet adhesiveness and aggregation . Chronic inflammation and high activity of pro-oxidative stress (free radicals) in the course of MS are the main factors identified as the cause of excessive platelet activation. These can include stress, chemical processes, air pollution, and even a persons gut health has been linked to the strength of the BBB. When the BBB is damaged it can result in allowing other substances like bacteria, viruses, antibodies, etc to have a toxic impact on the Myelin.”
So, we know that strengthening the blood-brain barrier can help prevent further breakdowns and potential relapses.
To better understand what options are available, it is important to note that whether through medication or natural means, the goal is to protect the BBB and prevent immune cells from passing through.
There are different options to consider and finding the right balance for each person can take some time.
Natural approach through food and diet is one area many focus on because it is can be implemented by the patient at home. The reason why there are so many options for Autoimmune diets/food plans, is because it is thought to that food allergies plays a role in the progression and treatment of MS. The two most common allergens or sensitivities are gluten and dairy.
While experts can say definitively that food can impact MS flares, they can confirm that allergens can impact the gut bacteria, which can produce chemicals that can affect the CNS.
Therefore, the overarching theory in Autoimmune food plans is to remove the most common allergens. The less of those we eat, the less likely our gut is to impact our immune system.
Too many to list here, but the Autoimmune Protocol, The Best Bet, The Whals Protocol, Paleo, and the Anti-inflammatory diet are among the most comprehensive.
It can be overwhelming to know which to choose, so I always suggest starting with an elimination diet, which is the base of most of these plans. The idea is to remove all inflammatory foods for a period of 30 days and then slowly add the foods back in, 1 at a time to see if you have a reaction. A reaction can be mild from bloating, constipation, diarrhea, or more extreme where you can feel the inflammation in your joints. Once you have determined which foods your body prefers you to avoid, then you can find which diet best fits you.
Lots of information available about supplements to help with immunity. Anti-oxidants gets lot of exposure these days, but let’s look a the science behind why that is. “There are three related chemicals which have been found effective in strengthening the blood-brain barrier. These are the anthocyanosides, proanthocyanidins, and procyanidolic oligomers (OPC). All three of these are variants of a common class of chemicals called “flavonoids.”(Multiple Sclerosis, The Blood Brain Barrier, and New Treatment, by Timothy R. Stout)
“It has been known for centuries that OPC counteracts allergic reactions. Masquelier explains the anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic activity of OPC, on the basis of their antioxidant activity…Free radicals activate the release of histamine and other mediators and they are also produced by these mediators. This is how free radicals form essential components in the development and perpetuation of inflammations and allergic reactions. (OPC in Practice, by Bert Schwitters in Collaboration with Prof. Jack Masquelier)
OPCs’ incredible antioxidant activity can help stabilize brain cells and improve their functioning by neutralizing damage from free radicals.
OPC is also know for treating vascular diseases because it actually increases the structural strength of weakened blood vessels. It also has other biological activity and is one of the most potent antioxidants known.
Some experts call OPC a superstar among botanical supplements, the one with the most potential of all for benefiting human health.
There are a few different types of OPC available. I personally put this at the top of my recommended supplements to take. Since I have been taking it for the past 3 years, I have reduced my inflammation, increased my energy, my recovery, and helped many others with immune or inflammation issues.
When it comes to choosing which product to take, bioavailability it important because how your body absorbs it can directly impact it’s effectiveness.
Liquids, powders, and any options that have few to no binders or artificial fillers are best! Especially given that our guts are integral in protecting our immune systems, we want to take products that absorb quickly and do not relay on our guts to break it down!
My go to brand for most of my supplements is a nutraceutical line brand called Isotonix .
Everything you eat and drink, including nutritional supplements, must be made isotonic before passing into your small intestine where it can be absorbed.
"Isotonic" means having the same fluid pressure as your other bodily fluids like blood and tears. When you eat food, drink a beverage, or take a pill or capsule, your stomach must first secrete diluting juices, enzymes, hydrochloric acid, and at least one vitamin-binding protein to continue the process of digestion. Muscular contractions of your stomach then mix the contents until a reasonably uniform solution is achieved. This process can take anywhere from 40 minutes to four hours.
In the time that it takes for most pills and capsules to disintegrate, and their contents to dissolve and transform to the proper isotonic state, much of their activity is lost. During digestion, the important micronutrients in pills and capsules can get trapped by fats, fibers, and tannins or inactivated by the highly acidic pH level of your stomach.
Isotonix products are scientifically formulated with the perfect balance of fructose, d-glucose, citric acid, potassium bicarbonate and other ingredients to ensure that they are isotonic the moment they enter your body. When properly mixed with water and taken on an empty stomach, the isotonic solution flows into your small intestine almost immediately.
Isotonix delivers nutrient dense solutions which move from the stomach into your intestine in a fast, controlled way. And they're buffered to resist nutrient degradation and to be gentle on your system.
There are numerous supplements in their line, but the OPC-3 is the one I call my miracle. It is included on my support page with my daily supplement regime.
Whether through diet, supplementation, or medications, it is clear that protecting the blood-brain barrier is essential in protecting the central nervous system.
Hopefully this has helped explain the connections between how it all works and what you can do to help support your immune health.
Stay strong, stay healthy,
(Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, 1991, Michael T. Murray, N.D. & Joseph E. Pizzorno, N.D.)
(https://www.opc.cc/- Antioxidant reference guide)
(Pubmed.gov -National Library of Medicine)