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When we think about our immune systems, thoughts of cold season and Vitamin C usually come to mind (and now, COVID-19). But what about the immune health of our brain? 

For decades, scientists and doctors believed the brain was essentially disconnected from the immune system that protects the rest of our body. Typical viral and bacterial fights occur outside of the brain, supposedly shielding this vital organ from the chaos. Emerging research, however, shows our brain and immune system may be more in sync than we once thought. These new discoveries change the way we look at everything from dementia to supplementation. 

So, what’s the research?

Scientific American put it perfectly: “the brain was long considered ‘immunologically privileged’, meaning it can tolerate the introduction of outside pathogens and tissues.” This made sense, knowing what we know about the blood-brain barrier (a defense line of cells lining the brain’s blood vessels, leaving little room for anything but nutrients to pass through), and the brain’s supposed lack of lymphatic drainage. 

If you’re not familiar with the lymphatic system, it’s the fluid transport system of the body that is crucial to the immune system and eliminating toxins from the body. Dr. Jonathan Kipnis and his research team recently discovered that there are indeed lymphatic vessels around the brain and spinal cord. This extension of the lymphatic system could explain the immune system’s role in brain and mental health. 

“The discovery of a lymphatic system in the brain raises the possibility that a disorder of the lymphatic system is somehow involved in the causation of Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Michael Weiner, a professor of radiology at the University of California San Francisco. Further analysis may reveal countless links between the immune system and other brain-threatening diseases. 

What does our brain need protecting from?

Our brains are susceptible to everything from daily brain fog and headaches, to mental health conditions, dementia, and more. Things like viral infections, free radicals, and inflammation can have long-term effects on brain function and speed the aging process. 

To better understand both the strength of vulnerability of the human brain, look no further than microglia. These good soldiers are the Central Nervous System’s immunity cells. They aid in brain development, help the brain maintain a clean environment, and defend against brain-specific diseases like meningitis, and dementia. They come from the same family of cells as the rest of your body’s immune system cells, but they’re derived from other brain cells. The following excerpt from The Conversation describes what happens when stress and inflammation get too aggravating: 

Microglia have specific receptors on their surface which recognize distress signals from other cells. These signals attract microglia to the site of the problem. When the brain’s balance is disturbed (usually as a result of inflammation), living neurons can become stressed and produce these signals. This may cause them to be eaten alive by microglia. As neurons are killed, the connections they have with other neurons are also eliminated, which can cause severe issues in brain connectivity and functions.

Inflammation in the brain can be caused by stress, pathogens, and auto-immune conditions, and is also connected to inflammation in other parts of the body. Brain inflammation is common in neurodegenerative diseases, as well as mental health disorders, including depression.

Inflammation causes microglia to change roles, and turn into their aggressive form to defend the brain. Usually, when stress signals stop and anti-inflammatory signals are received, microglia go back to first repairing, then protecting the brain.

The more we understand about the brain’s relationship with immunity, the more evident it is that we can have an impact on our mental and physical health—down to the cellular level. 

What you can do about it

We take care of our brain when we take care of our overall health. Everything from a healthy diet to exercise and sleep play a crucial role in brain function and longevity. Exercise gets our lymphatic system moving, helping to clear out harmful toxins. A healthy diet can supply our cells with free radical-fighting antioxidants. Supplementation can offer peace from anxiety and improve mental sharpness. 

Dale Bredesen, M.D., world-renowned neurologist and author of The End of Alzheimer’s, said, “Supporting your brain today—and everyday, with good habits and a smart supplementation routine can keep you mentally sharp. No matter your family history, DNA, or previous neurological issues, there is hope.” Dr. Bredesen coined the “Bredesen 7” factors that make up a blueprint for brain health, including nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, brain stimulation, detoxification, and supplements. Each of these factors are things we can control in order to have a positive impact on our brain’s health and longevity.

Ingredients matter

We hear a lot about looking at the ingredients on the back of food packaging. Now it’s time to turn our attention to the medicine cabinet, starting with propolis. This super nutrient should be a go-to ingredient in your fight to boost brain health and immunity.

Propolis is a proven immunity supporter that works like a shield to protect the brain from the inside out. Known as “bee glue,” propolis is a substance produced by bees to protect their hives from germs, disease, and other outside enemies. Bees use it to line the entrance and walls of the hive where it acts like a full-on immune defense system for the hive. 

Scientists have discovered that propolis contains over 300 powerful, natural compounds that support immunity. And as it turns out, it works similarly for the brain, protecting it from outside invaders. 

When taken as a supplement, propolis acts like a protective immune shield for the brain. It helps keep free radicals and toxic enemies from entering the brain. In fact, propolis has been extensively researched with thousands of scientific papers demonstrating its health brain benefits. 

NeuroQ, Dr. Bredesen’s brain support supplement, contains a highly neuroprotective propolis made by Yamada Bee Farm, one of the world’s best sources for pure, healthy bee products. The supplement also includes brain-boosting ingredients like gotu kola and ginkgo leaf extract. Each of NeuroQ’s five ingredients was chosen to create a comprehensive supplement designed to improve the areas of memory, processing speed, executive function, and attention. It can help protect overall long-term brain health, in part due to the immune-boosting propolis. 

The world is still discovering exactly how the immune system and brain are connected, but one thing is for sure: there are measures we can take now to help support and protect our brain. So next time you reach for the bottle of Vitamin C, grab the NeuroQ too.