Neuro Inflammation in Chronic Pain and Fatigue with Dr. Jarred Younger

In this episode of The Functional Medicine Radio Show, Dr. Carri’s special guest Dr. Jarred Younger explains neuro inflammation and how it contributes to chronic pain and chronic fatigue.

Jarred Younger obtained his PhD in Experimental Psychophysiology at the University of Tennessee. He then completed postdoctoral fellowships in pain medicine and neuroimaging at Arizona State University and Stanford University before joining the faculty at Stanford in 2009. In 2014, he transferred to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he currently directs the [Neuro]-inflammation, Pain and Fatigue Laboratory. His lab uses neuroimaging, immune monitoring, and clinical trial techniques to develop new diagnostic tests and treatments for pain and fatigue disorders.

Main Questions Asked about Neuroinflammation:

  • What is it?
  • Why do you believe it is responsible for chronic pain and fatigue?
  • What are the common symptoms?
  • What are microglia and how do they impact neuroinflammation?
  • How do we diagnose it?
  • What medications or supplements can help dampen neuroinflammation?
  • What can we do today to help reduce it?

Key Points made by Dr. Younger about Neuroinflammation:

  • Every time we have a really severe infection, such as the flu, there’s a neuroinflammatory component to that.
  • Symptoms include: pain; fatigue; cognitive disruption or foggy brain; depressed mood; lack of motivation; and anhedonia (lack of pleasure).
  • Most of the patients have this neuroinflammatory element to their disease and that maybe that’s what’s making them feel fatigued and feel pain but the question is what’s causing that neuroinflammation to begin with? That varies tremendously from person to person.
  • Things that can trigger neuroinflammation include: mold exposures; virus or bacteria that’s hiding in the body; imbalance in the gut microbiome; medications that activate the central immune system.
  • We may be able to target the neuroinflammation and suppress that but what would be ideal would be to find the original trigger in the first place and then you may actually have a cure.
  • The microglia cells are really the culprit. When you’re feeling overall pain and you’re feeling fatigue, it’s probably something to do with the microglia.
  • Microglia are immune cells in the brain And they are responsible for protecting the brain from everything. Bacterial, viral, from cancers, from cell death. They have to clean up the debris; they have to clean up synapses. They do everything.
  • In a lot of these chronic pain and chronic fatigue conditions, the individual’s microglia are in this kind of angry, hypersensitive state
  • If there’s an imbalance in the types of bacteria that’s in the gut, it can very easily set up a local inflammatory condition and then if that process persists for too long, those elements of inflammation, including lipopolysaccharides and other things, can leak outside the gut.
  • We know that gum inflammation can become heart inflammation so there’s a spread there. You may have inflammation in your knee and if that’s not taken care, that may gradually migrate and it can eventually penetrate the blood brain barrier and become a neuroinflammatory condition.
  • It’s really, really important not to let peripheral neuroinflammatory things or gut inflammatory things to persist for too long because, over time, they can spread kind of like a wildfire and become harder to treat later on.
  • One of the major purposes of my lab is to develop brain imaging techniques that will allow physicians and clinicians to diagnose neuroinflammation.
  • Low-dose naltrexone was never designed to treat neuroinflammation but we know through many, many, many studies that it does go to the microglia and push them back to their normal state, their anti-inflammatory state.
  • Low-dose naltrexone works really well for fibromyalgia.
  • Several supplements have shown promise in reducing inflammation: Curcumin, Stinging Nettle, Resveratrol, Luteolin, Quercetin.
  • As absolutely horrible and devastating as a neuroinflammatory condition can be as much as we look in the brain we can find no evidence that anything is being destroyed: the neurons look intact, the synapses look intact. We do not see that there is long lasting damage.
  • Once we get a handle on suppressing the neuroinflammation, there’s a very good chance that these people who’ve been suffering for years can go back to feeling normal.

Resources Mentioned for Neuroinflammation:

Dr. Younger on Youtube

Dr. Younger’s facebook page

Book – Reclaim Your Energy and Feel Normal Again

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