Tag Archives: immune system

Is Inflammation the enemy of Dopamine?

Why do we feel listless when we are recovering from an illness? The answer is, apparently, that low-grade chronic inflammation interferes with the dopaminergic signaling system in the brain that motivates us to do things.

This was reported in a new paper published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

The research carried out at Emory University explains the links between the reduced release of dopamine in the brain, the motivation to do things, and the presence of an inflammatory reaction in the body. It also presents the possibility that this is part of the body’s effort to optimize its energy expenditure during such inflammatory episodes, citing evidence gathered during their study.

The authors also published an experimental framework based on computational tools, devised to test the theory.

The underlying hypothesis is that the body needs more energy to heal a wound or overcome an infection, for instance, both of which are associated with low-grade inflammation. To ensure that energy is available, the brain uses an adaptive technique to reduce the natural drive to perform other tasks which could potentially drain away the energy needed for healing. This is essentially a recalibration of the specialized reward neurons in the motivation center of the brain, so that ordinary tasks no longer feel like they’re worth doing.

According to the new study, the mechanism of this recalibration is immune-mediated disruption of the dopamine pathway, reducing dopamine release.

The computational technique published by the scientists is designed to allow experimental measurements of the extent to which low-grade inflammation affects the amount of energy available, and the decision to do something based on the effort needed. This could allow us to better understand why and how chronic inflammatory states cause a lack of motivation in other disease conditions as well, including schizophrenia and depression.

Andrew Miller, co-author of the study, says, “If our theory is correct, then it could have a tremendous impact on treating cases of depression and other behavioral disorders that may be driven by inflammation. It would open up opportunities for the development of therapies that target energy utilization by immune cells, which would be something completely new in our field.”

It is already known that immune cells release cellular signaling molecules called cytokines, which affect the functioning of the dopamine-releasing neurons in the area of the brain called the mesolimbic system. This area enhances our willingness to work hard for the sake of a reward.

Dopamine

Image Copyright: Meletios, Image ID: 71648629 via shutterstock.com

Recently, it was discovered that immune cells also enjoy a unique capability to shift between various metabolic states, unlike other cells. This could affect cytokine release patterns in such a way as to signal the brain to conserve available energy for the use of the immune system.

Read the full article at news-medical written by Dr. Liji Thomas

Super Foods: Spirulina

Spirulina: It’s categorized as a “superfood” because of its immense health qualities. It is a blue-green algae that is rich in protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and is said to help protect against cell damage. While much of the evidence supporting these claims are anecdotal, animal and test tube studies do suggest that spirulina can increase the production of antibodies, increase immunity, help to ward off infections and possible cancer. However, none of these tests were ever conducted on human studies, and the evidence is purely subjective to many individual experiences and a long history of use.

How Does It Help The Body?

  1. Protein Supplement: According to the University of Maryland, amino acids make up 62 percent of spirulina. Amino acids are used by the body to make proteins, helping to break down food, grow, and repair body tissue.
  2. Lipid Lowering: The hypolipidemic effects were first noticed in albino rats. The study found that HDL cholesterol was increased, while high hepatic lipids caused by a high fat diet was reduced by the consumption of spirulina.
  3. Immune Boost: Having such a high concentration of beta carotene, which the human body can make into vitamin A, helps kick start your immune system.

How Should You Eat It?

It’s a versatile product and can be added to various dishes. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Green Smoothie: A spoonful of this powder can boost the nutrients in your daily green drink or smoothie.
  2. Spirulina Pudding: Mix this into your favorite fruit pudding and enjoy.
  3. Salad Dressing: Mix this into some olive oil, lemon, a little bit of pepper, and dress your salad.

 

As always, please be sure to check with your physician before starting any supplement like spirulina, as it may interact with certain medications.

For more Superfoods and Health tips check out YahooHealth