Fatigue? Brain fog? Insomnia? Depression? Anxiety?

I see patients everyday in my office with the health problems listed above. Do you suffer from one or more of these? If so, the problem might be your brain!

What could be happening in your brain that would cause these problems? The most common root cause is chronic inflammation.

When we think about inflammation, we don’t normally think about our brain being inflamed. We know when our joints or muscles are inflamed because they feel stiff and hurt. Your brain does not “hurt” when it is inflamed; instead, it starts to malfunction.

How can your brain get inflamed?

One root cause of brain inflammation is digestive system dysfunction. Here are just 3 ways your digestive system can cause your brain to become inflamed and malfunction.

3 ways your digestive system can cause brain inflammation

  1. Leaky gut.
  2. Toxins from the digestive tract traveling up the vagus nerve and into the brain.
  3. Toxins fromt the liver, traveling up the vagus nerve and into the brain.

There are additional mechanisms that connect the digestive tract to your brain, but I wanted to discuss some you may not have heard about.

There has been a lot of information released about the gut-brain connection; here are 3 of those connections.

Leaky Gut

I ask many of my patients if they have heard of leaky gut, and most have; but they usually don’t know what it is. A leaky gut is where the cells that line your small intestine separate or break apart and the contents of the small intestine are permitted to flow outside of your intestine and into your body. When this occurs, your immune system responds to these “foreign” particles and this leads to inflammation not only in the gut but throughout your body.

What causes of leaky gut?

  • Food allergies / sensitivities
  • SIBO (overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine)
  • Low stomach acid or digestive enzymes
  • Low thyroid function
  • Yeast overgrowth in the bowel
  • Stress and cortisol from the adrenal glands
  • Antacids

There are many possible causes of a leaky gut and when your gut is leaky, there is increased inflammation in your body. Many of the same mechanisms that lead to a leaky gut can also cause a “leaky brain” …what I mean by this is that your brain has a protective barrier that prevents toxins and chemicals of inflammation from making contact with your brain. This protective barrier is called the blood-brain barrier (BBB). It a highly selective  border that separates circulating blood from the brain. When the BBB breaks down it is no longer a “highly selective” border…basically, harmful chemicals and toxins in your blood can now gain access to your brain. When this happens, your brain does not work well and leads to many of the symptoms we listed at the start of this article.

Vagus nerve and brain inflammation…

Gut and Liver

Your vagus nerve is a long wandering nerve to that goes to many of your organs. Two of these organs are the small intestine and the liver. If your gut is toxic, leaky or inflamed, harmful toxins can travel directly from the gut to your brain through the vagus nerve.

The contents (the good and the bad) of your gut that end up in your blood stream go directly to your liver. Your liver is like a big filter and detoxification center. It cleans up what has been absorbed in the gut before releasing it into the rest of your body. If your gut is unhealthy, this puts a huge burden on the liver. If your liver is overwhelmed with toxins from the gut, the liver itself starts to fall behind on its cleansing functions. When this happens, toxins from the liver can travel along the vagus nerve and into your brain.


The main point I want you to get from this information is that your brain can become inflamed, the BBB can break down and this can lead to autoimmunity to the brain itself. Chronic brain inflammation also puts you at higher risk for developing brain degeneration and dementia.

Fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, depression, anxiety…these are just a few of the health issues you may experience if your brain is inflamed. When your brain is inflamed, your body simply cannot function properly…period.

This can become a vicious circle. If you gut is not healthy it can affect your brain and if your brain is not healthy your gut can’t function properly.

The only health professional who understands these mechanisms and what to do about them would be a functional medicine doctor. A neurologist won’t talk to you about this; nor will a gastroenterologist.

This is a “functional” problem and the most qualified doctor to deal with these complex issues are a functional medicine doctor.


This week I was consulting with a patient who was interested in fucntional medicine Orland Park who just had a brain MRI that was ordered by her neurologist. The report from the radiologist said she had gliosis (this is a scarring reaction of the supporting cells in the brain to damage or inflammation). She was told this was “normal” and not to worry about it! She was suffering with chronic fatigue, severe brain fog and depression. Her brain was inflamed, and it was causing damage…visible damage…as seen on MRI.

The purpose of functional medicine is:

Understanding health problems, knowing how and where to investigate, understanding what to look for, understanding what is found and creating a plan of action to correct the root cause of the health problem.

This is what I do, this is what I love, this is functional medicine, this is why Naperville Integrated Wellness exists. 

I hope you have found value in this information.

I wish you health, happiness and a better quality of life!

If you would like more information about functional medicine and integrative medicine or Dr. Sexton go to www.napervilleintegratedwellness.com

Do your own research, inform yourself and ask lots of questions. When collecting information, you MUST consider the source. There is no shortage of false, misleading, outdated, profit-driven and utterly biased information in healthcare today; even from the most respected sources and organizations.

This approach to healthcare is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate, or prevent any disease. Why? The FDA enforces its position that these words can only be used with drugs. This approach does not use drugs.