The blood-brain barrier (BBB)

is what is often damaged in Lyme patients needing brain therapy. The truth is, everyone probably has some damage to their BBB. In attempting to help heal it, I think that we need to understand some vascular biology.


How does BBB damage begin?

It starts in the vessels, both cranial and systemic. Just like heart disease, brain inflammation begins as an endothelial problem. The endothelium is the lining of the arteries and since we are talking about the blood-brain barrier, we’ll discuss the vessels that feed the brain. Remember, neuronal function is dependent on both fuel and activation and the fuel is delivered through the arteriole system guarded closely in the brain by the special glial cells called astrocytes.

Lyme and the Blood Brain Barrier The endothelium is a single layer of cells that act as a wall with thousands of little gates called receptors that allow certain chemicals in to affect the smooth muscle layer beneath it. If this protective wall gets damaged or the gates get stuck open, we are going to have a problem and a problem in the vessel wall soon spells a problem in the barrier.

Blood testing that should always be considered (and seldom is) with all brain-based symptoms includes a complete vascular profile but measuring cholesterol, HDL and LDL is insufficient in testing out vessel health. All HDL isn’t “good” and all LDL isn’t “bad.” Ask your doctor for more specific tests like hsCRP, Homocysteine, oxidizedLDL, Lipoprotein A, and Apolipoproteine A.

Your vessels are lined with a single-cell layer of tissue called endothelium; under this endothelial layer is a smooth muscle layer that is responsible for contracting (raising blood pressure in times of needed blood flow) and relaxation (lowering and normalizing arterial pressure in the brain). This endothelial lining is really the KEY; it is the barrier, the wall that allows both willingly and not, changes in the muscle tone as well as invasions into the delicate space underneath.

Our Barriers Are Our Protection

Let’s say this again but start at the beginning. We eat food and impurities hit the first barrier, the stomach. Here, the pH is extremely acidic for two main reasons: it digests (breaking for into smaller particles) and kills pathogens. This second purpose of HCl (stomach acid) is of vital importance as it is the first line of defense against potential destroyers of other barriers like the blood-brain barrier. Helicobacter pylori, for example, are ubiquitous bacteria that should be easily killed by a normal acid balance in the stomach. If you have an imbalanced HCl supply, H. pylori infiltrates and can either cause a stomach or duodenal ulcer or will pass through attacking other organs. It is estimated that 95% of H. pylori infections are chronic, insidious and subclinical – meaning it is rarely diagnosed as a disorder itself and usually the culprit of many other named diseases. H. pylori is such a common cause of vessel damage that leads to both heart disease and blood-brain barrier disruption that I’ve devoted an entire section on it later in this book.

Lyme and the Blood Brain BarrierThe second barrier an ingested item encounters is the intestinal wall. Here, cells lining the hair-like villi protect unwanted guests from entering. Proteins, for example, are broken into individual amino acids that are small enough to traverse the cellular barricade. Much of the problem with food sensitivities comes in when separation of the intestinal cells allows food proteins to pass into the blood before they are completely digested into amino acids. These proteins and protein particles called peptides are foreign to the body, stimulate an immune response and our body makes antibodies against them. This is how gluten becomes an autoimmune antigen and wreaks havoc through the body. Again, it all starts with a broken barrier.

The next barrier needing to be crossed is the intimal lining of the blood vessel. Blood flows through the lumen of the vessels and interacts with receptors in the inner covering called intimal endothelial cells. These are barrier cells that allow nutrients to pass to feed cells. All cardiovascular disease as well as every brain disorder discussed in this book starts with endothelial disease! Again, think of the endothelial cell layer as a fence with hundreds of gates called receptors. These gates are opened with specific chemical keys that change the function of the smooth muscle layer behind the fence and can even change the shape of the fence itself. Under normal conditions, chemicals released by tissues knock on the gates looking for permission to enter. For instance, a sympathetic nervous system response (fight or flight) in the brain to a perceived stress causes the release of a chemical that will enter a gate in the endothelial fence to cause the smooth muscle layer to contract and narrow the lumen of the vessel. This increases the speed of blood flow and increases the blood pressure so you can run away from the danger. It is a normal response, but like any normal response, we can get ‘stuck’ in an ‘on’ position from chronic source of stimulation.

There are really an endless number of possible insults that could ‘breach the gates’ of the endothelial wall. Chemical toxicity, heavy metal toxicity, food additives, flavorings, colorings, infections, and endotoxins are just a few of the things that can break the gates and cause damage to the endothelial layer, the small, smooth muscles and tissue underneath, and interact with the astrocytes that act as the next (and special) barrier in the brain. You may have heard about the damage that Homocysteine, glucose, or oxidized LDL cause, but by far, the worst culprit for damage is infection.

Subclinical (silent) infections are the number one ‘bad guy’ causing endothelial disease which leads to blood-brain barrier disruption. “Subclinical” means the patient doesn’t know they have it! It’s a silent disorder that can cause mild, insidious vasculature damage for years (and yes, it can start at birth) until the victim has symptoms of ADHD, anxiety, depression, memory loss and dementia, just to name a few. I know this is a lot of info so I’ll sum this up:

BBB disruption really starts with damage to the endothelial layer – the single-celled barrier that lines the vessels.

If the endothelial layer is ‘breached’, several bad things occur that lead to inflammation in the vessel wall, the tiny muscles underneath the wall, and the astrocyte cells that are meant to keep larger molecules of things out of the CNS

Many possible sources of endothelial damage exist due to poor diet, environmental exposure to toxins, and ubiquitous infectious organisms but subclinical infections (unknown to the patient) are the most common and least diagnosed cause of endothelial disease and hence, brain disorders.

Endothelial disease is always the start of BBB disruption and usually never addressed by the any doctor. Heck, most doctors don’t even address the fact that there is a disruption in the BBB. Worse, many doctors are still blaming the patient’s depression on a chemical imbalance as if it was a disease that poor victim contracted when they were caught out in the rain without a jacket. Medications can change a person’s mood, they can numb symptoms, and dull hyperactivity. Medications cannot cure because they do nothing for ‘cause’.

Let’s look at some protective measures that Heal the Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB)

The following is a list of several OTHER things that everyone can do to protect against BBB disruption and heal the damage that already occurred. By “other” I mean that I am assuming that you are already correcting the CAUSE of endothelial damage that caused the astrocyte destruction. If you don’t fix the LYME, then forget about getting better!

How do we increase EPCs?

EPCs increase with Growth Hormone (GH) release. All of us, even adults, release IGF-1, a precursor to GH while we sleep. Its purpose is to stimulate a Th1 (immune response) in the gut to kill off accumulated toxins in the intestinal tract from a hard day’s work (especially necessary for those with poor HCl) and do other things associated with tissue repair like increase EPCs. The BEST way to stimulate IGF-1 production is to get a good night’s sleep! NEVER take GH or GH stimulating hormones as they can stimulate cancer growth.

There are nutritional protocols that increase EPCs which include Resveratrol, Green Tea Extract (EGCGs), and products that increase Nitric Oxide: Omega-3 fatty acids, Garlic, ALA, NAC, Hawthorne, Pomegranate, gamma and delta Tocopherols, Tocotrienols, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin K2-MK7, the B Vitamins, Flavonoids, CoQ-10, L-Arginine, Citrulline, Carnitine, Taurine, Celery, Pycnogenol, Grape Seed Extract, Hesperidin, Melatonin, NADH, Selenium, Bilberry, Turmeric, Quercetin, cruciferous vegetables, and Medicinal Mushrooms – just to name a few.

Perhaps the greatest way to increase EPCs is through exercise.* The best choice of exercise is NOT sustained distance as in running five miles. To increase EPC production and protect yourself from BBB disruption, interval training is what you want to do – repetitions of 100% effort for a relatively short period of time followed by a repetition of 50% effort.*

Of course, you MUST eliminate the things that decrease EPCs which includes the removing the source of inflammation and addressing the three responses I’ve covered – oxidative stress, inflammation, and autoimmune disorders.

NEW Eating God’s Way for Your BBB

Meat (grass-fed organic ONLY – high in protein and Omega 3)

NO meat for first _________months

  • meat bone soup or stock, liver and heart (must be organic)
  • lamb, buffalo, elk, venison, beef, goat, veal
  • jerky (organic with no chemicals, nitrates, or nitrites)
  • beef or buffalo sausage (with no chemicals and preferably no pork casing)
  • beef or buffalo hot dogs (with no chemicals and preferably no pork casing)

Fish (wild- caught ONLY, and the fish must be fish with fins and scales. Eg: No catfish)

NO fish for first ______________months

  •     fish soup or stock, salmon, halibut, tuna, cod, scrod, grouper, haddock, walleye, panfish, lake fish
  •     trout, orange roughy, sea bass, snapper, sardines (canned in water or olive oil only), herring, sole, whitefish

Poultry (pastured, free-range and organic)

NO poultry for first ____________months

  •     poultry bone soup or stock, chicken, Cornish game hen, guinea fowl, turkey, duck
  •     chicken or turkey bacon or sausage

Lunch Meat (organic, free range, and hormone free ONLY)

  • chicken eggs (whole with yolk) UNLESS Egg intolerant

Dairy (organic and UN-Pasteurized (RAW) ONLY – NON if Dairy Intolerant!!!!)

  •     NO dairy for first ________________months
  •     Really NO Dairy for everyone is BEST unless RAW but that’s hard to find
  •     homemade kefir made from raw goat’s milk or raw cow’s milk
  •     raw goat’s milk hard cheeses, raw cow’s milk hard cheeses
  •     goat’s milk plain whole yogurt, organic cow’s milk yogurt or kefir
  •     raw cream, raw butter if possible (or organic)

Fats and Oils (organic is best, you MUST EAT A LOT OF GOOD FAT)

  •     Oil: coconut oil, extra virgin (best for cooking) olive oil,
  •     Spread: Ghee butter; RAW butter
  •     Avocado (eat one every day), coconut milk/cream (canned), oil,
  •     PARENT OILS – Coconut oil, flax oil, borage oil, seed oils

Vegetables (organic fresh or frozen is best)

  •     ALL veggies are good – especially lower carb, organic (broccoli, artichokes, asparagus, beets, cauliflower)
  •     STRICTLY LIMIT white potatoes and corn (corn is really a grain), eat sweet potatoes instead

Grains and Starchy Carbohydrates (organic is best, and whole grains and flours are best if soaked for six to twelve hours before cooking) ***Brain-Based Therapy patients MUST stay off Gluten!!!

  •     NO GRAINS is best!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, that’s right, I said NO GRAINS!
  •     Gluten-FREE oats, rice, millet
  •     Pamela’s Mix brand flour for baking, waffles, pancakes; use Quinoa
  •     UDI bread is a good gluten free brand that makes bread and muffins but it is high carbs!

Sweeteners (NO Artificial and NO High Fructose Corn Syrup!!!)

  • Unheated raw honey; honey; date sugar; stevia; pure maple syrup; NO ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS!!!!!!

Beans and Legumes (best if soaked for twelve hours)

  •     miso, lentils, tempeh, natto, black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, white beans, pinto beans, red beans
  •     split peas, garbanzo beans, lima beans, broad beans, black-eyed peas


Reverse osmosis purified water; unsweetened herbal teas, raw vegetable or fruit juices, lacto-fermented beverages (like Kombucha – unless Candida issues), coconut water

*Results may vary by patient and treatment.

Schedule a Consultation

© 2018 Newport Mesa Wellness is a clinic in Newport Beach, CA offering functional medicine treatments for Lyme disease, autoimmune diseases, and cancer. | *Results may vary by patient and treatment.