If you’ve ever stubbed your toe or had a pimple, you’re probably familiar with a few of the symptoms of inflammation — tissue redness, swelling, pain, and heat. As a part of your body’s natural immune response, inflammation helps your body heal wounds and fight off infection from pathogens like viruses and bacteria.
Why, then, does inflammation get such a bad rap?
Research studies in recent years have shown that inflammation is a contributor in many, if not all, diseases including cancer, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. But the effects of inflammation are not limited to bodily disorders — a growing body of evidence has provided fascinating new insights into how inflammation can affect the brain.
Does Inflammation Cause Depression?
For decades, doctors and scientists were taught that there was an impermeable brain between the brain and the immune system called the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Think of the BBB as something like the brain’s Berlin Wall — it was believed that this “wall” kept the cells and proteins of the body’s immune system from reaching the brain.
It is now clear that this is wrong.
Certain proinflammatory molecules called cytokines are known to be able to cross the BBB and produce effects that lead to neuronal dysfunction and cell death. Specifically, scientists were able to localize the effect to the parts of the brain known to be involved in depression and other psychiatric disorders.
This gives hope to some. If inflammation can cause depression, then anti-inflammatory drugs should be able to prevent or treat depression. And results from early studies have been encouraging, with patients who were treated with anti-inflammatory drugs having improved mental health scores. However, more studies will need to be done to test anti-inflammatory drugs as antidepressants.
Good Oral Health May Protect Your Brain
These new insights go beyond depression or drugs. Pharmaceutical companies in testing anti-inflammatory drugs for various neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and interest in risk factors and drug-free interventions for controlling low-grade inflammation has skyrocketed.
One of the most interesting risk factors for chronic inflammation — at least, in our humble opinion — is periodontitis, also known as low-grade gum inflammation. Several studies have identified high levels of Porphyromonas gingivalis, the key bacteria responsible for chronic periodontitis, in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other systemic disorders.
But if you think you can prevent periodontitis and other disorders simply by brushing your teeth regularly, think again.
The anatomical features of the tongue surface create reservoirs for pathogenic bacteria like P. gingivalis, and the tongue is also less susceptible to oral health care practices. Simply put, the key to fighting inflammation could be to keep your tongue clean.
You won’t need fancy gadgets to clean your tongue. Nope — research shows that the most effective way to get all those nasty, disease-causing bacteria off your tongue is to use a tongue scraper. A 100% recyclable plastic tongue scraper is available for just $4 (or just $1 with a monthly subscription) from ScrapeYourTongue.com. Its unique design allows you to cover the entire surface area of the tongue with a single scrape — all without setting off your gag reflex.
To Keep Inflammation at Bay, Scrape Your Tongue
As scientists continue to explore inflammation, it’s becoming clear that the mind and the body are deeply connected. This new perspective has the potential to transform the way we think about depression and other mental illnesses.But you don’t have to wait for more research to start taking better care of yourself. If you want to reduce inflammation in your body, there’s no easier way to start than to scrape your tongue.