Hi! I'm Dr. Erica Volk, your friendly naturopathic doctor.

9 signs of a leaky brain (and what you can do about it) | June 2023 newsletter

Published about 1 year ago • 5 min read

Happy June!

This newsletter is all about brain health!

In this newsletter:

  • 9 common symptoms of a leaky brain
  • 9 factors that affect brain health (that are within your control!)
  • Reminder about my FREE digestive health online support group
  • Important clinic updates

9 common symptoms of a "leaky" brain:

We all have something called the blood brain barrier that helps keep the brain safe from toxins and other harmful molecules. Several factors are believed to cause a permeable or "leaky" blood brain barrier. When toxins and chemicals are able to pass through this barrier, this can create brain inflammation, leading to any number of problems. The concept of "leaky brain" is currently a topic of further exploration and debate among scientists. That said, the following problems are often thought to be associated with a "leaky brain":

  1. ADD/ADHD/Autism spectrum disorders
  2. brain fog
  3. difficulty concentrating
  4. frequent headaches
  5. chronic fatigue not improved with rest or sleep
  6. mood instability (anxiety, depression, schizophrenia)
  7. memory problems or cognitive decline
  8. seizures
  9. numbness and tingling in the hands or feet

If you struggle with any of these symptoms, I recommend meeting with a health care provider or scheduling an appointment with me to explore potential contributing factors and develop a treatment plan.

10 modifiable factors that affect brain health

There are many ways we can improve brain health. The number one problem that can affect the brain is inflammation, which can be caused by so many things! While some inflammation is necessary for healing, too much inflammation is a major problem. While not an exhaustive list, the following are some of the common factors that can contribute to brain problems:

Leaky Gut

As already mentioned, intestinal permeability (also known as leaky gut) can affect brain health. Leaky gut can be caused by numerous factors including food sensitivities, medications, infections, stress, chemicals and toxins, and more. There are many symptoms of leaky gut including acne, skin rashes, fatigue, mood issues, allergies, and more. There are lab tests available that can confirm if leaky gut is a problem. Leaky gut is a leading cause of brain-related symptoms.

Toxins & Infections

A wide variety of toxins and infections can affect the brain. Heavy metals (ex. mercury, lead, arsenic), mycotoxins (mold), glutamate, and a wide variety of fungal, bacterial, and viral infections can all cause inflammation and affect neurotransmitter production, which can affect brain health. There are many lab tests that can identify infections and toxins.

Head injury & concussion

Maybe this one is obvious but injuring the head or brain can result in long-term problems and contribute to a wide variety of symptoms. There are treatments available to support recovery from brain injury. It is recommended to pursue treatment as soon as possible after sustaining a brain injury.

Hormone imbalance

Hormone imbalances are a common contributing factor to brain-related symptoms like mood changes, fatigue, brain fog, and cognitive changes. Ensuring hormones are balanced can be a helpful strategy for improving brain-related symptoms. It is possible to test hormone levels through a variety of lab tests.


Our brain needs nutrition, just like our bodies do. Key nutrients our brain especially needs for optimal function include omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin D. Foods that are harmful like alcohol, artificial sweeteners and preservatives, highly processed foods, trans fats, and sugar can all cause inflammation, which can negatively impact brain health. Modifying the diet can be a relatively easy and effective way to support brain health.

Sleep issues

Poor quality sleep and/or insufficient sleep can contribute to brain health problems. Sleep apnea can contribute to decreased oxygenation overnight, which can also negatively impact brain health. If you experience fatigue and snore and have not been assessed for sleep apnea, talk to your family doctor about a referral for a sleep study to determine if sleep apnea may be a problem for you. If you experience on-going sleep challenges, we can develop a treatment plan to improve your sleep.

Chronic stress

As if the experience of chronic stress weren't bad enough, it can also contribute to widespread inflammation in the body and even impact the brain. The good news is there are many ways to reduce emotional stress including cognitive behavioural therapy, breath work, meditation, yoga, exercise, counselling, improving boundaries, stress-reducing supplements, and more.

Cardiovascular risk factors

High blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol are three risk factors that can increase inflammation and affect blood flow to the brain. It is important to minimize cardiovascular risk by monitoring and addressing any issues with blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels.

Activity levels

A sedentary lifestyle can contribute to brain issues in several ways. Lack of movement can lead to reduced blood flow and higher risk of health problems like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, which can all affect brain health in several ways. It is easy to assess blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar and there are many treatment options available if these risk factors are present.

The good news is that all of these factors are completely in your control to change! If you would like support addressing or improving any of these factors, please schedule an appointment.

Important Clinic Updates

New office hours:

Please note: my office hours have changed and are now as follows:

Tuesday: 10 am - 4 pm

Wednesday: 10 am - 4 pm

Thursday: 10 am - 4 pm

Friday: 10 am - 2:30 pm

If you need an appointment time outside of these hours, please email the office and let us know a couple of good days and times that would work well for you.

NEW (cheaper) mold test option!

I'm pleased to report that US Biotek now offers a mold test that is much more cost effective for those individuals looking into testing for mold. Their new mycotoxin test is $425 compared with the $550 mold test offered by Great Plains Lab, and generates the same information. This test is done through a urine collection. Talk to me if you have any questions about this new lab test or if you're curious of mycotoxins (mold) could be contributing to your symptoms.

Got 1 minute? Please Review Me!

As a reminder, I could really use your help! Please take a minute to leave me an online review. Reviews help improve my online visibility so I can help even more people! It’s quick and easy to leave a 5-star review on Google and Rate MD. For those who choose to leave me a review, and to those who already have, I am so grateful for your support!

You can now follow me on TikTok and enjoy my educational videos!

That's all for this month! Until next time,

Dr. Erica Volk

Your Friendly Naturopathic Doctor

Tel: 778.760.3400 Fax: 844.991.3601

428-665 Cook Road | Kelowna, BC | V1W 4T4

Hi! I'm Dr. Erica Volk, your friendly naturopathic doctor.

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