Your Glymphatic System: A Beginners Guide To Brain Health
No doubt you have heard of your lymphatic system-a network of tissues and organs that have lymph-a unique fluid that has white blood cells and waste liquid drained from your cells. Your lymphatic system helps you remove toxins, viruses, bacteria and other metabolic wastes from your body and is essential to your survival. Did you know your brain and spinal cord have a unique lymphatic system, only recently discovered, that are not connected directly to the lymphatic system-but serve the exact same purpose. Enter your GLYMPHATIC system-a toxin/metabolic waste removal system specific to your Central Nervous System (CNS = brain, spinal cord and nerves). Your lymphatic system is your bodies macro/microscopic waste removal system for your brain and nerve tissues.
Glymphatic specially refers to your glial cell (nerve cells) that support, protect, nourish and ensure nerve cell health. Astroglia is a type of glial cells that are particularly important within your glymphatic system. They have receptors, called aquaporin-4 channels that help the fluids of your cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) move, thus flushing your glymphatics. Your CSF is a clear fluid that is vital for both immunological and mechanical protection around your brain and nerve system. Scientist recently discovered your glymphatic system runs parallel to the arteries/veins in your brain and nerve system and connects the glymphatic system to your lymphatic system at the thick connective tissue membrane that covers your brain and spinal cord, called the dura.
In addition to removing waste materials from the CNS your glymphatic system also helps to allocate glucose, amino acids, lipids, neuromodulators, and growth factors to your CNS. The glymphatic system is most “open and active” when you sleep thus the connection between good quality sleep and your brain/health.
Removing waste from your CNS is critical for your brain and body’s health and normal function. According to a 2014 study published in the Annals of Neurology, the impairment of the glymphatic system may cause the clearance of interstitial Aβ, making the aging brain more vulnerable to neurodegenerative disease. According to a 2020 study published in Nature Reviews Neurology, the blockage of the glymphatic system increases the risk of neurodegenerative disease by creating an accumulation of toxic proteins, such as amyloid-β.
Causes of Glymphatic System Congestion – Chronic Inflammation is an underlying cause of most chronic diseases and one of the major causes of all health dysfunction. Irritation to the glymphatic system congestion is no exception. For healthy functioning and effective waste removal, your glymphatic system has to be moving and inflammation can cause congestion and stagnation which irritates and can even damage brain and nerve cells.
Inflammation is mostly cause by exposure to toxins and a highly inflammatory diet. Natural anti-inflammatories can help decrease major signs of inflammation but a true reduction requires radical change of lifestyle (diet, products used, detoxification, chelation, distressing techniques etc).
Upper Cervical Misalignment – The base of your brain exits the skill at what is called the occipto-atlanto junction-(connection of the occipital bone and the 1st cervical bone-the atlas). This junction has a opening known as the foramenmagnum, which allows for exiting of the brain stem and transition of the CNS into the spinal cord. This opening is vital for fluids from the brain to flow into the spinal cord for drainage. Misalignment at this junction can physically block the glymphatic which leads to increased intracranial fluid and pressure which can result in a number of neurological and degenerative disorders. Correction requires specific upper cervical alignment assessment/x-ray and correction through specific chiropractic adjusting.
Environmental Toxins / Heavy Metals – Polluted air, tap water, non-organic and processed foods, conventional beauty, body, and household products, plastic products, moldy indoor spaces, etc. can have a serious negative impact on our brain and overall health. A 2015 study published in Current Alzheimer Research and a 2014 study published in the Journal of Environmental Health indicate, environmental toxicity can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and various poor cognitive outcomes in both adults and children. Aluminum, mercury and lead toxicity have also clinically been assisted with direct damage and degeneration to the CNS. Assessment requires blood, urine, hair and/or saliva testing through a wellness physician as most conventional doctors to not test or address toxicity associated health conditions.
Poor Sleep Quality – When you sleep the glymphatic system is the most active, thus getting quality sleep on a regular basis is incredibly important for your brain and overall health. Poor sleep is known to increase the risk of chronic stress, high cortisol, fatigue, and chronic inflammation that can contribute to symptoms of glymphatic system congestion. Poor sleep can interrupt this process contributing to glymphatic system dysfunction. According to a 2019 study published in Science, your sleep-wake cycle regulates brain interstitial fluid and CSF and problems can increase the risk of pathology, such as Alzheimer’s. The position you sleep in is also vitally important. When you sleep on your back the glymphatic system drains properly through your skull/neck junction. When you side sleep it can be blocked as most side sleepers tilt their head either towards or away from the mattress due to improperly fitting pillows. This is why most health experts recommend only sleeping on your back for good health.
For more information listen to my podcast on Solving Neurodegeneration on iTunes.