One of the biggest concerns we face about aging is cognitive decline. But what if I told you that we may have more control over our cognitive destiny than we realize? Enter the recently-discovered glymphatic system, a brain-specific lymphatic network that not only clears waste but transports essential lipids, amino acids, glucose, and neurotransmitters to the brain. It is composed of a system of vessels and pores that use cerebrospinal fluid to clear waste from the central nervous system—primarily while we sleep.
Though scientists are still learning about this important detox network, research suggests that a healthy, well-functioning glymphatic system may be critical to the prevention of neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, as those conditions have been linked with the build-up of cellular metabolic byproducts that haven’t been properly excreted from the body. It may also play a role in stabilizing your mental and cognitive health on a day-to-day basis (think stable mood and increased focus). Read on for six ways to support your brain’s natural detox system to prevent disease and keep you feeling sharp.
1. Get Quality Sleep
Because the glymphatic system kicks into high gear when we’re asleep, one of the best ways to support it is by getting the best rest possible. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night, and you can ensure you get the most out of your pillow time by practicing good sleep hygiene. This include s getting up and going to bed at the same times every day, exercising regularly, turning off screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime, and sleeping in a dark, cool, and quiet room.
2. Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Another way to support a healthy glymphatic system is by being conscious about what you put on your plate. The gut-brain connection plays a major role in cognitive and mental health, and gastrointestinal conditions like leaky gut syndrome, IBS, and Crohn’s disease can all increase inflammation and contribute to mental and cognitive issues such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, brain fog, and lack of focus. Fill your plate with brain-boosting foods that are rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, protein, omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamins such as copper, manganese and vitamin C.
3. Stay Hydrated
Water is a crucial component of all our bodily functions, including the glymphatic system. Not only does water support the detoxification processes of the liver and kidneys, but it helps maintain fluid levels in both the lymphatic and glymphatic systems, allowing them to efficiently transport waste to where it needs to go. The average adult man needs 101 ounces of water per day (around 13 cups) and an adult woman needs about 74 ounces (around 9 cups), so drink up!
4. Exercise Regularly
Making daily movement a priority will not only help you sleep better, reduce stress, and boost your energy levels, but it can help increase glymphatic activity and improve brain plasticity by increasing blood flow essential to cellular metabolism. Adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, or a combination of both, every week.
5. Minimize Toxin Exposure
The lower your toxic load, the easier it is for your body to process and eliminate waste. You can minimize your toxic exposure by avoiding smoking and drug use, as well as buying organic produce and natural beauty, personal care, and household products whenever possible. This will limit the number of herbicides, pesticides, and other chemicals you ingest. Check out my guide to buying “clean” here.
6. Make Sure You’re “Regular”
Finally, regular, healthy bowel movements support the body’s various detoxification processes. When your body is funneling extra energy into moving slow bowels, it’s naturally pulling energy from elsewhere, including the glymphatic drainage process. You can promote regularity by eating fiber-rich non-starchy fruits and vegetables, nuts, and legumes, along with regular exercise.
Putting together a plan to keep your glymphatic system happy and running well can be daunting, but I’m here to help. Contact me and together, we can help you make lasting lifestyle changes that not only boost your brain health but improve your overall wellness.