The Glymphatic System Explained: How to Boost Glymphatic Function

The Glymphatic System Explained: How to Boost Glymphatic Function
The Glymphatic System defined. 

The glymphatic system is a network of blood vessels that removes waste products, such as, proteins, toxins, cellular debris and metabolites from the nervous system. It is our “neural waste disposal.” Wastes are carried away from the brain to be dispelled out of the body. The problem arises when proteins build up and are not cleared out. This leads to the formation of beta amyloid plaques, which are a hallmark sign in Alzheimer’s disease. Glymphatic clearance is more active when we sleep. A good night’s sleep is imperative to optimal brain detoxification and clearance. Exercise also boosts glymphatic activity. A disruption in our glymphatic system contributes to brain fog, fatigue, poor memory, anxiety, depression, addiction, stroke, and brain disease. A well-functioning clearance system is critical to optimal brain health and in the prevention of neurodegenerative disorders like Huntington’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s Disease.

Diagram of CSF flow in the brain.

It is important to understand how the glymphatic vasculature works to clear metabolic wastes and harmful chemicals. The vasculature consists of brain cells, veins, arteries, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), periarterial and perivenous spaces, and tiny channels. CSF circulates through the entire glymphatic system to clear out wastes in the brain tissues by a connective flow. It is filtered through the brain and spinal cord to work with the fluid to clear out wastes through larger veins away from the brain into the lymphatic duct. During sleep, there is an influx of CSF, which increases glymphatic drainage. Prioritizing a good night’s sleep and regular sleep schedule is crucial in boosting the glymphatic system and overall brain health.

We can optimize glymphatic activity by a simple set of practices that can be incorporated into our everyday lifestyle. Adequate hydration promotes optimal cerebral blow flow and brain function. It is very important to drink water throughout the day to support our lymphatic system. A good rule to go by is to drink enough water so that you go to the bathroom every 3-4 hours. Prioritizing sleep is also very important for a strong sleep-brain connection. Establishing a bedtime routine, sleeping in a dark, cool room, using white noise to block out disturbances, and maintaining a regular sleep wake schedule are ways to reap the neuroprotective benefits of a good night’s sleep.  Exercise or some type of movement everyday boosts glymphatic activity and is crucial for optimal function.

Eating brain-supporting foods, such as, mixed berries, fresh fruits, turmeric, ginger, rosemary, grass-fed meats, nuts, leafy greens, bell peppers, broccoli, probiotics and beets all boost our neural waste system. It is very important to increase oxygenation and decrease inflammation in the brain. Intermittent fasting does just that by by impacting proteins in the brain involved in aging and oxidative stress. Fasting also boosts working memory, alertness, learning, energy, and physical performance. Regular bowel movements also support glymphatic health. When the body has to divert a lot of its energy to digesting, absorbing, and eliminating sluggish bowels, there is less energy to support glymphatic drainage. Avoiding cigarettes, drug use, taking unnecessary medications, eating organic foods, and using organic beauty and household products are ways to minimize toxin exposure.

Mindfulness meditation and yoga significantly impact the glymphatic system and the parasympathetic response to promote a state of relaxation, decreased stress and sound sleep. Just like glymphatic activity rises during sleep, it also does during meditation and yoga. The glymphatic pathways in the brain tissues open up to allow CSF to flow in and clear out cellular debris and byproducts from everyday metabolic processes. This allows for a 40-60% increase of CSF flow through the brain tissues during sleep, and why we feel rested after a good night’s sleep. This leads to improved cerebral blood flow in the brain and its potent anti-aging properties, which are crucial to optimal glymphatic function. Furthermore, yoga and meditation improve posture, which allows for healthy flow of CSF throughout the spinal cord. Meditation, yoga, and sleep all activate the glymphatic system. They are forms of deep bodywork that induce a state of rest and repair. Simply practicing yoga, meditating, or having a stretching routine greatly supports glymphatic function. Find something that works for you and get flowing.

Thank you for reading this post.