While we pay close attention to our body’s detox systems and work to support them through lifestyle choices, how many of us are thinking of detoxing our brains too? Here are some helpful detox tips to help you keep a clear head.
Because the brain is rich in lipids and uses up about 20 percent of the oxygen you inhale, it’s extremely vulnerable to free-radical damage. But your brain doesn’t benefit from the cleansing power of the lymph that courses through the rest of your body. To keep a clear head, you need to limit the junk that goes in at the same time you support the brain’s natural detox processes.
Glial + lymphatic system
It’s only been in the past few years that researchers have begun to understand how the brain keeps itself clean. Named to acknowledge the role of glial cells in the process, the “glymphatic system” relies on cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) filling spaces next to smaller blood vessels leading to the brain.
The CSF interchanges with the fluid between brain cells, also known as interstitial fluid. Waste is then carried away, including tau proteins and amyloid-beta plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Because neural cells are highly sensitive to their environment, waste products of neural metabolism must be promptly and efficiently removed from the interstitial space. The custodial team can experience a few obstacles, however.
For example, animal research shows that daytime release of the hormone norepinephrine (an adrenal hormone that helps you wake up, focus, and store memories) could slow glymphatic clearance. The research also showed an 80 to 90 percent increase in glymphatic clearance during slow-wave sleep compared to awake time. Clearly, sleep is not a waste of time. That is, if you can get to sleep.
Pineal gland calcification
The pineal gland is a soybean-sized gland in the centre of the human brain. Along with producing and recycling CSF, this gland is also involved in producing the brain-protecting hormone melatonin that helps you get sleepy at nighttime. Unfortunately, pineal gland calcification decreases melatonin production and has been linked to sleep dysfunction, aging, and disorders including Alzheimer’s disease.
Avoid additional use of fluoride, where possible, as it has been linked to pineal gland calcification, which, in turn, is linked with decreased melatonin. Increase dietary sources of melatonin, including tart cherries, grapes, and strawberries, as well as mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, oats, and nuts.
We’re still learning about the glymphatic system, but so far it’s clear that the brain requires sleep. Research suggests that being supine during sleep isn’t the best position for glymphatic clearance, though, admittedly, this is a difficult thing to control.
Regular physical activity, low alcohol intake (rather than avoidance), stress management, blood pressure control, and intermittent fasting may be helpful for brain clearing.
Other lifestyle factors can wreak havoc on brain health
Let’s not beat about the bush: most of the stuff on your devices is downright depressing. Social media has lowered the bar on civility, and news outlets across the globe stoke fear and encourage intolerance. You probably didn’t need research to tell you that spending just a few minutes online can topple your emotional house of cards.
If you must go online for news, get the info you need as quickly as possible and move on. Before getting back to your real life, seek out people and stories that leave you feeling optimistic about the state of the world. It does help.
Life is noisy
Evidence is mounting that noise stress impairs cognition, coordination, and eating. Studies also show that excessive noise adds to emotional stress and increases anxiety-like behaviour. In your brain, noise stress increases nitric oxide and free-radical production, which can cause damage to brain cells.
Turn down the volume and give yourself some daily silence.
EMFs and your brain
Although we’re exposed to a constant electromagnetic field (EMF) on the surface of the planet, EMF exposure has skyrocketed at the same speed as our increasing use of personal devices and modern technological advances.
There’s been very little independent human research about EMF exposure, so only time will tell the long-term impacts of our wired world on our well-being. Take every opportunity to disconnect.
The sleep hormone melatonin is suppressed by short-wave (blue) light. This is a good thing during the day, but the blue light from devices and screens that can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm can also have negative effects on our sleep patterns.
Turn out the lights. Treat yourself to some blue-light blocking glasses to wear in the evening to trick your brain into producing melatonin.
Research has shown that touching the earth with your feet helps restore your body’s natural electrical status and positively influences your nervous system and brain. Being in nature also improves mental and physical well-being. Plus, it’s not noisy in nature like it is in the city.
Support for memory and cognition
- Bacopa is an Ayurvedic neural tonic that has been shown to inhibit brain inflammation and may also help sharpen the mind.
- Lion’s mane mushroom stimulates production of neuron growth factors that activate the brain and may support memory improvement.
- Marine omega-3 supports the brain’s glymphatic system and may be useful in delaying or preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Milk thistle flavonoid, silymarin, may protect against the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and mitigate fluoride effects.