As we progress in the detox drainage series, I want to talk about a very little known pathway. You might be wondering what the heck is the glymphatic system, and if maybe I made a typo and meant lymphatic. Nope. This is it's own incredible pathway. The glymphatic system, a waste removal system in the brain, is a relatively new discovery, having been found in 2012.
During sleep, specifically REM, this system eliminates waste from the central nervous system and is essential to neurological health.
There are a few mechanisms that the glymphatic system employs to conduct its nightly detox.
Glia, a type of cell which is as numerous in the brain as neurons, is one of the essential players in this process. These glial cells contain receptors that allow for cerebrospinal fluid to be transported into the central nervous system and exchanged with interstitial fluid, which allows for waste buildup removal. Astroglia, a type of glial cell, forms perivascular tunnels which is an elimination route for things like soluble proteins and metabolites. These proteins often play a role in Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases.
The glymphatic system runs parallel to arteries, so it makes use of the blood circulation to help facilitate the movement between the interstitial space and the cerebrospinal fluid.
Unlike every other detox pathway, the glymphatic system primarily operates during deep sleep and shuts off when we are awake, thus marking the importance of restful sleep.
The glymphatic system then drains into the lymphatic nodes in our neck, so lymph support becomes equally important when taking care of neurological issues and auto-immune disorders.
So how do we support this "Brain Drain"?
Sleep. Deep REM sleep is one of the best ways to support your glymphatic system. That means going to bed early, reducing blue light exposure a few hours before bed, and wearing blue light blocking glasses.
In order to support restful sleep, it's important to expose your eyes to the sun's rays first thing in the morning, and last thing before sunset. Those lightwaves help to set the circadian rhythm by regulating melatonin and will provide for deeper sleep.
Herbs. While these herbs don't exactly support the glymphatic system directly, they can help to promote sleep. Lemon balm, valarian root, passionflower, chamomile, and lavender are all excellent options to unwind before bed and to be prepared for REM.
Lymphatic massage. This will help to drain the fluids that have made their way into your lymph from the glymphatic drainage that happened overnight.
Craniosacral therapy. This gentle, light-touch technique helps the movement of fluids in the central nervous system, as well as relieves compression in the head, sacrum, and spine.
Other bedtime rituals. This varies from person to person, but some examples include a warm bath, meditation or prayer, journaling, or reading a book. Anything that helps to relax and unwind before bed is a great routine to add.
If you're looking to improve your brain health, let me know in the comments which one of these supportive practices you're going to add to your routine.