How Your Glio Lymphatic System Affects Your Daily Performance

How Your Glio Lymphatic System Affects Your Daily Performance

Back in 2012, researchers discovered a new maintenance system in the brain, known as the “glio lymphatic” or glymphatic system. In simple terms, this system uses cell mitochondria1 to remove waste from the brain. Scientists found that the system is highly active during sleep. In other words, the mitochondria in your brain remove cellular waste while you’re unconscious.

If you boost your mitochondrial function during sleep, you should turbocharge the brain maintenance system, improve your everyday health, and even upgrade performance. The brain system works because, throughout the day, the blood circulates throughout the body, carrying oxygen to cells. Waste from the metabolic processes of our cells is released into the interstitial fluid between each cell.

The “lymphatic” system sucks up the excess waste and fluid throughout our bodies, incorporating it into the fluids that flow throughout the lymph nodes. These substances filter the pathogens and waste in our system, before dumping fluids back into our circulatory system2. Like the lymphatic system, the glio lymphatic system removes waste from interstitial fluid. However, it requires your cooperation to perform this action. Cleansing in the brain happens best when you’re asleep.  Brain cells, like all cells throughout the body, require oxygen and food for metabolic function.  Like all cells of the body, brain cell metabolism creates waste.  During the day, waste collects in the interstitial fluid of the brain.  While some of the waste will dissolve in the fluid, it usually just collects, and waits for sleep. 

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the brain cleaning process, is how the brain cells work. During sleep, the brain cells shrink, with the space between cells increasing by 60% to help improve the flow of fluids. Cerebral spinal fluid flows into the new space, helped by the pulsing of arteries, where it mixes with interstitial fluid and washes the waste towards the liver.

The full process occurs during the deepest level of slow-wave sleep. This means that good sleep is essential to the removal of toxic substances and waste from the brain.

We know that research tells us how sleep deprivation can powerfully impact the body, impacting various facets of health and life. Often, research into the world of sleep is eye-opening, and the discovery of the glio lymphatic system has helped us to learn how sleep refreshes and cleanses the brain.

One study in 20133 found that disrupted sleep could lead to issues with the circadian rhythms, causing more than 700 different genes to inappropriately turn off or on. These gene signals were all associated with mechanisms for circadian rhythms, including oxidative stress, homeostasis, metabolism, and more. A lack of sleep led to modifications in DNA, changes in metabolic function, immune imbalances, and even gene polymorphisms.  Ultimately, when our body doesn’t get enough sleep, the problems that can occur are overwhelming.  Some of the outcomes include: 

  • A higher risk of early death
  • Problems with both long-term and short-term memory loss
  • Increased impact to cognitive functioning – loss of concentration because the brain cannot function properly
  • Inability to release growth hormones necessary for repairing cellular and tissue damage
  • Disruption of immune system meaning an increased risk of disease and illness
  • Problems with mood and emotional management due to higher levels of stress
  • Issues with recovery from illness and healing can begin
  • Increased risk for diabetes, blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease
  • Problems can increase with coordination and balance – increasing the risk of trips and falls
  • Chronic illnesses based around cognition can be exacerbated, such as Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s.

Though it’s hard to know at this time whether all of these results are linked to toxin build-up in the brain, there’s a good chance that the increased presence of toxins and damaging substances could impact the way our brain works. Right now, we’re waiting on access to new research that will help us to establish just how dangerous toxin build-up can be.

The glio lymphatic system4 uses the battery of the cell (the mitochondria), to remove cellular waste out of the brain. Scientists have learned that clear cerebrospinal fluid, or “CSF”, in the brain is responsible for draining toxins from the brain, similarly to how the lymph system in other organs remove waste from the cells to the liver and kidney.

Importantly, the team who discovered the presence of the glymphatic system also found that this solution is responsible for clearing out a substance called “amyloid beta.” This is a metabolite that many experts believe could be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease when it is allowed to build up and destroy crucial neurons. This suggests that the problems of Alzheimer’s disease may arise as a result of problems with the glymphatic system.

Researchers also found5 that removing water channels in mice which allowed for the flow of glio lymphatic fluids actually allowed amyloid beta to build in the brain. The implications of this study are significant, particularly when you consider the fact that up to 70 million adults6 throughout the US have a sleep related disorder.

A number of other studies also support the idea that there’s a link between insufficient sleep and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, a study into over 700 people7 found that individuals who get fewer than 6 hours of sleep each night have a higher risk of dementia. The same research, along with many other studies8 found that a U-Shaped curve could be responsible for dementia development, as too much sleep also connects to higher dementia risk. However, some researchers believe that too much sleep is a symptom of dementia, rather than a cause.

Once, the function of sleep was highly mysterious. However, there’s plenty of evidence now that seems to suggest that it’s essential for the memory and concentration. It also seems that it’s also required for the removal of waste from the brain too. Although further study is required to get a full understanding of the glio lymphatic system, it seems that the link between this brain process and everyday performance is significant.

In fact, some experts believe that the link between the brain and sleep could have important implications when it comes to managing the treatment of various neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The reason for this is that all of these diseases occur as a result of a build-up of problematic proteins around nerve cells – caused by a defective waste removal system.

It seems clear now that good sleep hygiene is crucial for the brain because of the glio lymphatic system. In line with this, many other forms of research suggest that sleep disturbances may predict the development of neurological degeneration9.

The Glio Lymphatic System and Concentration

As research into the glio lymphatic system progresses, it seems more obvious than ever that modern society is highly ill-equipped to provide the brain with the correct cleaning time. The figures are significant. About 80% of working adults10 suffer from some manner of sleep deprivation. According to information from the National Sleep Foundation, adults should sleep for between seven and nine hours. However, on average11, we’re getting up to two hours less sleep a night than we did fifty years ago.

Whenever our sleep is disturbed, the glio lymphatic cleaning system begins to break down. According to the University of Pennsylvania12, scientists believe that restless nights can significantly damage the way that the brain works daily. When cognitive trash begins to build up, we suffer from worse concentration, decreased focus, and other significant problems.

Indeed, this concept links with many other studies13 that indicate how a lack of sleep impacts cognitive capacity. Sleep deprivation impacts everything from cognitive function, to decision making, to ongoing concentration issues. At one extreme, the result could lead to the acceleration of various neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

At this point, while we need more information to understand the link between degenerative brain conditions and the glio lymphatic system, it seems that a buildup of proteins and toxins can be closely linked to damage in mental processes. Even at the more benign end of things, all-nighters and stressful weeks where we are unable to sleep properly, can impede our ability to concentrate and analyse information correctly14.

When we’re sleep deprived, and the brain is riddled with toxins, we simply can’t process information as we should. This means that we struggle to put facts together.  Of course, there’s a difference between fleeting sleep loss and chronic deprivation that comes from problems like insomnia. In some studies, such as one by the Veasey lab15, though our brains can recover quite quickly from short-term sleep loss, chronic insomnia disrupts the brain metabolism.

When the glio lymphatic system and the brain metabolism are disturbed, the result can be the degeneration of important neurons essential to proper cortical function and alertness. Additionally, there can be a buildup of proteins associated with neural degeneration and aging.

We’ve long known that sleep is crucial for higher cortical functions. Sleep deprivation affects our ability to concentrate, multi-task, and problem solve. This is why it’s recommended that people avoid driving when they are sleep-deprived, or taking medication that might cause drowsiness. The underlying theme is that if you don’t allow your brain to perform its cleansing process, and the glio lymphatic system doesn’t work as it should, we see serious problems. Sleep is our brain’s way of dealing with the daily trash buildup.

Since the glio lymphatic system16 relies significantly on mitochondria, it makes sense that you would work on optimizing those cellular structures to improve brain function. Mitochondria are structures found within bodily cells. The survival of these cells requires energy to ensure the performance of different functions. The mitochondria are the ultimate source of energy for the cell, and they gather energy from the substances you consume.

If you want to improve the function of the glymphatic system, and the brain’s ability to detox, you need to improve your nutrient intake. This is why so many experts recommend adapting your diet to improve brain health.

Remember, your brain controls every physiological function, from your breathing, to your hormone production and digestion. Alignment and movement of the spine17 is also pivotal to brain function. Cerebrospinal fluid is the substance that the glymphatic system uses to cleanse the brain. This means that stimulating the spine with chiropractic adjustments and improving its movement with regular exercise could be essential to detoxification.

Since CSF is essential18 to the glio lymphatic system, it makes sense that studies have begun to show how cervical adjustments in the spine can impact brain-based conditions19. MRI scans are beginning to reveal that cerebral spinal fluid and blood flow are often improved significantly after chiropractic adjustments.

While there are many different ways that you can begin to improve CSF flow, and therefore improve the performance of the glio lymphatic system during sleep, it seems that it’s important to start with a focus on the spine and the movement of the body.

We already mentioned that spinal management can be important when it comes to enhancing glymphatic functioning. However, it seems that the number one key to improving brain detoxification, is improving your quality of sleep. Here are just some of the ways that you might be able to aid your glio lymphatic system each night:

  • Take omega-3 fatty acids before bed: One study published by Chinese scientists20 found that omega-3 fatty acids could improve glymphatic functioning in mice.  We offer many different options for omega-3 fatty acid supplements on Shop Vibrant Life, shop now to see what we have to offer.
  • Sleep away from your phone: There appears to be a strong link21 between the blue light emitted by electronic screens and sleep. Removing electronics from your bedroom could help to boost the quality of your sleeping patterns.
  • Try Craniosacral therapy: Craniosacral therapy22 is a form of gentle therapy that helps to promote the release of toxic buildup in the fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain. Because this process improves CSF motion, it could help the glio lymphatic system to flush away waste.
  • Start intermittent fasting: Intermittent fasting can improve your mitochondria function, which is crucial for the glymphatic system to detoxify the brain properly. Intermittent fasting has also been connected with better long-term health23.
  • Exercise regularly: Movement is medicine for the body and mind. Research finds that exercise is great for enhancing your level of brain-building hormones, and also acts as a natural remedy for anxiety and depression. It also helps to reduce stress and improve concentration24.
  • Sleep on your side: Studies suggest25 that the glymphatic system appears to work best when you’re sleeping on your side, rather than the stomach or back.
  • Try Pranayama yoga: Pranayama yoga is a solution for reducing stress that has been shown to have a positive impact on your cerebrospinal fluid and nervous system. This type of yoga encourages you to learn healthy breathing techniques that help to reduce pressure and increase focus.
  • Try chiropractic adjustments: Finally, studies have shown26 that chiropractic treatment could help to significantly reduce brain-based discomfort like headaches and migraines. There is also some suggestion that chiropractic adjustments might help to reduce certain neurological symptoms, such as the issues that arise for MS patients.

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