There are many organs (the skin, liver, bowels, etc.) to consider when we are desirous of cleansing the body for a goal of optimal health. Thanks to new technology, though, we can now see exactly how the brain washes itself – not in the metaphoric sense, but how the glial cells, which power cerebrospinal fluid, help wash out guck from the brain.
How the Brain Washes Itself
Fortunately, the kind of toxic goop that the liver or intestines take on doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier and interfere with the fatty mass between our ears. This is how the brain protects itself from pathogens like viruses and microbes. In order to protect itself, yet still flush out toxins, the brain makes a fluid called cerebrospinal fluid that scientists once had a hunch helped keep the body and brain healthy, but weren’t exactly sure how.
Using a two-photon microscope, scientists were recently able to see exactly how the brain washes itself even with the blood-brain barrier in place. Special cells, called glial cells form the glymphatic system. These cells power the cerebrospinal fluid. They do so by forming little feet which wrap around vessels and veins to carry blood – almost like a pipe in regular ‘this old house’ plumbing. The pipe the glial cells form have tiny pores within it that suck nutrient-rich cerebrospinal fluid from the vessels into a channel that is full of nerve cells, and pores located elsewhere along the channel pump out the waste-filled fluid. The brain cells are therefore fed with nutrients and cleaned of toxins at the same time.
In many separate studies conducted on cerebrospinal fluid, it has been hypothesized that its statis (in activity or sluggish flow) can cause all sorts of disease. There are many factors which determine the flow of this important brain fluid, including the overall cardiovascular health, respiratory health and vasomotor health of an individual, and healthful nutrients are as important to the glial cells and lymphatic flow as anything.
Where there is dis-harmony in the body, the cerebrospinal fluids may not be able to flow appropriately, and this in turn can lead to poor cellular metabolism – even of brain cells and important neurons which must communicate with one another to keep our hormones in balance, our nervous systems functioning properly, and allow us to make intelligent decisions in our every day activities. It is for this reason that many postures in yoga aim to move cerebrospinal fluid up and down the spine so that it can reach the brain stem.
Simple Ways to Help the Brain Clean Itself
Other therapies which help the brain clean itself by utilizing good cerebrospinal flow include cranial manipulation, cranial sacral therapy, massage therapy including promotion of lymph flow, and breathwork. Nutrition and overall detoxification of the body can also ensure that the other organs of elimination are not overloaded so that once the glial cells ‘dump’ waste into the blood, these toxins can be removed from the body appropriately.
Proper nutrition, cleansing techniques and good cerebrospinal flow are imperative to removing amyloid plaques that may be the basis of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia like Parkinson’s Disease or Lou Gerhig’s Disease. In younger stages of the body, we can utilize these therapies as a means to keep the brain and spinal fluid healthy so that our mind’s can function at peak levels.
Christina Sarich is passionate about natural health and wellness, and as well as running her own Yoga blog, she contributes to timetocleanse.com, a popular cleansing and clean living website.
National Institutes of Health