Keep a clear head

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 detox tips to help you keep a clear head.

Your brain’s cleanup team

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. We’re still learning about the glymphatic system, but so far it’s clear that the brain requires sleep.

As scientists continue to learn more, here are five tips for a clearer brain.

1. Avoid doomscrolling

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.

2. Turn down the volume

Give yourself some daily silence. 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 behavior. In your brain, noise stress increases nitric oxide and free-radical production, which can cause damage to brain cells.

3. Turn out the lights

Treat yourself to some blue-light blocking glasses to wear in the evening to trick your brain into producing melatonin. 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.

4. Get grounded

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.

5. Consider supplements

Ask your health care practitioner before taking any new supplement. The following may help support brain health.

  • Bacopa
  • Lion’s mane mushroom
  • Marine omega-3
  • Milk thistle

By Lisa Petty, PhD