brain

Flowing Towards Brain Wellness: Understanding the Importance of Glymphatic Function & Support

As a restorative physician, I am constantly seeking innovative ways to optimize health and wellness for my patients. In recent years, a fascinating area of research has emerged, shedding light on the crucial role of the glymphatic system in brain health. In this article, I will delve into the intricate workings of the glymphatic system, explore its connection to brain wellness, and discuss strategies to support the function of your brain.

Let’s face it: maintaining optimal brain wellness is paramount for overall health and quality of life. The brain serves as the control center of our body, responsible for coordinating various bodily functions, processing information, and regulating emotions. A healthy brain is essential for cognition, memory, mood, and overall well-being.

  • Cognitive function: A healthy brain enables you to think clearly, concentrate, solve problems, and make decisions. Cognitive decline, such as impaired memory and reduced mental agility, can significantly impact daily life and productivity.
  • Mental health: Brain wellness is closely tied to mental health. Imbalances in brain chemistry and functioning can lead to conditions like anxiety, depression, and mood disorders. By prioritizing your brain health, you can support your emotional well-being and promote resilience in the face of stress.
  • Neurodegenerative diseases: Age-related neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, can have devastating effects on individuals and their families. Maintaining brain wellness through various lifestyle interventions can potentially reduce the risk of developing these conditions or slow their progression.

Where Does the Glymphatic System Fit in?

The glymphatic system, discovered by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center in 2012 (though it could be that the ancients knew about the glymphatics 5000+ years ago…who knows….), is a network of vessels and channels that facilitate the removal of waste and toxins from the brain. This unique system functions similarly to the lymphatic system in the body, clearing metabolic waste products and maintaining brain homeostasis.

How Does the Glymphatic System Work?

The glymphatic system relies on the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and interstitial fluid (ISF) to carry away waste and deliver nutrients to brain cells. During sleep, the glymphatic system becomes highly active, with an increase in the volume of CSF and expansion of interstitial spaces. This surge in activity allows for efficient waste removal. The glymphatic system has a number of critical functions:

  1. Waste Clearance: The glymphatic system acts sort of like a sewage system for the brain, clearing away metabolic waste products, metals, chemicals, inflammatory byproducts, and cellular debris. Failure to efficiently remove these waste products can lead to their accumulation, potentially contributing to neurodegenerative processes.
  2. Nutrient Delivery: In addition to waste removal, the glymphatic system also delivers essential nutrients, oxygen, and other substances required for optimal brain function. This ensures that brain cells receive the necessary resources to perform their functions effectively.
  3. Brain Homeostasis: The glymphatic system helps maintain brain homeostasis by regulating the balance of ions, neurotransmitters, and other chemicals within the brain. This balance is crucial for optimal neuronal communication and overall brain function.
  4. Sleep & Glymphatic Activity: The glymphatic system's activity is closely linked to sleep. During sleep, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) increases, allowing for the efficient removal of waste products. Inadequate sleep or disrupted sleep patterns can impair glymphatic function, potentially contributing to cognitive decline and an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

 

The Link between Glymphatic Function & Brain Wellness

Impaired glymphatic function has been implicated in various neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and multiple sclerosis. Reduced glymphatic activity may also impact cognitive function, memory, and overall brain health. Furthermore, disrupted glymphatic flow has been observed in conditions like traumatic brain injury, neuroinflammation, and strokes.

Factors Affecting Glymphatic Function

  • Lifestyle Factors: There is emerging evidence that a few key lifestyle and other factors can reduce glymphatic flow. These include:

    • Stress, particularly chronic unpredictable mild stress
    • Smoking
    • Excessive alcohol consumption
    • Overload of iron and other heavy metals such as arsenic (As), manganese (Mn), mercury (Hg), aluminum (Al), lead (Pb), nickel (Ni), bismuth (Bi), and cadmium (Cd) in the brain

  • Sleep: Adequate sleep and quality rest are essential for optimal glymphatic function. Sleep deprivation or disturbances can hinder the clearance of waste products, leading to cognitive decline and increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Diet & Hydration: A nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory diet combined with proper hydration supports glymphatic activity. Antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and plant-based compounds found in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats have been shown to enhance brain health.
  • Physical Activity & Exercise: Regular physical exercise promotes glymphatic flow by increasing blood flow to the brain, enhancing waste removal, and supporting overall brain function. Engaging in activities like aerobic exercise, yoga, and tai chi can be beneficial.

Supporting Glymphatic Function for Brain Wellness

  1. Dietary Recommendations: A nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory diet combined with proper hydration supports glymphatic activity. Antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and plant-based compounds found in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats have been shown to enhance brain health. Consume a nutrient-dense diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids, and anti-inflammatory foods. And stay hydrated - my rule of thumb is to drink ½ of your body weight in ounces of clean water.
  2. Sleep Hygiene: Adequate sleep and quality rest are essential for optimal glymphatic function. Sleep deprivation or disturbances can hinder the clearance of waste products, leading to cognitive decline and increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Create a sleep-friendly routine by maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and creating a relaxing sleep environment, avoiding caffeine and stimulating activities before bedtime, and minimizing exposure to screens and stimulating activities close to bedtime.
  3. Exercise and Physical Activity: Regular physical exercise promotes glymphatic flow by increasing blood flow to the brain, enhancing waste removal, and supporting overall brain function. Engaging in activities like aerobic exercise, strength training, mind-body practices like yoga and meditation, and tai chi can be beneficial.
  4. Supplements: Certain supplements, such as curcumin, resveratrol,Acetyl-L-Carnitine, bacopa, theanine, omega-3-fatty acids, ginkgo biloba and green tea extract have shown potential in supporting glymphatic function. Consult with your physician before incorporating supplements into your routine.
  5. Other Interventions: Early morning sun exposure and cold rinses after a hot shower may also be effective in stimulating your glymphatics. 

Photobiomodulation Therapy for Augmenting Glymphatic Function

Exciting new research recently published in the journal Neurology has shed light on the potential effectiveness of photobiomodulation therapy such as near infrared light on improving glymphatic flow. I have been using a photobiomodulation unit at Reboot Center for many different neurological challenges ranging from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s to AD(H)D, anxiety, depression, TBI and migraines and even tinnitus. I have a feeling that this will be a field that will be exploding with more research in the next few years, as I’ve had overwhelming positive results. Ask your physician about this type of therapy, if you feel that you might benefit from it! Your brain is worth it!! 

As I always say to my patients: Our body is the only thing we really truly own in this world. So, let’s treat it like royalty, whatever it takes, right?

To Sum it Up...

Optimal glymphatic function is critical if you want to keep your brain healthy, and especially if you are determined to reverse cognitive decline and other brain-specific challenges. By prioritizing quality sleep, adopting a brain-healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, minimizing exposure to harmful lifestyle factors, and perhaps adding in some light therapy and supplements (check with your doc), you can shift away from the potential gradual decline commonly associated with aging and/or chronic disease, and move towards actively optimizing glymphatic function and promote long-term brain health. You’ve only got one brain! 

As a restorative physician, I encourage you to incorporate these strategies into your daily life and empower yourself to flow towards brain wellness. Because, WHY NOT!!??

Find out more about our cutting-edge BrainReboot Program. Get started on your revolutionary health optimization journey today!  

References

  1. Iliff JJ et al. (2012). A Paravascular Pathway Facilitates CSF Flow Through the Brain Parenchyma and the Clearance of Interstitial Solutes, Including Amyloid β. Science Translational Medicine, 4(147):147ra111.
  2. Xie L et al. (2013). Sleep Drives Metabolite Clearance from the Adult Brain. Science, 342(6156):373-377.
  3. Bacyinski et al. (2017). Alzheimer's Disease and Astrocyte-Neuron Interaction. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 18(7):1411.
  4. Holth JK et al. (2017). The Glymphatic System: A Primer for Clinicians. The Neurohospitalist, 7(3):169-176.
  5. Morris G et al. (2020). Brain Glymphatic System Function is Reduced in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis: An Exploratory Study. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 9(8):2548.
  6. “Short-Term Effects of Whole-Body Photobiomodulation on Pain, Quality of Life and Psychological Factors…” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9845459/. Accessed 17 July 2023.
  7. “The Glymphatic System (En)during Inflammation”. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8305763/. Accessed 17 July 2023.
  8. “Astrocytes in heavy metal neurotoxicity and neurodegeneration.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8999909/.  Accessed 17 July 2023.

man lifting weights

Unlocking the Power of Nitric Oxide: Enhancing Health, Performance, and Longevity

As a restorative physician, my goal is to delve into the intricate mechanisms that drive optimal health, performance, and longevity. In this article, we will explore the remarkable molecule known as nitric oxide (NO) and its potential to unlock new horizons for our well-being. From regulating blood flow and cardiovascular health to supporting immune function, brain health, sexual function, and exercise performance, it holds incredible promise in enhancing various aspects of our lives.

Understanding Nitric Oxide

Nitric oxide is not just a gas; it is a critical signaling molecule produced naturally within our bodies. It is synthesized through the conversion of the amino acid L-arginine into nitric oxide by nitric oxide synthase (NOS) enzymes. Once released, NO rapidly diffuses into neighboring cells, triggering essential physiological responses.

The Incredible Health Benefits of Nitric Oxide

1. Blood Flow Regulation & Cardiovascular Health

One of nitric oxide's primary roles is regulating blood flow and supporting cardiovascular health. It acts as a potent vasodilator, relaxing and widening blood vessels. This vasodilation enhances blood flow, reducing blood pressure, and promoting overall heart health. Research suggests that optimizing NO levels may help prevent cardiovascular diseases and maintain long-term cardiovascular well-being [1].

2. Immune System Function

It plays a central role in immune system function. It acts as a signaling molecule in immune cells, influencing their activity and response to pathogens. NO promotes immune cell function, enhances the body's defense mechanisms, and aids in combating infections. Furthermore, studies have highlighted the potential of Nitric oxide in immune-related disorders [2].

3. Neurotransmission & Brain Health

Within the realm of brain health, it is involved in neurotransmission and communication between neurons. It helps regulate neuronal activity and synaptic plasticity, which are essential for cognitive function, memory, and learning processes. Additionally, nitric oxide's neuroprotective properties show promise in promoting brain health and potentially mitigating age-related cognitive decline [3].

4. Sexual Function & Reproductive Health

Nitric oxide plays a critical role in sexual function, particularly in males. It acts as a signaling molecule that relaxes the smooth muscles in the blood vessels of the penis, facilitating increased blood flow and enabling erectile function. Its role in promoting blood flow extends to reproductive organs, potentially benefiting fertility and reproductive health in both men and women [4].

5. Exercise Performance & Muscle Function

When it comes to exercise performance, it has proven to be a game-changer. By enhancing blood flow to working muscles, it improves the delivery of oxygen and nutrients, resulting in improved endurance, reduced fatigue, and enhanced overall performance. It also contributes to muscle strength and aids in post-exercise recovery, making it a valuable ally for athletes and fitness enthusiasts [5].

6. Longevity & Anti-Aging Effects

Emerging research suggests a potential connection between Nitric oxide and longevity. It influences cellular processes, including mitochondrial function and cellular health. It possesses antioxidant properties that counteract oxidative stress and may contribute to healthy aging and longevity [6].

Testing Nitric Oxide Levels

You can get relatively inexpensive and easy to use test strips to check your nitric oxide levels through Amazon. In my opinion, it’s SO important to be the best keeper of your health and body, and in order to do so, you must understand (at least to some degree) your body’s inner workings. These NO test strips are a simple and effective general health indicator. 

Boosting Nitric Oxide Naturally

Fortunately, there are natural ways to boost its production in our bodies. Including Nitric oxide precursor-rich foods in our diet is a great start. Leafy greens, beets, citrus fruits, pomegranates, and garlic are excellent sources of compounds that can be converted. Adopting a nutrient-rich diet, engaging in regular exercise, managing stress levels, and prioritizing sufficient sleep are essential lifestyle habits that support optimal nitric oxide levels.

Nitric Oxide Supplements

When it comes to nitric-oxide supplementation, I recommend that you consult with your doc before starting a new supplementation regimen. That being said, some of my all time-favorite NO products are from N101, which has excellent research supporting its amazing health products as well as excellent beauty line. My favorite is the N.0.Beetz, particularly when I go for my long runs - I can tell the difference! 

Practical Tips for Optimizing Nitric Oxide Levels

To naturally optimize nitric oxide levels, incorporating certain strategies into our daily lives is beneficial. Engaging in regular aerobic exercise, such as jogging or cycling, stimulates nitric oxide production. Interval training and high-intensity exercises can further enhance NO levels. A Mediterranean-style diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, provides the necessary nutrients for nitric oxide synthesis. Finally, incorporating stress management techniques and relaxation practices such as deep breathing exercises or meditation supports nitric oxide production.

Shift the Health Dial! 

It is a fascinating molecule with wide-ranging benefits for our health, performance, and longevity. By understanding its role in blood flow regulation, cardiovascular health, immune function, brain health, sexual function, exercise performance, and potential anti-aging effects, we can unlock its remarkable power. Whether through dietary choices, lifestyle modifications, or targeted supplementation, optimizing NO levels has the potential to revolutionize our well-being. Embrace the power of NO and embark on a journey towards enhanced health, performance, and longevity. 

Nitric Oxide testing is a key component with both the Empowered Wellness Program as well as the BrainReboot Program, as I have found that restoring insufficient NO levels in my patients can be a essential part of restoring robust health. Get started on your revolutionary health optimization journey by scheduling a complimentary Strategy Session to find out more!  

References:

  1. Loscalzo J. NO and vascular disease. N Engl J Med. 1997;336(25):1876-1878.
  2. Bogdan C. NO and the immune response. Nat Immunol. 2001;2(10):907-916.
  3. Dawson TM, Dawson VL. NO signaling in neurodegeneration and cell death. Adv Pharmacol. 1997;34:283-302.
  4. Burnett AL. NO in the penis: physiology and pathology. J Urol. 1997;157(1):320-324.
  5. Lundberg JO, Weitzberg E, Gladwin MT. The nitrate-nitrite-NO pathway in physiology and therapeutics. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2008;7(2):156-167.
  6. Sarti P, Giuffrè A, Forte E, Mastronicola D, Barone MC, Brunori M. NO and cytochrome oxidase: reaction mechanisms from the enzyme to the cell. Free Radic Biol Med. 2003;34(5):509-520. 

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