Your liver and kidneys might normally get all the credit when it comes to detoxification, but did you know that your body also has another extensive system in place that helps detoxify your brain? If you’re wondering what a “brain detox” is all about — or “how can I clean my brain?” — you’ve come to the right place.
Below we cover what exactly a brain detox entails, whether or not you really require one to maintain normal brain activity, and tips for boosting your mental health even if you don’t want to actually do a “cleanse.”
What Is the Glymphatic System?
The glymphatic system refers to the system of blood vessels in the body that removes waste products from the brain and central nervous system. The glymphatic system is most active while you sleep, which is why getting a good night’s rest is imperative for feeling mentally sharp.
How does the glymphatic system work?
•This system depends on cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which enters spaces next to smaller blood vessels that lead to the brain.
•CSF interchanges with interstitial fluid, the fluid surrounding the brain cells. This helps form a glymphatic vasculature that “detoxifies” the brain by collecting waste, such as proteins (including the protein called beta-amyloid, which may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease), metabolites, toxins, etc.
•This system then carries this waste away from your brain and through your body so it can be dispelled.
•While we’re sleeping, there is increased glymphatic activity due to greater availability of space between interstitial and cerebrospinal fluid. Exercise can also boost glymphatic activity, according to some studies.
When the glymphatic system becomes disrupted, it’s thought that this can contribute to some diseases of the brain, as well as symptoms like brain fog and poor memory. Researchers now believe that a well-functioning “clearance system” in the nervous system is critical for prevention of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease and ALS.
Many experts believe that your brain’s glymphatic system may need to work harder if you’re exposed to many toxins, especially over a long period of time. Toxin exposure that affects the brain can be caused by:
Eating a highly processed diet with inflammatory foods
High intake of alcohol
Drug and tobacco use
Use of some medications
Exposure to foreign substances, such as heavy metals and environmental pollutants
While not a toxin, sleep deprivation is also linked to impaired mental capabilities. Aging also disrupts glymphatic function, such as by decreasing CSF and blood flow to the brain/pulsing of the arteries, although healthy habits can help slow this down.
What Is a Brain Detox/Brain Cleanse?
A brain detox, or brain cleanse, is intended to help protect against neurodegenerative diseases and decrease symptoms related to poor brain function.
Why do people try brain cleanses? Usually to help manage symptoms such as:
Brain injury and stroke
This type of cleanse usually involves steps such as prioritizing sleep, taking certain supplements that may help support brain function, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, exercising and fasting if appropriate.
While all of these habits can be beneficial for overall mental and physical well-being, most experts don’t believe that a strict “brain cleanse” is actually necessary to support healthy cognitive function. Instead, consistently leading a healthy lifestyle seems to offer the most benefits and protection against mental/cognitive health issues.
How to Detox Your Brain
How do you do a mental detox? Here’s how to detox your brain according to research regarding mental health:
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep each night is one of the best ways to support your brain’s natural detoxification processes.
Most adults need about seven to nine hours of sleep per night to operate at their best. Here are tips for helping you get the best sleep you can: