In your body you have two fluid drainage systems. The first we all know about, veins. Blood comes out of the heart to the aorta to arteries to arterioles to capillaries to venules to veins to the vena cava to the lungs and then back to the heart again. Simple. The second is the lymphatic system. It is a series of tiny nearly invisible tubes with one-way valves that drain all the cells and space (interstitial space) between the cells of your body. It then filters this drainage through the immune system in the lymph nodes in the groin, arm pits, chest and neck finally dumping the filtered garbage into a vein in your chest for further processing by the kidneys and liver. It’s the trash dump of the body. Here’s the catch. We absolutely thought we knew that there was no lymphatic system in the brain. We just found out we were completely wrong. It is there and it’s critical to brain health and it’s called the glymphatic system.
There is much you can learn by web-searching this, but here’s the must know. The function of the glymphatic system is critical for brain health, both in the short term and the long term. In the short term poorly functioning glymphatic drainage appears to play a role in migraines. In the long term Alzheimer’s Disease is characterized by a build-up of b-amyloid protein. This protein is a normal by-product of the brain but it is supposed to be drained by the glymphatics. So Alzheimer’s may be caused or at least related to inadequate glymphatic damage. There are a whole bunch of other neurological diseases that are very likely related to damage to this system as well, including Parkinson’s Disease and stroke and much more. There is still much to learn. It appears that concussions are one pathway of damage to the glymphatics but we are very early in the research to build a comprehensive list of causes of glymphatic injury.
But one thing we do know is that drainage is critical. And it has been shown that this system only drains when we are asleep! This may be the critical reason why sleep is so important, as it is the only time when the junk produced by the very busy brain cells all day are cleaned out. During waking hours the glymphatics are completely shut down. It’s not that we should have 8 hours, research is indicating that we REQUIRE 7-9 hours per night for complete rinsing of all the built up gunk. Furthermore, studies are showing that alternate side sleeping helps the glymphatics to function best, then back sleeping and stomach sleeping is worst of all.
And here’s the chiropractic implication. The glymphatics drain into the lymphatic system of the brain which drains into the deep cervical lymph nodes which are surrounding the cervical spine. It is well understood by chiropractors that subluxation of the neck vertebrae can impair lymphatic drainage due to inflammation, nerve stress, and mechanical blockage. So, subluxation correction followed by regular chiropractic adjustments as part of an overall wellness plan may help to improve brain drainage and function, both short and long term. There have been studies linking chiropractic care to improved memory, behavior, and mental health. Perhaps this is the link. More to come.