Does Your Brain Have a Secret Sewage System?

Today I want to talk to you about a new way to keep your brain healthy, clean and free of toxins and waste.

It has to do with nourishing your brain in a way that supports certain brain cells that no one knew much about…

That is, until scientists made a huge discovery that may lead to treatments for diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Until now, brain researchers always thought that cells called neurons did most of the heavy lifting in the brain. They carry all the nerve impulses, and help you think fast, move and react.

But neurons only make up 10% of your brain. The other 90% are glial cells, or your “glia.” These cells have always been thought of as supportive of neurons, but not much else.

But it seems glial cells have been very busy doing some heavy lifting of their own.

Your Brain’s Secret “Sewage System”

Scientists at the University of Rochester in New York have discovered that your glia powers a high volume waste removal system. Its job is to drain away the waste and free radicals that build up from the huge amounts of work your brain has to do.

It works a lot like your lymphatic system, the glands the rest of your body use to take away waste. So scientists are calling it the “glymphatic” system.

What happens is that glial cells called astrocytes surround blood vessels in your brain and kind of piggyback on them like a layer of piping. The system uses pressure to push cerebrospinal fluid through the brain very quickly and efficiently.

It clears away debris, and even carries off beta-amyloid plaque, the gooey peptide that suffocates the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

There are several ways to support your glial cells and help keep your glymphatic system healthy.

3 Ways to a Clean Mind and Disease-Free Body

The first is a brain boosting nutrient called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). It helps to treat anxiety and high blood pressure and it keeps you calm and relaxed. But a study from the journal Glia found that astrocytes have GABA receptors on them. And when you increase GABA, it has a therapeutic effect on these glial cells and protects them from inflammation.1

Some good ways to increase GABA are by eating bananas, walnuts and almonds, citrus fruit, spinach and broccoli. They are all GABA-friendly foods. If you would like to supplement, it’s completely safe. GABA is an amino acid. Take 250 mg up to three times a day.

A second glia-supporting nutrient is curcumin. When scientists in China looked at the natural compounds that make up curcumin, called cuminoids, they found that they also had a very powerful anti-inflammatory effect for glial cells.2

Curcumin is a component of the herb turmeric, which you can get at most health food and Asian specialty stores. You can also supplement with curcumin, but it’s very difficult to absorb so try to get an enteric-coated capsule so it can make it into your stomach and be absorbed.

Another powerful way to protect your glial cells is with luteolin. This flavonoid has lot of health benefits like lower blood pressure and improved eyesight. But it’s also a real brain powerhouse.

And in a study on reducing brain inflammation, scientists at the Institute of Brain Research at JiNan University in China discovered that luteolin almost completely protects glial cells from free-radicals,3 the very waste products these cells wash out of your brain all day long.

Chamomile, yarrow and thyme all have a lot of luteolin. Celery, green peppers and the leaves of artichokes also have luteolin. To supplement, start off with 20 mg. If you are allergic to peanuts, make sure the luteolin product you get is not derives from peanut shells.


1 Lee M, Schwab C, McGeer P. “Astrocytes are GABAergic cells that modulate microglial activity.” Glia. 2011 Jan;59(1):152-65.

2 Zhang L, et. al. “Demethoxycurcumin, a natural derivative of curcumin attenuates LPS-induced pro-inflammatory responses…” Int Immunopharmacol. 2010 Mar;10(3):331-8.

3 Huang F, et. al. “The inhibitory effect of luteolin on inflammation in LPS-induced microglia.” Zhong Yao Cai. 2011 Nov;34(11):1746-9.


© Copyright 2012 Discovery Health Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Posted in Brain, Herbs, Vitamins

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