Remember the days when we had the brain all back-to-front & upside down? Anatomy & physiology told us it was an island, completely protected by the blood-brain-barrier from pathology in the rest of the body, that it was incapable of regeneration after damage and that it didn’t have its own lymphatic system. All wrong. Which presents a problem, the CNS is absolutely in trouble if other parts of our body are (!), but also some solutions: plasticity and the brain’s own capacity for cleaning up after itself. New research has revealed more about this critical CNS cleansing and what is likely to get in the way of this
The latest Medscape update on this is quite poetic, speaking to the movement of body fluids like tides within the human body.
“They found that the blood flow to the brain diminishes, allowing for an influx of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), washing away the day’s detritus of proteins and other waste substances that might harm the brain if they aren’t cleared out.”
But these particular tide times are restricted to sleep – having never been identified during awake states & even more specifically only during our Deep Sleep, the period of slowest brainwave activity. The speculation is, of course, given sleep issues predate or are a feature of neurological and mental health conditions, that perhaps this comes back to the impeded process of waste removal that accompanies this and how this may contribute to accelerated negative neurological change. For example, beta-amyloid proteins are well known to be removed most rapidly during our sleep and this week I’ve been faced with a small mob of patients who have substantial cognitive impairment risk from a genetic standpoint (e.g. Apo E 4 carriers in families riddled with dementia) but their unmanaged long-standing insomnia plus or minus OSA is likely just AS risky. So here we are again back at one of the key non-negotiables for health: Sleep.
I often say to my patients, ‘There is nothing I can give you in a bottle or a blend than can do one 100th of what healthy (quantity & quality) sleep can do for your wellbeing today or for preventing health issues for you in the future’
And then I say it out loud again when no one else is around just to ensure we’re all aware of that 😉
The brain is no longer considered an immunoprivileged organ separated from immune cells by the blood-brain barrier, with research revealing numerous interactions between the neurological and immune systems. A large body of evidence now shows that these interactions, in particular an imbalance in pro-oxidant & antioxidant systems, play a clinically relevant role in the mental health issues of our patients and may go some way to explain why patients with chronic inflammation frequently present with mood and cognitive issues. Identifying and addressing the source of the inflammation (musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal etc.) therefore potentially addresses the underpinning cause and creates a ‘win-win’ scenario for patients. This updated recording aptly named: The Inflamed Brain, covers all this and more!