We’ve all heard the term “detox” when it comes to the overconsumption of things like sugar, alcohol, social media and even the news. In terms of our diet, the idea of a detox or cleanse is often promoted as a way to remove harmful toxins from the digestive tract, liver and bloodstream, and is credited as a method of weight loss and overall better health.
What About a Brain Detox?
Over the last few years, our brains have been subjected to additional stressors amidst a pandemic. This is on top of the normal anxiety-inducing things people deal with on a daily basis like family, work and finances. Our brain is the control center for our entire body and not unlike a Windows operating system, it regularly needs a reboot (or in this case, a detox).
While there are numerous supplements on the market that claim to help detox your brain for optimal performance and clarity, there’s no definitive evidence to support that they are necessary or even work.
But to fully understand the benefits of a brain detox, it’s best to understand how the entire process works.
How the Glymphatic System Works
Our body naturally seeks to remove harmful products from all systems including the circulatory, digestive, lymphatic, kidneys and liver. The brain is no exception, and this process takes place via the glymphatic system.
As explained in a 2015 study on the glymphatic system, this process cleanses the central nervous system through a complex network of vessels. And like a lot of systems in the body, the process of recharging and repairing takes place mainly while we sleep. During this time, other systems are less active and the recovery processes kick into gear.
The process can be rather complex to understand, but here’s a brief overview of how the glymphatic system “takes out the trash.”
- The glymphatic system is made up of a network of vessels and channels that work to clear waste from the central nervous system (or CNS).
- Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) passes into these channels, washing over the cells and tissues collecting waste products including proteins and toxins. It then flushes them out and they are passed out of the body as waste.
- Research shows that when we are sleeping, the space between these channels increases, allowing for a more thorough flushing.
8 Ways to Naturally Detox Your Brain
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
As mentioned above, the brain naturally flushes itself while you are sleeping. Therefore, sleep is essential for this process to take place. This resting period is also essential for other processes to reset and prepare for the next day.
Ways to Form Better Sleep Habits
- Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
- Set the thermostat for an optimal sleep environment (60-67 degrees Fahrenheit according to the Sleep Foundation).
- Create a dark and quiet environment.
- Avoid watching TV or staring at your phone prior to bedtime.
- If you snack at night, make sure to finish it at least two hours before bedtime.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
Anxiety, stress and depression can lead us to eat foods that add more toxins to our bodies. These are often processed and have a high glycemic index (causing our blood sugar to spike), contain added hormones and antibiotics, are artificially sweetened or colored and are low in fiber. All of these can increase the amount of toxins that our body must eliminate.
Some of the same foods that contribute to our overall health also play a role in our brain health. Eating foods containing lean protein, antioxidants, vitamins and healthy fats can help our brains function at optimal levels.
It’s easier to stay hydrated than to recover from becoming dehydrated. Essentially, if you are thirsty, you are already behind on your body’s needs. This can be accelerated during physical activity. Consider keeping a reusable water bottle with you during the day and drinking before you feel the need.
De-stress Before Bed
We all have activities that bring us joy, but those things are often abandoned as our hectic lifestyles and schedules take over. Taking time each evening to wind down and relax can help promote better, deeper sleep. Reading, taking a warm bath, meditating or doing some light yoga before bed can be beneficial and worth incorporating into your nighttime routine.
Take a Tech Break
How many of us are shocked when we see the weekly “screen time” notification on our phone?
While having top notch technology at our fingertips has its benefits, it also has its problems. According to a 2018 study on digital media use, frequent consumption of modern digital media and social media was shown to increase symptoms associated with ADHD. A 2020 research study on the effects of mobile phone use showed that avoiding cell phone usage just 30 minutes before bed was effective in reducing sleep latency, increasing sleep duration, improving sleep quality, reducing pre-sleep arousal, and improving mood and working memory.
Ways to Reduce Digital Screen Time
Here are a few tips to limit your dependency on tech while taking periodic breaks:
- Consider making the bedroom and dinner table tech-free zones.
- Don’t use your phone when you’re in a social situation.
- Take a break from tech at least once per month (if not weekly).
Eliminate Toxic Relationships
Toxic relationships can have a negative impact on our overall health and make us more prone to illnesses like depression. Make a list of the people in your life—yes, even family—and denote whether each is an ally (builds you up) or saboteur (pulls you down). Choose to spend less time with your saboteurs and more with your allies. Let your tribe determine your vibe.
Exercising can be as good for the brain as it is for the body. In addition to the physical benefits, exercising regularly can lead to better sleep, decreased stress, improved mood, and better attentiveness and cognitive function.
Get a Health Coach
Just like athletes, people perform better when guided towards the proverbial finish line. Whether you’re looking to set/achieve new health goals or accomplish more in your job or personal life, a coach can help you reach your end game by employing best practices.
Become a Certified Health Coach by Enrolling with HCI
Interested in making a career shift to health and wellness coaching? Join our Become a Health Coach program and begin coaching in six months. If you’re already a coach and want to advance your skills, check out HCI’s Coach Mastery program. Feel free to get in touch with one of our clarity coaches directly by calling 1-800-303-2399.