What does the immune system have to do with the brain?

I was introduced to not only a passion but a love for the brain and all that we know it can achieve when at a conference in Quebec City, ON. I was at the IFOMT meeting for manual therapists around the world to meet and share their thoughts and ideas. David Butler, with all of his charisma and charm, took the stage and gave a brilliant demonstration of a rewiring practice using touch and imagination. It was simplistic but powerful. He then started talking about the brain and what we are learning at this time. His focus was on glial cells, at the time that was a term that I had never heard of. Since then, I have developed a greater appreciation for glial cells and their function in our daily health and wellness.

According to Doidge's, 85% of the brain is made up of glial cells, and the rest are neurological cells. So when we use to say that you would only use 10% of your brain, we were not that far off. What do these glial cells do, and why are there so many of them in the brain?

Glial cells were thought to be up to 100x's higher than neurons in the human brain, but recent studies by Azevedo 2009 have demonstrated closer to a 1:1 ratio. Indicating that we are not as unique as we thought when comparing our minds to primates. Glial cells are mostly the immune system of the brain. I liken the glial system to the lymphatic system. The main focus is to remove wastes and toxins through the cerebral spinal fluid. According to Nedergaard, the glial cells are up to 10x's more active when you are asleep rather than awake.

What does all this mean, and how does it affect your clinical practice? First, the immune system is essential, it is critical to the health of the neurological system. When you are working with anyone that is needing a higher cognitive capacity than their current presentation, a significant approach would be to ensure the glial cells are working at 100% to help decrease any potential of toxin buildup.

Steps to improving immune/neurological health:

  1. Decrease know neurotoxins including smoking and alcohol

  2. Increase the intake of fruits and vegetables that are free of pesticides and toxins

  3. Less conventional animal fat and more wild-caught or grass-fed animals

  4. Decrease substances that have a high relationship with autoimmunity, i.e., gluten

  5. Have a higher fat diet

  6. Most importantly, get plenty of rest. None of the other stuff will be as effective if there is not the activation of the glial system by rest.

About the author,

Rajesh is a Physical Therapist who is passionate about health and wellness. He is interested in all aspects of general well being including fitness, nutrition, and mindfulness. He continues to learn and grow from the profession he loves.

If this article is helpful to you or you would like to get more information, please do not hesitate to contact me at

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