A new study has just revealed a fascinating hidden connection between the brain and the immune system. Researchers always assumed that there was no lymph system in the brain. Now they have discovered lymphatic pathways hidden deep inside the brain. This can help give us an idea of how the immune system protects the brain.

The lymphatic system is a network of lymph nodes, ducts, vessels and organs which move lymph from the tissues into the bloodstream. Lymph is a fluid made up of a combination of lymphocytes, white blood cells that attack bacteria in the body, and fluid from the intestines, called chyle (pronounced KYLE), which contains proteins and fats that also help ward off diseases.

The most obvious manifestation of your lymph system is when you have swollen glands in your neck with a cold or flu. They swell as they gather the resources to fight infection. Lymph nodes also filter harmful cells such as bacteria and cancer cells to stop the spread of disease.

Scientists knew that the brain helped control the immune system, but were not sure how the brain was protected by the immune system until now. The discovery is key because it opens the gateway to a new understanding of inflammation in the brain and body as a whole. It might also reveal insights into neurodegenerative disorders such as autism, multiple sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s, and other diseases, offering new hope in the quest to combat these debilitating conditions along with the effects of aging.

Neurological diseases like MS and Alzheimer’s have long been linked to changes in immune system function. Alzheimer’s, for example, is linked with a large build-up of proteins in the brain called amyloid plaques. Mood disorders have also been linked to autoimmune disease of the digestive tract such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), including Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS).

It wasn’t always clear how such connections occurred, but now both a gut-brain connection and a direct pathway from your immune system into your brain have been uncovered. Chyle from the intestines as part of the lymph system therefore has a direct connection to the brain. This means that any imbalance in the intestines has the potential to negatively impact the brain.

Since the lymph system affects every part of the body, including the brain, it is important to do all you can to support your immune system. The mind-body connection is now better understood and demonstrates that you are not only what you eat, but moreso what you digest and absorb. It also shows how your mood can affect your immune system, and vice versa. Take care of your immune system, and it will take care of you, and your brain.