Have you experienced weight gain, fatigue or headaches? Your lymphatic system may be the culprit! Known as the body’s sewage system, the lymphatic system is made up of a network of organs and tissues that naturally detoxify the body of harmful toxins and waste. The Lymphatic system arguably performs one the most important functions in the body. Its primary role includes transporting lymph fluid containing white blood cells throughout the body, absorbing fat and balancing fluid.
The Lymphatic system arguably performs one the most important functions in the body. Its primary role includes transporting lymph fluid containing white blood cells throughout the body, absorbing fat and balancing fluid.
How does it work
Made up of proteins, water, glucose, electrolytes, enzymes, and hormones, lymph fluid travels through the lymphatic vessels to various parts of the body to pick up bacteria. Lymph fluid carries bacteria to the nearest lymph nodes where white blood cells, called lymphocytes eliminate them. The increase of white blood cells causes the lymph node to enlarge. Swollen lymph nodes are usually an indication of the white blood cells’ ongoing battle with bacteria.
The lymphatic system relies on muscle contractions to propel fluid through vessels. If the lymphatic system is not performing properly it can impede the body’s ability to effectively rid itself of toxins.
How To Get The Lymphatic System Moving
When lymph fluid is stagnant, it acquires the texture of cottage cheese. People with sedentary lifestyles can experience as much as a 94% decrease in lymph flow. Because lymph fluids are not pumped through the body as effectively as blood is by the heart, exercise is the best way to get the lymphatic system moving again. Brisk walking for just 20 minutes a day can keep the lymphatic system going. A 15-minute yoga session before work or in the evening can also help lymph flow. An alkaline body is an ideal environment for lymphatic drainage. One of the easiest ways to keep the lymphatic system balanced is to eat seasonal foods.
According to John Douillard, author of The Miracle of Lymph,
This is illustrated in nature when we watch squirrels eat nuts in the winter. Nuts are an acidic, warming food that help insulate the squirrel during a cold winter. Acidic foods that are typically harvested in the winter help the body hold onto fats, proteins, minerals and vitamins. If a squirrel ate broccoli during a cold Vermont winter they would alkalize their systems, trigger a lymph detox, and likely freeze to death! Fortunately, broccoli doesn’t grow in Vermont in the winter, so most squirrels don’t run into this problem.”
Symptoms of Congestion in Lymphatic System
- Soreness and/or stiffness in the morning
- Feeling tired
- Bloating / Holding on to water
- Itchy skin
- Weight gain and extra belly fat
- Swollen glands
- Low immunity
- Brain fog
- Breast swelling or soreness with each cycle
- Dry skin
- Mild rash or acne
- Cold hands/feet/poor circulation
How To Support The Lymphatic System
To get the lymphatic system properly moving again, you may want to try a combination of the following treatments listed below:
1) Improve your Diet
The foods we consume every day have a huge impact on our energy and our body’s overall sense of balance. It is imperative when treating chronic conditions to avoid consuming boxed foods that are highly processed with unnecessary salts and sugar. The first step to promoting circulation of lymph fluid is through eating a diet packed with antioxidant and nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. Each fruit and vegetable play an important role in maximizing our health. For example, leafy greens have essential nutrients including chlorophyll which can purify the blood and lymph fluids. Similarly, citrus fruits have important enzymes and acids that help cleanse the lymphatic system. There are a number of fruits, vegetables, and nuts you can include in your diet to improve lymph fluid circulation.
Foods that Improve Circulation:
- Dark leafy greens
- citrus fruits
- Brazilian nuts
- sunflower seeds
- pumpkin seeds
2) Dry Brushing
A powerful detoxification aid, dry brushing improves lymphatic drainage and vascular blood circulation. Dry brushing involves massaging a coarse bristle brush in circular motions up your feet toward your torso and then from your fingers toward your chest. The goal is to brush in the same direction that lymph fluids flow, toward the heart. Dry brushing can be done before showering up to 3 times a week. In additional to benefiting the lymphatic system, dry brushing can also help the appearance of cellulite, unclog pores and encourage cell renewal.
If you are suffering from a clogged lymphatic system, the most effective way to get things moving again is through consistent exercise. Lymph fluids rely on the contractions of muscles to increase flow. Experts recommend rebounding or jumping on a therapeutic mini trampoline for 10-30 minutes to help stimulate lymph flow. Other exercises including yoga which twists and stretches your body and aids in drainage and HIIT exercises, can improve circulation and promote lymph flow. The fact is our lymphatic system relies on us to consistently do dynamic exercises to help it move. Any exercise, including brisk walking, swimming or running will improve the lymphatic system.
4) Visit a steam room
Did you know that sweat is a great detoxifier? An infrared sauna is an amazing way to sweat out harmful toxins and encourage drainage. As you sweat, you lessen the burden of your lymphatic system to rid itself of toxic waste, allowing it to work more efficiently. In some cases, infrared saunas have been used to treat chronic ailments including high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and rheumatoid arthritis.
5) Get a Massage
Show your body and lymphatic system some love with a massage. Using massage for medicinal purposes dates back to Native American use of sweat lodges. And, in addition to reducing stress, massages help detoxify the lymph system by increasing circulation. Studies indicate that massage can help increase the circulation of stagnant lymph fluid by about 78% in people who have sedentary lifestyles. There are even specific lymphatic massages that focus on promoting the drainage of fat and toxins. According to Cathy Ulrich, author of The Benefits of Lymphatic Massage, “Massage therapists versed in lymphatic drainage therapy, an advanced form of lymphatic massage, can identify the rhythm, direction, and quality of the lymphatic flow and remap drainage pathways.”
6) Use Herbs
Herbs are natural stimulators that can be used when the lymphatic system needs a boost. They are often used to improve lymph drainage and aid the removal of toxic substances. For example, the Red Clover helps reduce inflammation and aid detoxification, while cleavers or goosegrass has been used for centuries to help drain the lymphatic system. Other herbs, including Manjistha comes from Ayurvedic traditions and is usually used to support lymph fluid movement and is also used to purify the liver and blood. In traditional Chinese medicine, Bupleurum and rehmannia have been used as tonics to aid lymph flow. Milk Thistle is used to improve spleen disorders including inflamed spleen and may help treat cancer. Essiac Tea is a great detoxifier and immune system booster—because of these benefits, it’s often prescribed to newly diagnosed cancer patients. Many of these herbs can be used to make tonics and teas. However, before using herbs to increase circulation and improve drainage, check your doctor or consult a herbalist or other trained professional.
7) Use Essential Oils
A slow lymph system is usually associated with various ailments like poor circulation, allergies, cellulite, fluid retention, puffy eyes, and weight gain. Certain essential oils can aid blood flow and reduce swelling of the lymph nodes. These essential oils include lemon, myrrh, oregano, cypress, orange, grapefruit, frankincense oils, peppermint, ginger, and rosemary. These essential oils can be rubbed on lymph nodes under the neck and arms or combined with lymphatic massage therapies.
8) Drink Water
The lymphatic system is made up of 95% water, so it is imperative to stay hydrated if we want it to function properly. Water is a natural detoxifier that encourages lymph fluid flow throughout the body. According to an article entitled, “10 Ways to Improve your Lymphatic System,” by Dr. Jockers, a health and wellness website notes, “Sipping on lemon water is a great detoxification strategy because it not only hydrates the body but it also encourages an alkaline environment. Drinking purified water is important in order to avoid adding more contaminants into our bodies needed for removal.” Lemon water is especially effective in alkalizing the body.
9) Wear Comfortable Clothing
Avoid clothes that feel restrictive and uncomfortable as they may obstruct lymph fluid flow.
There is a cluster of lymph nodes in the armpit and chest area that act as a drainage for the breast and arm area. Try not to restrict this area with an ill-fitted or tight bra that can halt drainage and lead to swollen lymph nodes.
10) Avoid Stress
When you are under stress, the body produces hormones that increase energy. When these hormones are turned into waste they are known as free radicals and can cause the body to become more acidic over time. The byproducts of these hormones exhaust the lymphatic system causing it to become congested. Stress is never good for your health.
The good news is if you are incorporating any of the lymph-supporting activities listed above (exercise, massage, proper diet, yoga), you may also be experiencing their stress-relieving benefits. Other stress-relieving activities include meditation, deep breathing, drinking tea and journaling. Stress reduction has a number of other benefits including improved energy, better sleep, and immune function.
For additional information on the lymphatic system, visit merkaela.com/blog.
These tips about the lymphatic system are provided for informational purposes only. The statements contained in this article have not been evaluated by a medical professional. Please consult a physician or other medical professional before starting any health, exercise or nutritional supplement program.
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