This is one of the systems in your body that doesn’t get enough attention and it’s function is so critical - that’s your lymphatic system.
This expansive system travels throughout your body to remove waste from every cell while helping to regulate your immune system. That is always a big deal!
These are some of the signs you’re lymph needs more support and is congested:-
- Cellulite, fatty deposits or lumpy skin
- Water retention, weight gain
- Skin problems, itchy or dry skin
- Stiffness, muscle and joint pain
- Constipation, bloating
- Breast swelling during your cycle
- Brain fog, headaches
- Swollen glands
- Cold hands and feet
- Chronic sinusitis, colds, sore throats, clogged ears
What is your lymphatic system?
It includes a complex network of vessels, ducts, lymph nodes, the spleen, the thymus, the adenoids, and the tonsils. While your circulatory system takes nutrients to all your tissues, the lymphatic system helps get rid your body’s toxins and waste.
Your lymph vessels act like a giant drainage system for the body that needs to stay clear for it to work properly. Just like in your home if the drains your toilet or sink become clogged, or if you never took out the trash – you know what your house would smell like!
This is an analogy for what happens if your lymph becomes stagnant
Stagnant lymph flow leads to waste and toxin build-up, weakening your immunity and may lead to variety of health issues. Your lymph is also full of white blood cells to help fight infection, and it's critical for strong immunity.
Your lymph needs to flow freely like a river
The lymph tackles toxins that are introduced to the body from both external means (food, air, personal care products, water) as well as internal ones (damaged proteins and cellular/metabolic waste), making it a key detoxification pathway. Once the toxins enter the bloodstream, they are purified through the largest lymphatic tissue in the body, the spleen.
Your diet can affect your lymph and essentially ‘clog’ it up. Certain foods are what we refer to as mucus causing and don’t do your immune system any good. These foods, and it’s different for different people, can cause you to look more swollen, you can be fit and slim and still have saggy skin over your kneecaps and below your bra. This is your body holding onto toxins, when your lymph is clogged and not flowing freely.
What you don’t eliminate you’ll accumulate ... and where does it go?
Of all the body's 7 channels of elimination: the liver, lungs, colon, kidneys, blood, skin, and lymphatic system, the lymph is the most critical. It represents 75% of your total body volume and is made up of about 95% water, your blood accounts for 25% of your body's fluids.
Most of us don’t realise that the spleen is our main immune defense, fighting infection, holding a reserve of red and white blood cells and destroying worn-out red blood cells in the body.
If you’re taking care of your lymphatic system, you may also start to notice that you retain less water/ lose weight, fewer aches/ pains, your skin clears up, and you’ll have more energy.
What are all the functions of your lymph fluid?
- Filters bacteria, foreign materials, toxins and harmful substances
- Drains excess fluid from tissues and cells into the bloodstream to prevent water retention, swelling & inflammation
- Transports proteins back into the blood supply
- Produces antibodies to fight bacteria
- Absorbs fat from intestines and transports it back to the liver
How does your lymph get congested?
Chronic stress - when you are under stress, your body creates stress-fighting hormones and inflammation. When your body is fighting inflammation and pathogens, your body is creating more and more white blood cells to counteract this. As a result, your lymph nodes can start filling up, backing up the whole lymph system, and create swelling.
Digestive imbalances - may irritate the intestinal villi, most of your lymphatic system surrounds your gut with the Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissues (GALT). Hence your gut health and the health of the intestinal villi is essential for lymph flow, detoxification, and immunity.
Nutrient deficiencies – such as iodine, magnesium and vitamin C are important to mitigate the harmful effects of environmental toxins and to support your lymph system in protecting your body.
Dehydration and a of lack physical activity can result in lymph fluid slowing down. Your lymph system relies on pressure from muscle movement and breathing to move fluids around. Lacking this pressure due to a sedentary lifestyle or chronic dehydration may slow and congest your lymph system.
How does the lymph system work?
It moves slowly like a sloth. The lymph fluids (which collect cellular wastes) flow to the lymph vessels, and then on to the lymph nodes and then on to the body's eliminative organs (kidneys, colon, lungs and skin) for the elimination of wastes.
What are lymph nodes?
Your body has 600-700 lymph nodes throughout your body i.e. tonsils, adenoids and appendix. All cellular wastes and damaged cells must go into the lymph nodes where they are broken down and neutralised before they are eliminated.
What are the physical symptoms of accumulated cellular acid wastes?
A clogged lymphatic system could lead to - cellulite, oedema (fluid retention), chronic pain, sinusitis, swollen glands, eczema, arthritis, sinus and ear infections; throat problems, colds and pneumonia.
If you are experiencing symptoms of lymph congestion, you may benefit from trying some natural ways to stimulate your lymph system. Here are nine ways to help boost a healthy lymph flow.
1. Exercise and move.
Your lymphatic system doesn't have a pump, so it absolutely needs movement in the form of exercise to get it going. Unlike the circulatory system, which depends on your heart, the. You may have noticed that your legs are more swollen if you sit all the time - that's your lymph.
Get up, move, and stretch. One of my favourite ways and it’s so beneficial for your lymph system is to use a rebounder. I wrote an article on this – you can read about it here.
2. Try deep breathing.
A great way to move your lymph is deep, slow breathing. The lymph collectors are sitting right under the sternum, do some breathing exercises every day. Deep breathing can promote intrathoracic pressure to improve the oxygen supply to your cells.
Your rib cage is a major lymphatic pump that is necessary for healthy lymphatic flow. Try yoga, breathe work and aerobic exercise.
Living an acidic lifestyle is the biggest contributor to a stagnant, dehydrated lymphatic system. Start your day with a glass of warm lemon water immediately after waking. This helps to clear your digestive tract of any stagnation, that has accumulated overnight, it will also alkalise your system. Lemons are alkaline!
An acidic lifestyle includes eating acidic foods - processed, dairy, animal proteins, fried foods, coffee, alcohol, soda, energy and sports drinks. Other acidic lifestyle contributors are smoking, drugs and emotional stresses.
When you stop eating acidic, mucus-forming foods and start cleaning your body out with alkaline, whole living foods you will have a more robust internal environment which will improve your immune system so you will not be as susceptible to infections.
Going on an elimination diet in which you focus on gluten-free grains (quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame), and fresh organic vegetables and fruits will help you detox and clean out your lymphatic system in just two to three months.
Proper hydration improves your skin’s health and helps reduce the appearance of cellulite, wrinkles, and blemishes.
4. Dry Skin Brushing.
Dry brushing your body before you go in the shower! Sounds odd I know, but it gets your circulation going and removes dead skin cells with toxins that clog the lymph. It will leave your skin soft, renewed, and invigorated.
This simple technique has been around for more than 5,000 years, making it one of the longest-standing traditions for natural health. Ayurvedic practitioners sometimes refer to it as garshana, and it is often used to promote better blood circulation at the start of the day.
The simple act of pampering your skin with a natural bristle body brush takes only a few minutes, but it helps with many different conditions by:
Moving lymph, Increasing energy, Improving cellulite and supporting the body’s ability to detox
7. Take hot baths.
Fill a steaming bathtub with two cups of Epsom salt (make sure there are no added ingredients like artificial fragrances, flavours, or colours) and a half-cup of baking soda—this is very detoxifying and supplies your body with magnesium—it also helps with deep sleep!
It also assists the lymph with clearing out toxins and rejuvenating cells.
8. Use essential oils.
Essential oils are great to use in the bath or massage on the legs and arms mixed with calendula oil or St. John's wort oil. Calendula is great for breaking up lymph stagnation—the massage oil or drinking the tea.
It's important to combine essential oils with a "carrier" oil so they can penetrate the skin. Make sure you use quality brands to ensure their purity. The brand I use for our family is doTerra,
Here are some great essential oils for lymph cleansing in particular—blend a few drops with a carrier oil like jojoba oil and rub in the inner and outer thigh, around the knees, near the armpits, and on the abdomen in a clockwise motion:
- Slim ‘n Sassy – Grapefruit Peel: provides cleansing and detoxifying benefits/ Lemon Peel: acts as a natural cleanser and aids digestion/ Peppermint leaves: helps manage hunger cravings / Ginger Root: may help support healthy digestion / Cinnamon Bark: supports healthy metabolic function
- Black pepper
- Lemon grass
8. Herbal Medicine
Many herbs are effective in improving lymphatic health, by either increasing the flow of lymphatic and drainage or improving the clearance of toxins.
Red clover, Cleavers or goosegrass, has been used for centuries and considered one of the best tonics to stimulate and help drain the lymphatic system.
Coming from the Ayurvedic tradition is manjistha, by detoxifying the tissue and supporting lymph flow. Bupleurum is used in traditional Chinese medicine.
I like to make up a Herbal Tonic for clients called Lymphosise alongside other remedies.
9. Lymphatic massage
This is a special form of massage that specifically targets the flow of lymph in the body. It uses light pressure and rhythmic circular movements to stimulate the lymph, encouraging its movement towards the heart for the drainage of fluid and waste.
Lymphatic massage moves stagnant lymph back into circulation and mobilises toxins to support clearance, lessening the burden on the lymphatic system.
Your lymphatic system is crucial for your immune system and for protecting you from inflammation and illness. If your lymphatic system is congested, it cannot protect you effectively and makes you prone to infections and disease.
Better lymphatic flow to tissues, gets more nutrients to your cells and increasing the regenerative and healing ability of your body.
Remember: What you do not eliminate you will accumulate so you must move your lymph!
Try these tips for two to three months for a full lymph clearing and a whole new level of health, energy, and radiance.
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