What is the lymphatic system?
The lymphatic system runs parallel to the body’s vascular system. While the circulatory system is fairly straightforward in the way it functions, the lymphatic system is much more complex. The lymphatic system contains the following components: lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, lymphocytes, tonsils, adenoids, appendix, Peyer’s patches, thymus, spleen, and bone marrow. The lymphatic system is thought to have 3 main functions: maintenance of interstitial fluid balance, immune surveillance, and absorption of fats.
How it Works
As mentioned, the lymphatic system is complex. In simple terms, fluid is drained from the body’s tissues into the lymphatic vessels. From there, the lymph is filtered through lymph nodes, where pathogens, waste products, and other harmful substances are removed and destroyed. Once the lymph is cleaned, the fluid is transported back into the bloodstream.
When the lymphatic system becomes congested, lymphatic fluid cannot flow freely from the tissues into the lymphatic vessels. This causes toxins to accumulate in the tissues. Lymph can become congested for a few reasons:
- Lack of movement
- Chemical or Toxin exposure
- Iodine Deficiency
- Chronic Digestive Issues
- Tight Clothing
Possible symptoms of lymphatic congestion
- Fluid retention
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Soreness/stiffness in the morning
- Foggy thinking
- Feeling of a “heavy head”
- Frequent illness/colds/flu
- Mucus drainage
- Fluid and/or ringing in the ears
- Breast swelling or soreness with cycles
- Sluggish bowels
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Itchy or dry skin
- And many more!
16 Tips to Keep the Lymph Moving
- Dry brushing: Using a boar bristle brush (or another natural material), gently brush your skin from the tip of your extremities towards your heart. Let gravity assist you by putting your arms up in the air and brushing down. Dry brushing is also good for exfoliating skin and reducing cellulite! Best performed before showering.
- Deep breathing: Breathe in slowly through the nose while expanding the stomach outward (avoid shoulder breathing). Hold for a few seconds, then slowly breathe out through the mouth. Do 10 repetitions daily.
- Rebounding or Bouncing: Any type of vertical exercise is tremendous for the lymphatic system. You can purchase a rebounder (essentially a mini-trampoline) and jump on it for a few minutes each day. An alternate option is to purchase an exercise ball and gently bounce on it while working at your desk, while at home watching television, or wherever best fits your lifestyle!
- Loose clothing: If your clothing leaves marks on your skin, there is a good chance that your clothes are cutting off lymph flow. Wear loose clothing or remove tight clothing as soon as possible.
- Ditch the Underwire: Scratch that—ditch the bra if you can! While not totally acceptable in public, at least lose the bra while at home. Big bulky sweatshirts are great ways to stay decent and covered without needing the bra! If you can’t lose the bra completely, at least be sure to ditch the underwire. There are many great bras available that do not have an underwire!
- Infrared therapies: Try a full spectrum infrared sauna or the biomat to help assist in detox and get things flowing!
- Legs up the wall: Let gravity help drain the legs. Lay on the ground with your legs vertical up against the wall. It also makes for a great stretch.
- Stretch: If your muscles are tight, the lymph doesn’t flow easily. Do some simple stretches each day. Yoga poses are also helpful for stretching and lymph drainage.
- Massage: All massage is great, though you can specifically get lymphatic massages and/or do a self-lymphatic massage. Look for easy youtube videos to follow!
- Alternating hot and cold in the shower: The quick change from hot to cold causes vessel dilation and contraction, which pumps the lymph. Aim for at least a minute before changing. End the shower on cold water. Oh—and don’t make the water too hot!
- Hydrate: Water helps keep the lymph thin and movable. When dehydrated, the lymph can become thick and hard to move. Aim for a minimum of half your body weight in ounces daily… if you are actively detoxing, you need more than that!
- Herbs or Herbal teas: red root, burdock root, cleavers, echinacea, red clover, manjistha, astralagus, goldenseal, wild indigo root are just a few herbs that are beneficial for the lymphatic system.
- Juicing: 3-day juice cleanse with green vegetables can flood the body with nutrients and help purify the lymph.
- Apple cider vinegar: There is very little apple cider vinegar can’t do! ACV helps promote lymphatic drainage and can help detoxify the body.
- Iodine: If you are iodine deficient (the greater majority of people are), correcting the deficiency can help support the lymphatic system. According to Ayurveda, iodine is natural lymph mover.
- Eliminate Toxins: The easiest (well… it’s not always easy) way to keep the lymph clean over time is to eliminate toxins. This includes toxic cleaning products, beauty products, and processed foods. Focus on natural foods and products for an overall healthier lifestyle!
Thermography is a great way to see how “clogged” you are! Get a thermogram to see your problem areas, then monitor for improvements. It’s the next step in becoming a better, healthier you!