The lymphatics is a network of lymph vessels and nodes that carry a clear fluid called lymph. The lymphatic system main functions involve fluid balance and transport, as well as vital work for the immune system. When your heart pumps blood into the tiny capillaries that are interlaced into virtually every square millimeter of your body, most of the fluid called plasma, diffuses trough the capillaries into the surrounding tissue, where it’s called interstitial fluid.
Most of that interstitial fluid is reabsorbed by your veins and returns to the heart along with red blood cells, but the small portion of the interstitial fluid stays behind. The lymphatic system helps regulate interstitial fluid balance by providing a return route for that fluid. Additionally, lymphatic fluid is rich in lymphocytes which are a sub-type of white blood cells that include natural killer cells T-cells and B-cells. These and other white blood cells are especially concentrated in lymph nodes, where they deal with various viruses, bacteria, proteins and other cellular waste products our lymphatic system transports, contains and neutralizes.
A healthy and functional lymphatic system is vital to good health, including effective immunity. Unfortunately, a lot about our modern life is about spending long periods of time sitting, eating high fat diets, wearing tight clothing and underwear and chronic dehydration. These works against our lymphatic system and results in sluggish stodgy lymph, which put as at a higher risk for not only acne but all types of infections and diseases including cancer.
Symptoms of lymphatic stagnation include, but aren’t limited to: acne, breakouts, cellulite, chronic under-eye bags, post nasal drip, chronically swollen tonsils, bloating, puffy face, neck or extremities, breast swelling, lethargy, brain fog, constipation, frequent or recurring illness and slow recovery from illnesses.
If you suspect you’re dealing with a sluggish lymphatic system or if you just like to generally take excellent care of yourself and cover all of your bases, there’s plenty you can do to improve and support lymphatic health.
It’s going to be a two-step approach: the first step going to be aiding natural detoxification, while step two is improving general lymphatic flow.
We will start whit improving body wide detoxification.
There a few simple and relatively easy lifestyle changes we can make that will help out our lymphatic system quite a bit.
1. FIRST STEP – Aiding natural detoxification:
1 a). Sip warm fluids regularly. Warm not scalding hot. An old standard therapy is sipping warm water every 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day. This practice helps to re-hydrate and warm the body which lowers fluid viscosity. This is a lot easier that it used to be since we now have fantastically insulated thermoses everywhere. But that convenience doesn’t solve the problem that warm water taste disgusting. Too solve this problem, you can make various types of herbal tea.
So for most of us who might just have low-level chronically sluggish lymph, some more herbal tea in the morning and the evening would be a big boost and is totally adequate.
1 b). Drink plenty of herbal teas. Certain herbs are great for supporting detoxification in general and enhance lymphatic flow. However, there a couple of warnings before recommendations:
If you’re dealing with an acute or chronic disease, especially a disease that affects your kidney or liver function, you need to talk to either a doctor or qualified herbalist before consuming the following teas.
The herbs generally used for detoxification and lymphatic health are:
– Cleavers, or Goose Grass, which works mainly as a diuretic.
– Calendula which is used as a lymph decongestant and it’s also quite calming and great before bed.
– Ginger root, you can use either fresh or powdered and it’s known for its cleansing and warming properties.
Now we get into the growth tasting herbs:
– Astragalus easies congestion and swelling.
– Dandelion root is a well known kidney detoxifier.
– Wild indigo root is detoxifying, improves lymph flow and reduces glandular swellings and it’s also known for its nauseating taste.
Using medicinal herbs is a great addition to your lymph support routine.
1 c). Next up, improving your gut health.
Not many of us know, but everything around our digestive tract is the lymphatic tissue. It’s our first line of defense against consumed pathogens and toxins. Think about what happens to the contamination levels of our lymph when we eat processed junk food, meat and dairy. All of which are absolutely saturated with living and dead bacteria and their metabolic toxins. Or think about what happens when you have an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria pumping out all of their metabolic wastes.
It’s all up to the lymphatic system, kidneys and liver to deal with that stuff, which is why it’s important to take care of your intestinal tract by eating fiber, prebiotic and antioxidant rich whole plant foods. Eating a low-fat diet to limit intestinal permeability, limiting antibiotic use, limiting the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, considering alternatives to the oral contraceptive pill, taking probiotics if necessary, and not last, stay well hydrated.
Gut health is a major reason why fasting or colonics is not recommended. When we fast, our beneficial gut microbes are starved of their usual food and many species will actually resort to consuming our own protective gut lining, called the mucin.
1 d). Another recommendation is some sunshine. UV rays from the Sun are antimicrobial, they can also penetrate up to 1.5 inches beneath your skin. This neutralizing effect can be really helpful to your immune system as it works tirelessly to manage the constant barrage of pathogens we’re expose to. 20 to 30 minutes of Sun exposure is really all that you need, you don’t have to bake yourself for hours and cause skin damage.
Detoxing is only a small part of the puzzle. The most important thing is to just get out of your body’s way and allow it to do its own work, because it knows what it’s doing. To stay out of your body’s way and keeps lymph fluid flowing efficiently it’s recommended the following:
2. STEP TWO – Improving general lymphatic flow:
2 a). Hydration. Dehydrated people have dehydrated bodily fluids, blood thickens so your heart has to pump harder, synovial fluid thickens, cerebrospinal fluid thickens which can affect brain function and lymph fluid.
2 to 2,5 liters of clean remineralized water daily takes care of hydration needs. 400ml to 800ml of those liters taken first thing in the morning when you wake up is a great way to boost your body’s fluid levels after a dehydrated night.
2 b). Second recommendation for optimizing lymph flow is to focus your diet on juicy fresh fruits and vegetables, especially for the first half of the day. Eating really hydrating foods early in the day makes great decongestant of all bodily fluids and will keep lymph thin and flowing.
If this doesn’t sound logistically possible given your lifestyle, don’t worry. Incorporate juicy fresh foods whenever possible and just be thoughtful of making sure you’re drinking enough water.
2 c). Next up is exercise. Since the lymphatic system has no dedicated pump, it relies mostly on muscular contraction and dynamic bodily movement to move limp against gravity.
Any exercise works. Like walking, jogging, weightlifting, yoga or rebounding. Also with most exercise it raises your core body temperature which can prevent the growth of some pathogenic bacteria in lymph fluid. Additionally, sweating is an important mode of detoxification and helps encourage fluid exchange which aids lymph flow.
2 d). Other recommendation is sauna. Spending time in a hot sauna could help in both categories because it’s also detoxifying, and spending time in hot temperature can be great for a couple of reasons.
First, the heat helps to raise your core body temperature, much like with exercise which helps to inhibit pathogen growth, a lot like when you pop off a fever when you’re sick. When you’re in a sauna you also obviously sweat like crazy, which can be truly amazing for detoxification and fluid exchange, especially if you do some really light stretching while you’re in the sauna. Also if you’re sweating, make sure you’re drinking enough water. Along with 10 to 15 minute trips to the sauna you can also include cold showers into your routine to really get the fluids under your skin moving.
2 e). Next recommendation is massage. There’s a specific type of massage called lymphatic drainage massage, which is a very light technique that’s used on subcutaneous lymph. It’s very effective considering how feather-light are the touches.
2 f). Dry brushing is the next recommendation. Using a dry body brush in light circular motions all over your body is really effective to move your own lymph and also exfoliate your old skin.
Dry brushing is also great because is encourages the formation of elastin and collagen which tends to disappear as we get older.
2 g). Wear loose-fitting clothes. Tight pans, waist bands bras, and even tight yoga clothes, all restricts the flow of lymph. Wearing tight clothes for some part of the day like when you’re doing a high-impact workout is totally fine.
2 h). De-stress. Keep in mind that when we’re stressed we tend to stop taking big breaths and we lock up our muscles. Both of which creates stagnation and constriction of the lymphatic system. If you have a stressful job or life, set regular timers throughout the day to remind you to pause, take a few big deep breaths and do some basic stretches. Think about something positive and encouraging for yourself. Positivism always wins 🙂
If you just focus on the basics presented in this article, you’ll see a big improvement in the effectiveness of your lymphatic system and your general health!