What is the Lymphatic System?
Most people know they have a lymphatic system, but not much more about it. Often it is the first treatment to improve health and illness in Ayurveda. Our lymphatic system works to remove toxins, fight viral, fungal, and bacterial disease, regulates the amount of fluid in our tissues, and absorbs fat into your system, to name a few. Without this working properly we cannot drain excess toxins and fluids, causing swollen limbs, tonsillitis, lymphatic cancer, and other dangerous illnesses.
In order to achieve maximum health, we must be sure the lymph is moving which regulates our bodily fluid, fat absorption and immunological defense.
How It Works?
Your blood releases fluid called interstitial fluid into your capillaries. This is the carrier of nutrients and oxygen for the tissues. This fluid also takes out toxins and other waste, but is then mostly reabsorbed. About 10% of the more toxic fluid is then taken out by the lymphatic system, into the blood, preventing the pile up of waste in the cells preventing their destruction. Without the flow of the lymph, fluid will build up and we become unable to get rid of waste. This waste and fluid itself can cause tissues in the body to swell and can lead to cancer, painfully enlarged organs, or infections throughout the body.
More than just waste removal!
If the fluid is backed up and not flowing properly, it becomes viscous. The flowing fluid can thicken until it becomes the consistency of cottage cheese. Fluids and waste are not properly drained from the cells, bacteria and other foreign invaders are not properly filtered and destroyed, and disease, including cancer, may result.
Dr. John Douillard, DC, describes the lymphatic system in these terms: “It is like the drains in your house and the blood is like the faucets.”
Circulation of Lymph
The lymphatic system doesn't have a pump like the heart to force fluid through the vessels. Although our diaphragms and rib cage and pumping blood help the process, our body movement and exercise is the primary method of moving lymph. A sedentary lifestyle decreases lymph flow by a staggering 94%.
How to Move the Lymphatic System
The major way to move lymph through the body is through movement of any kind. Exercising, walking, bending, stretching - any and all movement will assist with lymphatic movement. It is also important to drink 6-8 glasses of pure water to help the detox and elimination process with these. I recommend the Zero filter:
(click link) - Zero water filter at Amazon
- Bouncing - The most effective way is to jump up and down including jumping rope, jumping jacks, or bouncing on a rebounder for 15-20 minutes a day. This can be done simply while watching TV. (click picture for link)
If you don’t want to get the rebounder or jump rope, just jump in place for 15 minutes while you watch TV. It can literally save your life! And there is really no excuse, your feet does not even have to leave the trampoline. You can start with 2 minutes a day and work your way up to 15 minutes. I’ve had a 92-year-old friend of mine that does it regularly on a rebounder with a balance pole and remains in great health. With all of these techniques it is important to drink a lot of pure water to carry out the toxins.
Rebounder exercises - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khCtpHj5hjw
- Dry brushing – This simple way to brush your skin before you shower can move lymph and prevent cellulite. See my blog here on the benefits and how to do it. The appearance of cellulite is a sign of congested lymph. This can help to improve that. (click photo for link)
- Detox – There are many cleanses that can help this process, one of my favorites is Lemon and Cayenne in water are helpful to detox the blood and can be drunken daily.
- Chi Gong (& other energy work) - This is has been shown to improve circulation and what the traditional Chinese medicine refers to as "Chi" or inner energy to provide vibrant health. See my blog here for info and videos on this.
- Acupuncture - Similar to energy work like chi gong, this has been found to help the lymph system flowing greatly.
- Hot and Cold therapy can help as well. – Hot water drives blood to the skin’s surface and cold water sends it into the body. Switching back and forth for 2 minutes each (as hot or cold as you can handle it) can be helpful for up to 20 minutes. It’s also invigorating. This can be done for a variety of ailments such as muscle pain, kidney problems, aches and pains, tissue damage, lumps and more.
Understanding Sitting Disease - the worst thing for the lymph system, slowing it down by 94% is a sedentary life style of sitting too much by riding the sofa or sitting too long at work. See my blog on “sitting disease.”
- Foods - Hydrating well with water as well as beets, berries, cherries, and a mostly raw diet of vegetables and fruits all stimulate the lymphatic system.
- Teas that help are - Astragalus, echinacea, goldenseal, pokeroot, or wild indigo root tea
- Avoid tight fitting clothing including under-wire bras and try to wear no bra for at least 12 hours each day.
- Gut Bacteria - To maintain a healthy lymphatic system, it is also crucial to clean your gut and maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria. For this I recommend making either (or all) of fermented vegetables, kefir, water kefir, kombucha or at least taking a probiotic. I like this one: (click photo for link)
- Apple cider Vinegar - Another type of probioic can help this as well as overall positive health in so many ways. I take a tablespoon of it with water first thing everyday. You can add honey or lemon for taste. (click photo for link)
Lymphatic drainage massage
Lymphatic drain - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a40SFksQMhw
This is an easy home remedy that can have huge results. According to a lymph system article (http://www.jonbarron.org/article/optimizing-your-lymph-system) by Jon Barron of the Baseline of Health Foundation, lymphatic massage can increase the volume of lymph flow by as much as 20 times to remove toxins. It is important to do this with a soft touch.
It can help you heal more quickly from a cold or shake off fatigue. According to Heather Wibbels, LMT, you can safely perform lymphatic drainage massage on the lymph nodes around your neck, ears, and throat, on the abdomen, and on the legs.
- Ears & Neck - Using very gentle pressure, first perform lymph drainage for the ears (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QA-wi0d7-Ro&noredirect=1) on the neck area,
- Abdomen - then lymphatic breathing for the abdomen (http://blog.massagebyheather.com/lymphatic-drainage-abdomen-breathing/),
- Self - and finally, self-lymphatic drainage on the legs (http://blog.massagebyheather.com/self-lymphatic-drainage-for-legs/). Starting in the region of the neck helps clear the system for the lymph that is pumped to the lymph nodes as you work on the abdomen and legs.
Yoga - A regular yoga practice can also help you improve flow in your lymph.