How to Maintain a Healthy Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system is a largely overlooked facet of the human body, and plays a major function in keeping us healthy. The lymphatic comprises the lymph nodes, bone marrow, tonsils, adenoids, spleen, thymus, and lymphatic vessels, a network of fine tubes which surround the body just below the skin and work to transport lymph fluid from tissue to the lymph glands.
You can feel lymph nodes in the groin, neck and armpits where they lie close to the skin surface, however they are found throughout the body in unseen places. The lymph fluid functions by picking up waste material in the body - toxins, bacteria, dead cells etc. - and transporting it to the lymph glands to be cleaned by white blood cells. It’s also responsible for controlling the fluid balance in the body and producing white blood cells. This intricate system can become overwhelmed or blocked, leading to fatigue, back pain, weight gain, constipation, inflammation, depression, and a compromised immune system.
Luckily, there are a few ways to keep your lymph system healthy and flowing.
In order for the lymph system to function optimally, you need to be drinking enough water – at least 6 glasses a day. Dehydration leads to sluggish lymph movement which will cause you to feel tired and increase water retention.
Aim to eat a nutrient-rich diet of leafy greens, veggies and fresh fruit to support detoxification and the immune system, while reducing your intake of sugar, gluten and dairy which can clog the lymphatic system. It’s also a good idea to undertake regular mono-diet fasts of fresh fruit and veg, or even ayurvedic cleanses.
Deep breathing exercises drastically increase elimination of toxins by increasing the movement of lymph through the blood and around the body and reduce stress. There are many forms of breathwork you can try out.
Self-Massage and Brushing
Many spas and massage therapists offer lymphatic drainage massages, however you can also learn to perform basic lymph drainage on yourself. Manual lymphatic drainage techniques (MLDTs) involve gentle rhythmic movements on the skin around the armpits, neck, arms, legs and feet and help to stimulate and support optimal circulation of lymph fluid in the body. Another method is to brush the body softly around the lymph areas.
Try to manage your stress levels by changing your belief systems and create a happier, less toxic internal world. One of the best methods of stress-reduction is exercise, which is also crucial for lymph health.
Interestingly, lymph fluid does not move around the body of its own accord, unlike blood that pumps even faster when you register to play. The lymph requires the body to move to circulate, making you the pump. Thus, exercise is extremely important in maintaining lymphatic health. Movement can happen in many forms:
- Dancing, gardening, climbing stairs or any physical labour that encourages contraction and relaxation of the muscles.
- Exercises and sports, such as brisk walking, running, yoga, Pilates, tennis, golf, swimming, aerobics, skipping etc.
- Rebounding or jumping exercises are both highly recommended, as most lymph fluid runs vertically and these help to move it against gravity.