Do you have a hard time losing weight? Your lymphatic system may have something to do with it.
Or do you often get swollen legs and feet? That could definitely have to do with a lymph system that doesn´t work.
Do you feel stressed? Well, to get the lymph system working, you need to breathe right and with the right breathing pattern, you will feel more relaxed.
I’m sure that you’re familiar with your body’s digestive, cardiovascular, skeletal and muscular systems. But there’s one important system that is often neglected, yet it plays an essential role in keeping your body balanced and healthy. It's your lymphatic system!
We will tell you all about it below. Read on!
The Lymphatic System and Its Functions
This body system plays an essential role in boosting your immune system. It also facilitates in the transport of lymph through a network of tissues and blood vessels in your body. Lymph is a colorless fluid that contains urea, glucose, protein and salt. It is filtered by your lymph nodes in order to get rid of bacteria, viruses, damaged cells and waste products.
Your tonsil, spleen and lymph nodes are some of the most known components of your lymphatic system. Your tonsil is considered as your first line of defense against illnesses while your lymph nodes are particularly important in identifying cancer stages.
Why do we need it to work
Your lymphatic system works like a drainage system. When your home’s drainage system is not functioning properly, bad water accumulates and becomes stagnant. Eventually, this would cause mold growth, pest infestation and damage to the structure. This is what also happens when your lymphatic system is not working as it should. When it fails to drain out toxins and foreign substances, they just pile up in your body. This may eventually lead to swelling and other serious health conditions.
If your lymphatic system is in a good working condition, it becomes your protector against a wide range of illnesses. The moment it detects the invasion of viruses, bacteria and foreign microorganisms, it immediately activates those little soldiers called white blood cells. These little soldiers help in destroying damaged cells and prevent the further spread of your infection. When your lymphatic system fails to activate the white blood cells, you become sickly and weak against infections.
How do we know if it is not working
You’ll know that your lymphatic system is not working properly if you’re experiencing pain, swelling and tenderness in your lymph nodes found in your groin, neck and armpits. Your lower extremities including your ankles, hips, butt and thighs also begin to swell.
You would also know that your lymphatic system is not working properly if you are experiencing stiffness or soreness in the morning, itchy skin, recurring inflammation or infection, weight gain, fatigue, dry skin as well as cold hands and feet. The frequent occurrence of bloating and stomach problems are also good indicators of a poorly functioning lymphatic system.
What can we do to make it work
Our lymphatic system works best when we breathe properly or when we’re able to control our stress. It doesn't have a pumping mechanism like the blood so it is very important that we should learn how to breathe right to keep our body fluids flowing and moving. Aside from breathing, we have here a number of natural remedies to enhance fluid flow and promote a healthier lymphatic system.
When we are stressed, we usually breathe through our mouth and it’s not just right. We have to breathe through our nose and our diaphragm and stomach muscles should be used to make sure that our lymphatic system is working.
To breathe right, start by lying down or sitting comfortably. While keeping your body in a relaxed state, put your one hand on your chest while your other hand should be placed just below your ribcage. Start inhaling while keeping your hand on your chest still. You will feel that your diaphragm moving as you suck in air. When you exhale, you’ll feel that your stomach muscles fall inwardly as you suck the air out of your body.
Learn how to do proper breathing techniques. Be sure to check that out. Heather’s video about “Abdominal Lymphatic Drainage Massage” can also guide you on how to do a specific method of breathing that helps in reducing fluid retention and edema in the trunk, abdomen, and the legs.[7.40 mins]
Aside from deep breathing, you can also try lymphatic drainage massage to improve your lymphatic system. The therapists usually start the strokes from the feet then move towards the chest or back. They would gently push, tap or stroke the lymph nodes to clear out blockages and re-direct fluid to proper channels for drainage. If you want to learn how to do a lymphatic massage for your legs, you can check out Heather's video guide.
Aside from relieving stress, massage also helps in relieving muscle tension and pressure. Check out Melinda Lee’s video below to see how you can do a facial lymphatic drainage massage without the help of a therapist.[5.24 min]
Putting a tennis ball in the armpit then pumping your arm into the side of your body may also help in boosting your immune system. You can also do some self-massage exercises using a tennis ball. It can help relieve tension on rump and tender muscles that are usually painful when pressed.
Other Ways to Improve your Lymphatic System
Aside from massage and breathing, we have also listed a number of home remedies that some people find effective in restoring and enhancing the normal functioning of their lymphatic system. Try and see what works best for you!
Dry Skin Brushing
It is a very easy method that can actually help your lymphatic system work efficiently. It promotes better circulation and elimination of metabolic wastes. This simple meditative method also helps in relieving stress, calming the body, releasing muscle tensions and reducing cellulite. According to Dr. Mercola, you should apply a gentle pressure on your skin using a brush with firm and natural bristles. We have a detailed article about dry skin brushing and its benefits. Be sure to check it out.
Your diet should also be taken into consideration. You should increase your intake of protein-rich and red staining foods such as fresh red beets, cranberries, cherries, berries and pomegranates because they help the lymph move. Broccoli, mustard greens, wheat grass, kale, barley grass, dandelion leaves and turnip greens should also be a part of your diet because of their natural cleansing and fluid-moving effects.
It is not always wrong to add fats to your diet, especially when they are healthy fats! Nuts, sacha inchi, chia, coconut and avocado are good sources of essential fatty acids. They help in removing fat-soluble wastes.
On the other hand, you should avoid inflammation-causing foods such as refined flour, sugar, peanuts and dairy products.
You must also drink a lot of water as it helps in better fluid movement. Start your day by drinking a glass of hot water. You can also add ginger and lemon for more alkaline content.
What we eat significantly affects our overall well-being. Make sure to check out our list of healthy eating tips that can help you achieve a balanced and healthier body.
If you spend long hours sitting in front of your computer, your lymphatic system becomes stagnant and less functional. It doesn’t have a natural pumping mechanism so you have to move around a lot to keep the fluid flowing continuously. The more you move, the more active your lymphatic system can become!
You can also check out the helpful video posted by Melissa – a lymphatic therapist. She discusses easy, yet effective, ways on how to detoxify your body, reduce your cellulite and keep your lymphatic system moving.[5.12 min]
When you exercise a lot, you take a lot of deep and rapid breaths which are good for your lymphatic system. Engaging in aerobic and anaerobic physical activity on a regular basis can keep your body in a balanced state. It also enables the large muscles of the body to contract and relax, thereby resulting to a smoothened flow of lymph through the blood vessels. This eventually reduces swelling.
Swimming is also relatively good for your lymphatic system. The water around will pressure your lymph to move. You can also increase fluid flow through rebounding. It is a type of exercise that makes use of the trampoline. Jumping has a positive impact on the joints and it stimulates fluids and other organs in the body. So if you love strenuous activities like running or jumping rope, then good for you! These activities help in moving your lymph.
Getting adequate amount of sleep on a daily basis helps in eradicating metabolic wastes and toxins. According to Dr. Mercola, the brain has its own version of the lymphatic system, the glymphatic system. It helps in getting rid of the toxins, then sends it back to circulation and delivers it to the liver for excretion. When sleeping, the system becomes more active and the brain cells shrink by around 60%. This creates more space between the cells which leads to better eradication of foreign substances. That is why it is always important that we get sufficient sleep every day.
If you can do it, it would really be best to sleep without a pillow under your head. Otherwise, elevating your head reduces the flow of fluid to your brain. On the other hand, you should try sleeping on your sides as it promotes better pumping of fluids through the blood vessels.
Manjistha is a potent Ayurvedic superfood that de-stagnates and cleanses the lymph. It has the ability to purify the blood, detoxify toxins and improve the lymphatic system. According to Dr. John Douillard, when our body fails to get rid of toxins, our lymph and blood get congested. Be sure to watch Dr. Douillard's video below to learn more detailed information about our lymphatic system.[8.52 min]
To decongest, Dr. Douillard recommends the use of manjistha products.
Dr. Williams recommends the use of castor oil packs because when applied topically, it leads to enhanced production of your white blood cells that fight against pathogens and cancer cells. Just soak a clean cotton cloth in castor oil and apply it directly on the lower abdomen. This would reduce inflammation. Castor oil also expedites the healing process and boosts your body’s immune system.
Hot and Cold Shower
Alternating cold and hot showers really help in boosting your lymphatic system. Cold water actually stimulates the system and reduces inflammation. On the other hand, hot shower relieves stress and eliminates tension.
When exposed to alternating cold and warm temperature, our skin dilates and contracts. This stimulates the circulation and flow of our stagnant lymph.
This traditional Chinese medicine method proves to be effective in stimulating bodily functions. Aside from enhancing the production of T-lymph cells, acupuncture also stimulates body energies for an improved lymphatic system and more efficient detoxification process.
Diuretics flushes out water but not the protein molecules. Water plays an important role in performing its functions, however, water leaks out due to the intake of diuretics. Our body is now forced to produce its own water in order to sustain the protein's ability to do its role. According to Merck Manual, the body produces water by metabolizing certain nutrients. So when you stop taking diuretics, there would be too much water, making your condition even worse. Always consult with and seek for your doctor's guidance when taking diuretics, especially when you have edema or lymphedema.
If you want to learn more about how diuretics affect people with lymphedema, be sure to check out Lymphedema's blog.
Lymphedema is defined as the abnormal accumulation of lymph or fluid in various areas of the body, with common occurrences in the legs, arms, chest, underarms or the back. It is categorized into two types – the primary and the secondary type. According to cancer.gov, the primary type of lymphedema mostly during occurs at birth, during infancy, or early adulthood. It usually results from the abnormal development of one's lymphatic system.
On the other hand, the secondary type occurs when our lymphatic system is damaged or when it is not working as it should. Some of the most common causes of these damages include cancer, injury, infection and lymph node removal. When lymph nodes are cut, fluids come into a dead end and our body has no way of draining the protein molecules and other toxins anymore. Thus, they tend to accumulate and build up which results in swelling. Cancer.net offers a detailed information about this topic so be sure to check that out!
After reading our article, we hope that you give more importance to your lymphatic system. By paying more attention to your lymphatic system, you are helping your body achieve a more balanced, strong and healthy state.
We would love to hear your thoughts so feel free to add your comments below. Share this article if you want to increase other's awareness about our lymphatic system and how it benefits our body.
- Sleep-Brain Detoxification – Dr. Mercola
- Lymph Nodes and Cancer – Cancer.org
- Removing Lymph Nodes May Raise Risk of Long-term Pain – Living Beyond Breast Cancer