What is it? Why is it important to health? What are ways to promote healthy lymph flow?
The lymphatic system is the silent transport vehicle that facilitates waste removal at a cellular level, moving it from the tissues to the blood, where it can be filtered by the liver and kidneys. The waste that is carried through the body consists of proteins, plasma, cell waste, debris, airborne pollutants, environmental toxins, and bi-products of bodily processes.
The lymphatic system is a system that is made up of lymph nodes and lymph vessels. It incorporates the spleen, thymus and adenoids as well as the circulatory and urinary systems. The lymphatic system also plays a role in bringing nutrients and oxygen to cells.
Lymph is a clear-to-white fluid made of white blood cells, especially lymphocytes which are the cells that attack bacteria in the blood and fluid from the intestines, which contains proteins and fats.
There are between 600-700 lymph nodes in the body that filter lymph before it returns to the circulatory system. When bacteria or other foreign invaders are recognized in the lymph fluid, the lymph nodes make more infection fighting white blood cells, which can cause swelling. The swollen nodes can often be detected in the neck, underarms and groin.
Lymph only flows in one direction-upwards towards the neck. It flows into the venous blood system through the subclavian veins which are located on either side of the neck near the collarbone.
If our lymph is not flowing through the body as it should, the immune system and ultimately the whole body suffers.
Signs of Stagnant Lymph:
- Chronic fatigue
- Brain fog
- Swelling in lymph nodes (like throat, armpits or groin)
- Muscle aches and pains
- Joint pains
- Excess weight and cellulite
- low immunity
- Frequent infections or viruses
- Fibromyalgia symptoms
- Skin conditions
- Cold hands and feet
- Digestive disorders
- Sinus congestion
What causes stagnant lymph?
Stress, Stress, Stress. Stress has been identified as the cause of about 80% of all disease. The chemistry of stress is degenerative and lymph congesting as cited by Dr. John Douillard.
Chronic digestive imbalances like constipation and diarrhea due to irritated intestinal villi are classic causes of lymph congestion. As the majority of the lymph in the body surrounds the gut (Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissues GALT), the quality of the villi is critical for proper lymph flow, detoxification, assimilation and immunity.
Iodine deficiency is also a common cause of lymphatic congestion. Iodine protects us from a toxic environment and supports the lymph at the cellular level.
Why do we want to support proper lymph drainage?
- To move fluid out of the tissues into lymph nodes where bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms are destroyed
- To reduce swelling and pain in the body
- To stimulate immune system
- To increase circulation of white blood cells
- To support healthy circulation and skin tone
Ways to Encourage Healthy Lymph Flow
Breathe. Deep breathing in and out of the nose. Do this as much as possible!
Hydrate. Drink plenty of purified or filtered water throughout the day.
The lymphatic system depends on a constant supply of fluid.
Add a sprinkle of Himalayan salt or fresh squeeze lemon juice to your water to support kidney health.
Move & Groove. When your muscles move, they massage the lymphatic system and promote the flow of fluid through your lymph vessels. Regular exercise like running, walking, yoga, and strength training keep the lymph juices flowing.
Jump! Jumping on a rebounder stimulates internal organs, supports intestinal health and assist in flushing toxins out of the body. It can also help support heart health, reduce body fat, firm legs, thighs, and abdomen; and strengthens muscles throughout the body.
Sweat. Sit in an infra-red sauna or steam room to raise the body temperature to release excess fluids and toxins. This will also support the healing of tissue repair.
Massage. Manual lymphatic massage stimulates the lymph nodes and helps promote fluid movement in lymph vessels. It can also relieve sinus pressure, and reduce fluid retention in the face
Dry Skin Brushing. Use a dry body brush every day to increase circulation and boost a sluggish lymph system. Spend 3-5 minutes of brushing before you jump in the shower in the morning. Start at with your arms and legs and use long strokes to move the brush towards your heart.
Herbs including (but not limited to):
- Red Clover: which is one of the best blood purifiers, aides in detoxification and reduces inflammation in: the body.
- Calendula: can improve lymph congestion and swelling
- Cleavers: supports the flow of lymph, bringing white blood cells to the areas where they are most needed.
- Echinicea: can be used as an anti-inflammatory and has powerful immune-enhancing effects
- Licorice Root: supports in filtering debris from the lymphatic system and reduce swelling of lymph nodes
- Red Root: supports the spleen in filtering impurities from the blood, and helps move nutrients from the digestive system to the liver for breakdown before entering the bloodstream.