In many ways, the lymphatic system is the forgotten system. We are quick to point the finger at other bodily systems, such as digestion when we aren’t feeling our best. However the lymphatic network plays a significant role in our day to day, this system touches almost every part of the body, and while we may not feel it – it’s always there, working away.
The lymphatic system is a rather complicated network of fluid-filled nodes, vessels, glands, and organs. While the circulatory system brings nutrients to our organs and tissues, the lymphatic system works to dispose of toxins and waste. The lymph system is a pathway for drainage, playing an important role in immunity and also in natural detoxification.
When it comes to immunity, this system protects the body against any outside threats; infections, bacteria, and cancer cells. Our largest lymphatic tissue in the body is the spleen, working as a top player in immune defense, the spleen fights infection, destroys worn-out red blood cells and holds a reserve of white and red blood cells.
In addition to lymphatic organs and glands, which also include your thymus and tonsils, we also have between 500-700 lymph nodes that are spread throughout the body.
Lymph nodes filter lymph fluid, a clear substance that comes from your blood plasma – containing nutrients, oxygen, hormones, toxins, and cellular waste. They also house lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that plays a role in your immune system. If you’re familiar with B-cells and T-cells, these are both lymphocytes which are found in lymph nodes and lymph tissues (1)
While this is all fascinating stuff that’s taking place in your body. There is an issue that comes up with this system.
Unlike your blood, your lymph does not have a pump. Your lymphatic network relies on the contraction and relaxation of the muscles and joints to keep things flowing. YOU are the pump.
When the lymphatic system becomes stagnant, it becomes stressed. This doesn’t only possibly impair immunity, it can also play a role in the development of (2,3):
- Fluid retention and bloating
- Chronic pain
- Fatty deposits
- Chronic sinusitis
- Swollen glands, ankles, and eyes
- Upper respiratory, sinus and ear infections
- Frequents colds
- Tonsillitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia
Thankfully it really doesn’t take much to support your lymph and get it moving again.
8 Ways to Reset Lymph Flow
Dry skin brushing is a practice which can be practiced daily. It stimulates both the lymphatic and circulatory systems. It also supports glowing healthy skin. Check out this complete guide to dry brushing – you’ll wish you started yesterday!
Many herbs provide promising benefits for improving lymphatic health, whether through their ability to improve lymphatic flow and drainage, or by expediting the removal of toxins. Here are some of the top herbs the lymphatic (please buy organic!) (5):
- Red clover
Next time you’re booking with your RMT, inquire if they can include a ‘lymphatic massage’. This special form of massage specifically targets your lymph flow. Using a very light and specific amount of pressure in combination with rhythmic circular movements, this technique works to stimulate the lymph. (6)
Enzymes are produced by the body to break down your food, and they partake in countless metabolic processes. They are also utilized to clear toxic-waste buildup in both the lymph and blood! Using a digestive bitter tincture formula (that is free from laxative herbs) – such as St. Francis Canadian Bitters – helps support not only the proper breakdown of food, but they also help to decrease digestive inflammation(7). Everything in your body is connected, and healthy digestion can play a vital role in lymph flow.
Detox & Contrast Bathing
One way to stimulate the lymphatic system is with a hot bath, be sure to add in a half-cup of baking soda, epsom salts or some AlkaBath. This is one relaxing way to assist the lymph in clearing out toxins and rejuvenating cells. Another method would be taking a contrast shower – in the last minute or so of your shower raise the temperature so it’s a little hotter than usual. Then for the last 30 seconds turn the water to cold. This practice will leave you feeling energized, and it also benefits the lymphatic system since lymph vessels contract when exposed to cold, and relax in response to heat.
Movement is always key. Make a point of stretching and activating your muscles daily. Practice yoga movements which focus on twists, inversions, and flows to get the lymph moving! This alone can help reset your lymph system and positively support your overall health (9)
There are many essential oils which naturally benefit the immune system. Add a few drops to a carrier oil like jojoba oil and massage into the inner and outer thighs, around the knees, near the armpits, and on the abdomen in a clockwise motion. Always be sure to source out pure and therapeutic grade essential oils. See here for more info on why cultivation methods and detailed labels are needed to determine essential oil quality.
Here are some great oils for lymph cleansing (11):
- Anatomy of the Circulatory and Lymphatic Systems https://courses.lumenlearning.com/microbiology/chapter/anatomy-of-the-circulatory-and-lymphatic-systems/
- What Causes Swollen Lymph Nodes? Regina Bailey – https://www.thoughtco.com/lymph-nodes-anatomy-373244
- The Lymphatic System in Health and DiseaseLeah Cueni-Michael Detmar – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3572233/
- Changes observed in lymphocyte behavior during gravitational unloading. A Cogoli – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11537173
- Herbs that Promote Lymphatic DrainageHR Staff – http://herbalismroots.com/herbs-promote-lymphatic-drainage/
- Systematic Review of Efficacy for Manual Lymphatic Drainage Techniques in Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation: An Evidence-Based Practice ApproachGiampietro Vairo-Sayers Miller-Nicole McBrier-William Buckley – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2755111/
- Techniques to Use at Home To Stimulate Lymphatic Drainage http://www.gordonmedical.com/unravelling-complex-chronic-illness/techniques-to-use-at-home-to-stimulate-lymphatic-drainage/
- 5 Natural Ways to Relieve Lymphatic CongestionCarrie Demers – https://yogainternational.com/article/view/5-natural-ways-to-relieve-lymphatic-congestion