What is the Lymphatic System and Why Do I Care?
It’s cold and flu season, so you’re prepared with your arsenal of immune-boosters such as vitamin C and herbal remedies, but if you’re ignoring your lymphatic system, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to support your immune system and overall health!
The lymphatic system is the body’s inner “drainage system,” a network of blood vessels and lymph nodes that carry fluids from tissues around the body into the blood and vice versa, is vital for:
- Elimination of toxins. The lymphatic system has been described as the garbage disposal of the body and is responsible for filtering and eliminating toxins.
- The immune system. The lymph nodes house a high concentration of white blood cells that increase when the body is fighting off illness or infection.
- Weight loss and weight management. Toxicity is a huge part of the weight loss puzzle. If you don’t support your lymph system, you will have even more trouble losing weight and gaining muscle tone.
The most important thing to remember about the lymphatic system is that it relies on our movement. Unlike the cardiovascular system with the heart automatically pumping fluid, the lymph system relies on our body movements as a pump.
Here are 10 ways to support the lymphatic system and boost your immune system -
don't wait until you're fighting something to incorporate a few of these things into your routine:
Get on a trampoline for 5-10 minutes each day. The bouncing helps pump and decongest the lymphatic fluid in the entire body. It’s simple but profound way to support the lymphatic system.
Infrared Sauna Therapy
Along with nourishing foods and a rebounder, I would say that the most important tools in which you can invest for better health is a infrared sauna. Regular therapy in an infrared sauna is one of the most effective ways to detox the body, support the immune system and improve the lymphatic system.
Sauna therapy allows the body to sweat while in parasympathetic nervous system mode, so toxins are being sweated out. The circulation/release of toxins, the regeneration of tissues, and the heat all work together to improve lymphatic flow.
In the deeply restorative practice of Yin Yoga, poses are held for at least 3 minutes, and up to 10 minutes. The pressure of your own body in these prolonged holds can help release areas of lymphatic congestion. Additionally, many of the poses reverse the flow of gravity and twist the body, aiding in lymphatic flow. You can also focus on poses that stretch the hips, since the groin area contains a concentration of lymph nodes.
While all movement engages the lymphatic system, walking is an accessible exercise that nearly everyone can fit into their day. If you don’t have the opportunity to walk around outside, take occasional breaks to simply walk in place.
Legs Up The Wall
In this pretty self-explanatory yoga pose, lymphatic circulation in the lower body is maximized. By reversing the flow of gravity in your legs, you circulate the lymphatic fluid and encourage the elimination of toxins.
Here’s a picture to show you what the pose looks like – it is suitable for every body type and fitness level.
Lymphatic drainage massage
Manual lymphatic drainage and lymphatic drainage massage is fantastic for releasing toxins and lymph congestion. Since lymph nodes are close to the surface of the skin, it only requires a light touch – not deep tissue work – to activate the lymphatic system.
You can seek out a massage therapist who is trained in Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD). You can do your own effective Facial Lymphatic Massage as shown in this video. It takes just a few minutes and is the first step I take when I feel a cold coming on or when I experience swollen lymph nodes.
Use a Standing Desk
Have you heard of the modern epidemic called “Sitting Disease?” Studies show that prolonged periods of sitting correlate to an increase in degenerative disease. Research shows that exercise doesn’t reduce the risk of sitting… the only way to reduce the risk is to not sit as much.
Perhaps one factor influencing the correlation between sitting and disease is lymphatic function - movement engages lymphatic flow, but sitting creates stagnation of lymphatic fluid. Remember, the lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump so you have to be the pump! A standing desk is a simple way to avoid the lymphatic stagnation of prolonged sitting.
Hydrotherapy (not to be confused with colon hydrotherapy/colonics) stimulates the lymphatic system by constricting and expanding blood vessels and activating the immune system. In a hydrotherapy session, hot water treatments are alternated repeatedly quickly with cold water.
In a hydrotherapy spa, you can alternate dips in hot and cold baths. At home, a simple solution is hydrotherapy showers where you switch between hot and cold water. They are an “acquired taste” and not exactly comfortable, but now I enjoy the invigorating practice. This is a helpful instruction guide for hydrotherapy showers.
Dry Skin Brushing
As I’ve mentioned, the lymphatic system is pretty close to the surface of the skin. It doesn’t take deep pressure to help release lymphatic congestion, which is why dry brushing your skin is so helpful. This process requires just a few minutes before your shower and stimulates lymphatic flow. You simply brush your body with a stiff, dry brush like this one, and this activates the lymphatic system.
Lymphatic Deep Breathing
This is my newest discovery on how to support the lymphatic system. Deep breathing through the diaphragm creates pressure and expansion that helps pump the lymphatic fluid. When paired with a simple movement of the arms and hands, it is an effective way to encourage toxin drainage from the lymph.
Follow the very simple 4-step lymphatic breathing technique here on a daily basis. You may only be able to do a few breaths in the beginning, but you can work up slowly to a few minutes. I like the Weil 4-7-8 method:
- Breath in for 4 count
- Hold for 7 counts
- Breath out for 8 counts
These techniques you can add into your daily and weekly routine pretty easily over time. There's no *one* thing that is the magic bullet for health. It's lots of small things, over time that move the needle and support the body to heal every day.
Reach out if you have questions or thoughts - I'd love to hear from you! firstname.lastname@example.org
Yours in health,