Lymphatic System Support for a Healthy Body
Most people are pretty familiar with basic biology, especially when it comes to our crucial organs like our heart and lungs. We know that without air flowing through our lungs and blood pumping through our heart, we’re dead. We know that our stomach and intestines are pretty important for our well-being also. But what about the lymphatic system? The lymphatic system is hardly spoken of, barely understood, and very often ignored when it comes to our overall health. But when you begin to understand the importance of all your bodily systems working together, and you understand the role that the lymphatic system plays in that larger system, it’s hard to ignore the importance of supporting this system.
What is the Lymphatic System?
The lymphatic system is made up of lymph fluid, lymph nodes, and lymphatic vessels, as well as the tonsils, thymus gland, and spleen.
Lymph fluid surrounds all of your body’s cells. This fluid carries waste to the 500 or more lymph nodes where it is filtered and neutralized, and then the fluid returns to the blood through the main lymph ducts.
Lymph is also responsible for the transportation of immune cells to fight infection in the body. When the lymph nodes detect a pathogen, they customize antibodies to fight the specific threat.
Why is a healthy Lymphatic System particularly important for detoxification?
Without the healthy flow of lymph fluid throughout your body, toxins and cellular waste can become stuck and unable to be moved out of the body. And because the lymphatic system cannot pump fluid on its own (unlike the cardiovascular system), extra care needs to be taken to keep this system working optimally.
If your lymph is clogged, it will look for other ways to get things moving; this often results in an increase in mucous, especially after eating or upon waking. It will also start pushing toxins towards the skin.
Your lymphatic system is one part of the larger system of organs that need to work together to keep your body healthy. If one system starts failing, the other systems need to work harder to pick up the slack.
How can we support the Lymphatic System?
Breathing brings oxygen to your body's cells which then excrete waste back into the lymph fluid. This process of intake and output is what pushes the lymph fluid along through the system. By taking deep, full breaths from the diaphragm, rather than short, shallow breaths, you deliver more oxygen to your cells and allow for better movement of lymph fluid.
Unfortunately, most of us have sluggish, or even clogged, lymph vessels and nodes that need additional support to help the fluid get flowing, so additional supports are helpful.
Stretching and other gentle movements are a great way to support your lymphatic system. Every time you move and your muscles contract and relax, the slight pressure on the lymph vessels helps to push things along.
For many people, especially those who experience swelling of the lower extremities, laying on the floor on your back with your legs up a wall (either straight up or in a cross-legged position) can aid the flow of lymph fluid up your body by using that natural forces of gravity.
Dry brushing your body with a skin brush is not only great for your skin, but also for your lymphatic system and circulation in general. By gently brushing upwards toward your heart, the light pressure will assist in fluid movement.
Some people find the sensation invigorating and energizing, while others (like myself) find it very calming.
Unlike a typical relaxation or deep tissue massage, lymphatic massage (manual lymph drainage) must be done with very gentle strokes. The pressure associated with a typical massage will actually cause the lymph vessels to temporarily flatten, which impedes the flow of lymph fluid for up to 20 minutes. You can either have a lymphatic massage on its own, or your massage therapist will perform the lymphatic massage first and follow it with a typical muscle massage.
You can also perform your own manual lymph drainage by gently stretching the skin in light strokes down your neck, up from your hip to armpits, and up your legs. Movements should always direct fluid towards the chest where your main lymph ducts are located. If supporting your lymphatic system is important to you, grab my free cheatsheet to help you get started. I’ll show you 2 Simple Routines for Lymphatic Support that you can do every day to help boost your lymphatic system.