You may not have heard of the lymphatic system, or if you have, you associate it with the swelling of lymph nodes in your throat and armpits when you get sick. This somewhat overlooked system in the body is as crucial as your immune and cardiovascular system, if not more so.
If you are wondering about the dimply fat on your thighs, or why you have icy hands and feet even when the heating is on, then it is worth reading on, as nourishing your lymphatic can make a significant difference to your wellbeing.
And what’s more, there are many natural ways that you can stimulate the flow of lymph in your body which benefits every organ in your body and is essential for optimal health.
This article will help you to understand the role the lymphatic system plays in your body, and the ways that you can naturally promote its flow to ensure long-lasting health.
What is the lymphatic system?
The lymphatic system is a sweeping network of lymphatic fluid, vessels and nodes working together, that travel throughout the body, and help to remove waste from cells and regulate the immune system. The lymphatic system includes the vessels, ducts, lymph nodes, and organs such as the spleen, thymus, and tonsils all supporting its function.
As with any drainage system, if the tubes stay clear, then the system flows smoothly. Waste is removed and the cycle continues. However, when the drains become clogged, you end up with a build-up of fluid and nasty waste materials. And when this happens in the body, it can lead to toxicity and health issues.
How the lymphatic system can affect immunity
Lymphatic congestion means that your body is unable to clear harmful substances such as bacteria, viruses, dysfunctional cells, and other toxins. The lymph fluid also contains immune cells and is a critical part of the immune system. These cells act as your first line of defence when it comes to fighting off infection and help the immune cells communicate with each other through the web of channels in the lymphatic system.
Without this communication, the immune system cannot adequately manage immune activity and inflammation. The lymphatic system allows the immune cells to quickly monitor and react to activity in various parts of the body at any one time. And when this system is impaired, unwanted inflammation can arise, leading to chronic inflammatory symptoms such as dry skin, achy joints and muscle fatigue, and the potential to trigger an autoimmune disease.
It has even been speculated that autoimmune diseases such as scleroderma, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis result from a dysfunctional lymphatic system.
The lymphatic flow
One of the most important jobs of your lymphatic system is to act as a filtration system for your tissues to clear toxins. After the toxins pass from your tissues to the lymph and reach your lymph nodes, the toxins are then passed to your blood vessels to be removed from your body.
The lymph nodes are vital in this filtering system and harbour a wealth of immune activity. You have between 500 – 600 lymph nodes throughout your body found in the neck, abdomen, armpit and gastrointestinal tract.
However, unlike your blood vessels, lymph flow is one-directional and relies on the contraction and relaxation of surrounding muscles rather than a pump. As lymph flow moves upwards towards your neck, it has a constant battle against gravity and requires continual support from skeletal muscle for frictionlessness flow.
What are the symptoms of lymphatic congestion?
Lymphatic congestion can cause a variety of symptoms. Swelling around your ankles and legs may be one of the first signs that your lymph is out of sync.
However, many other symptoms may seem unrelated to lymph flow which may be caused by issues in the lymphatic drainage system, such as:
- Chronic fatigue
- Dry skin
- Brain fog
- Chronic sore throat
- Water retention
- Muscle stiffness
- Cold hands and feet
How to promote healthy lymph flow naturally
Healthy lymph flow is critical for optimal health. Even if you are not experiencing symptoms currently, it is still worth investing in your lymph health with these simple dietary and lifestyle strategies.
Dry brushing with a soft bristle brush may stimulate lymphatic flow and promote its function. You can start dry brushing twice daily for 5 – 10 minutes, with circular sweeping motions towards your heart. A dry brushing practice is the ultimate self-care, supporting your body’s detoxification process and giving you a moment of calmness at the start and end of your day.
The lymphatic system is dependent on the contraction and relaxation of your muscle, so movement is essential for its flow. As different types of exercise, such as aerobic, strength training and yoga, have varying effects on the muscles in the body, it is optimal to keep a mixed exercise routine to give your body all it needs.
Yoga is particularly effective at stimulating lymph flow as the positions help compress parts of the lymph nodes, encouraging the circulation of the lymphatic system. And rebounding on a mini-trampoline pushes lymph flow upwards, opening up valves upstream so the lymph can move freely against gravity.
Eat anti-inflammatory foods
Every day we are exposed to toxins in our environment through the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the products we put on our bodies. As the lymph’s primary job is to remove toxins from the body, it can become overburdened if you don’t give it and its supporting organs the nutrients it needs to clear toxins from your body and neutralise any oxidative stress created along the way.
Eating anti-inflammatory foods such as dark leafy greens, omega-3 fats found in oily fish, cruciferous vegetables, and herbs and species such as ginger, parsley, and garlic will benefit your lymphatic flow long term.
Have you considered your lymphatic system when it comes to your health? If not, now is the time to start incorporating lymph flow-promoting activities into your day so that you feel better and keep your body in check.
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