A strong, healthy lymphatic system is vital to experience permanent weight loss, a healthy functioning immune system, and preventing disease. It’s a major player in protecting the body from infection against bacteria, fungi, viruses, toxins, and potential threats.
The lymphatic system is a network of thin tubes (filled with clear lymphatic fluid) and lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are also the factory for white blood cells (lymphocytes) that produce powerful antibodies that defend against infections. The thymus, spleen and bone marrow also play vital roles in the function of the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system distributes fluid and nutrients throughout the body, prevents tissues from swelling, and removes toxins, infections, heavy metals, cancer cells and other waste.
There’s more lymph in your body than blood, but there is no pump for lymph. The only way that lymph can move is through exercise, breathing or muscular contraction.
A strong, healthy lymphatic system depends a great deal on healthy digestion, healthy kidneys and healthy liver function. A sluggish liver most likely means a congested lymph system. When the lymphatic system is congested, cells become deprived of oxygen and the body is unable to detox properly. Left untreated, congested stagnant lymph increases pain and risk of disease.
Studies show that the detoxifying abilities of the liver, kidney and lymphatic systems are reduced by poor diet, stressful lifestyles, heavy metal toxicity, chemicals we eat, breathe and use, and environmental toxicity, which can result in hormonal dysfunction, suppressed immunity, and chronic degenerative disease.
Symptoms of Lymph Congestion
- Swollen and painful lymph nodes (infected lymph nodes)
- Swelling in fingers, swollen feet or ankles
- Fatigue, low energy
- Infections: viral, Lyme, fungal, parasitic and bacterial
- Headaches, low back pain, arthritis, inflammation overload
- Heart disease
- Brain fog
- Chronic sinusitis
- Cellulite, weight loss resistance, obesity
- Food sensitivities
- Histamine intolerance
- Fibrocystic breasts, ovarian cysts
- Breast implant illness
- Digestive problems, GI issues
- Lupus, chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s, irritable bowel disease, and other autoimmune disorders
- Cancer, including breast cancer
Love Your Lymph!
Tips to Support a Strong, Healthy Lymphatic System
Food as Medicine to Support a Strong, Healthy Lymphatic System
- Stay hydrated with filtered water. The solution to pollution is dilution. Lymph becomes thicker and less mobile when you’re dehydrated.
- Choose organic foods as much as possible vs conventionally-grown and factory-farmed foods
- Eliminate sugar and all dairy products, which cause lymph stagnation
- Citric fruits such as lemons, limes and grapefruit aid in purifying the lymph
- Bitter is better! Bitter veggies and greens such as arugula, radicchio, dandelion greens, parsley, mustard greens, cilantro, asparagus
- Apple cider vinegar with ‘the Mother’ diluted with water and taken internally or applied topically to swollen lymph nodes
- Garlic, ginger and turmeric have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce swelling in the lymph nodes
- Avoid overeating, mindless eating, chronic snacking and late night eating, close up the kitchen 3 hours before bedtime
- Reduce your body’s toxic burden: avoid processed foods, toxic chemicals, preservatives, pesticides, GMOs and glyphosate, hormone-disruptors
- Love Your Lymph recipe: Blend or juice the following — dandelion greens, parsley, 2-3 garlic cloves, carrots, celery stalk, one half apple and filtered water
Lifestyle Tips to Support a Strong, Healthy Lymphatic System
- The 3 B’s: Bounce, Brush and Breathe!
- Mindful breathing exercises and diaphragmatic breathing activates the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, strengthens vagal tone, increases oxygen and releases toxins naturally
- Dry skin brushing invigorates the movement and drainage of the lymphatic system, stimulates the liver, kidney, lungs, gently exfoliates the skin removing dead cells, and helps to reduce cellulite.
- Bouncing aka rebounding on a mini-trampoline works on every cell in the body particularly energizing the lymphatic system through gravitational pull.
- Alternating cold-hot water immersion. Hot and cold showers reduce buildup of fluids and ease inflammation: alternate between hot for 60 seconds and cold water for 30 seconds 5-6x during your shower ending with a cold cycle. Alternating hot and cold increases circulation, encouraging lymphatic flow, reduces inflammation, and boosts metabolism and immune function. Start with 1-2 times per week and gradually increase to 3-5x per week.
- Hot compresses applied topically to the swollen, congested lymph nodes provide relief
- Infrared sauna therapy naturally detoxes the body and supports healthy immune function
- Epsom salt baths are not only relaxing, they aid in gentle detoxification and cleansing the lymphatic system
- Avoid tight, restrictive clothing and bras that constrict lymphatic flow within the breast resulting in fluid and toxin accumulation that can lead to cysts, pain, congested lymph and toxic buildup. Ladies, avoid underwire bras. Go braless for 8-12 hours daily.
- Aluminum exposure puts a strain on the lymphatic system. Eliminate aluminum exposure commonly found in antiperspirants, antacids, and aluminum cookware. Rule out heavy metal toxicity.
- Support healthy liver, gallbladder, kidney, colon, GI and digestive function
- Good sleep! The brain has its own internal detoxing system called the ‘glymphatic system‘ that turns on when we’re asleep getting rid of toxins and removing waste products that could be responsible for neurological disorders and brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. The glymphatic system is 10x more active during sleep compared to when you’re awake.
- Keep a positive attitude. Address underlying mental and emotional stressors. Lymph can become congested when we feel stuck or stagnant. Lymph problems are a warning that the mind needs to be re-centered on the essentials of life. Love and joy.
- Avoid pharmaceutical and OTC drugs, which stagnate and congest lymph flow
- Use chemical-free personal care and household products
- Natural therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, cold water immersion, cranial sacral therapy, and lymphatic drainage massage balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, increase lymph flow, and boost immune response
Daily Lymphatic Cleanse (thanks to Dr. Perry Nickelston of Stop Chasing Pain)
Every morning, rub or massage each area for 10-15 seconds in this order . . .
- Start at the subclavicular area (underneath the collar bone) and supraclavicular area (above collar bone)
- Move to the neck, behind the ears, jaw line, and the entire neck
- Front shoulder chest area, axillary armpit area, and the chest/breast area
- Thymus area (sides of breastbone)
- Stomach abdomen area
- Inguinal groin area
- Behind the knees
- Bounce on mini-trampoline or bounce on tippy-toes for 15-20 seconds
Move your Body to Support a Strong, Healthy Lymphatic System
The most important thing to remember about the lymphatic system is that it relies on movement. Daily exercise and moving your body is crucial for healthy lymph flow, whereas inactivity restricts its flow. Unlike the cardiovascular system with the heart automatically pumping fluid, the lymph system relies on our body movements as a pump.
- Brisk walking with arms swinging is one of the best ways to get the lymph moving
- Jumping rope encourages the lymphatic fluid to flush and drain away toxins
- A consistent yoga practice that includes twists and inversions such as legs up the wall and supported shoulder stand reverse the flow of gravity in your legs, circulate the lymphatic fluid and encourage the elimination of toxins.
- A dynamic yoga flow practice is also beneficial for healthy lymph where large muscles in the body contract and relax—the primary way lymph moves through the body.
- Foam rolling aka self-myofasical release
- Stand more. Sit less! Sitting causes stagnation of lymph fluid.
- Rebounding: Bouncing on a mini-trampoline clears clogged lymph nodes and lymph congestion, and increases lymph flow as much as 15x
Viparita Karani or the ‘legs up the wall’ yoga pose is profoundly relaxing for your legs. It promotes the circulation of blood in your body and helps to wash out some toxins and other by-products. It also relieves your leg from fatigue, and overall pressure is reduced. This is one of the most effective poses for those suffering from varicose veins. Legs up the wall shifts blood from the extremities to the abdomen which turns on the parasympathetic (calming) nervous system. It also helps to reduce water retention in swollen feet, legs and ankles, and it’s super healing, restorative and nourishing for the adrenals and lymphatic system.
Nutrients to Support a Strong, Healthy Lymphatic System
Nutrients, homeopathic remedies and herbal support can reduce stagnated lymph and allow better lymph flow, but herbs and supplements cannot stimulate the physical movement of fluid through the lymphatic vessels – this can only be achieved through moving your body, dry skin brushing, exercise and breathing.
Echinacea, astragalus, cleavers, pokeroot, goldenseal and red root are powerful lymph cleansers that may help to improve lymph flow, and reduce congestion and swelling. Always seek the guidance of a qualified practitioner when considering natural herbal therapies.