The importance of improving lymphatic drainage
We all know that blood moves around the body, but did you know that lymph does too?
‘What on earth is lymph?’ you may wonder. Lymph is the fluid that flows through our lymphatic systems – the system responsible for removing toxic build-up from the body. It is part of our immune system and protects us from disease. This system is essentially a network of lymph vessels connecting lymph nodes throughout your body and it’s these nodes that the liquid passes through. As the liquid passes, the nodes work as a filter to destroy any waste products that we don’t need. The fluid then carries these waste products back to the bloodstream where they are removed by the liver and kidneys.
Even if you weren’t familiar with your lymphatic system before, you have probably noticed when it hasn’t quite been working optimally. If you’ve ever had a virus or infection your lymph nodes would have tried to destroy it and when they do so they often become sore and swollen. There’s a major lymph node in your neck (the cervical lymph node) and under your armpit (the axillary lymph node) and if you’ve ever had a throat infection, flu or even a bad cold you might have noticed pain and swelling in these areas.
What else does the lymphatic system do?
Your lymphatic system rids toxic build up from your body, but it is responsible for a few other important functions too:1
• Maintains your body’s fluid levels: Your lymphatic system collects any surplus fluid that drains from your cells and tissues and returns it to your bloodstream to be recirculated and removed if not required.
• Absorbs fats from the digestive tract: Lymph includes Fluids from your intestines containing fats and proteins are collected in lymph and moved to your bloodstream.
• Protects against foreign invaders: The lymphatic system is part of the immune system. It produces and releases lymphocytes (white blood cells) and other immune cells are produced and released by your lymphatic system. These look out for bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi and destroy them.
Why is a clogged lymphatic system a problem?
With so many important roles it’s clear to see that the lymphatic system can cause problems when it’s not working properly. Certain situations and conditions can cause it to get blocked. Some of these are a result of diseases, illnesses and disorders of the lymphatic system such as strep throat and tonsillitis, cancer and infected skin wounds. These can result in enlarged, swollen lymph nodes and the accumulation of lymph fluid. Not only can the build-up of this fluid be painful, but if can put you at risk of further infections.2
How can you improve lymphatic drainage?
Your lymphatic system doesn’t have its own pumping system in the same way that your circulatory system does. . It relies on the body’s movement, intestinal activity and muscle action to keeping lymph flowing. Here are our top tips for keeping your lymphatic system in good working order:
• Avoid exposure to toxins: The lymphatic system filters waste, but the more waste it has to filter, the harder it has to work. By avoiding exposure to toxic chemicals such as those found in pesticides and cleaning products, you can give your lymphatic system a helping hand by not forcing it to work so hard to remove these toxins.
• Drink plenty of water: Keeping hydrated helps lymph to move around your body more easily.
• Enjoy regular movement workouts: There are many health benefits of physical exercise. One of them is that it can reduce the chances of your lymphatic system becoming clogged. A movement workout such as rebounding on a trampoline is a great option to get your blood and lymphatic fluid flowing around your system.
• Take hot and cold showers: It might take some getting used to, but you can create a pump-like action by alternating between hot water and cold water (to dilate and constrict the vessels in your lymphatic system).
• Try dry skin brushing: This is another treatment that stimulates flow and encourages circulation.
• Eat a lymphatic system-friendly diet: Fruits and vegetables, as well as low sugar foods, garlic, brazil nuts, almonds and walnuts are all good for your lymphatic system. Avoid processed foods, sugar, table salt and soy, which can all contribute to clogging it.
• Try herbal teas: Many herbal teas are beneficial for lymph health. In particular, you might like to try echinacea, goldenseal, parsley or wild indigo root.
For most of us, maintaining a healthy lifestyle will be all we need to do to keep our lymphatic systems in good working order, but as with anything, if you have any concerns, it’s always best to consult a medical professional.