The lymphatic system is the primary component of our immune system. It contains lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that destroy pathogens and remove them from the body. When our lymphatic system is unhealthy, all kinds of health problems can ensue:
- constipation/digestive issues
- increased colds, flu, allergies
- skin problems
- enlarged lymph nodes
If the lymph glands, the body’s “drainage” system, become congested, the flow of lymph is obstructed and this can cause a domino effect of cascading pathology as mentioned above.
There are many natural and easy ways to keep lymph moving!
1.One of my favorite ways to keep lymph moving is to keep the body moving! One of the best forms of exercise for lymphatic flow is rebounding. Rebounding is simply jumping on a trampoline! We have a mini-trampoline (aka rebounder) as do many home health enthusiasts (and parents of young children)! This is an inexpensive, easy and fun way to keep the lymphatic system in tip top health. Just 15-30 minutes of rebounding a day will do the trick. Small rebounders can be placed inside the home and you can jump, jump, jump your way to health while watching television, listening to music or playing with the kids. Place your rebounder outdoors on nice days and get your jump on while taking in the sights and sounds of nature.
2. Walking. What a simple way to exercise. Simply taking a walk is a good way to raise your heart rate and pump lymphatic fluid to where it can be cleaned in the lymph nodes. Make a commitment to take a brisk 20-minute walk (not a leisurely stroll) every day and not only will your lymphatic health improve, but your overall health and weight will improve as well! Inversion positions such as legs up on the wall (lying with legs elevated), and other inversions use gravity to increase lymphatic flow. Stretching and using these positions increases circulation and breathing in general and, in turn, supports the lymphatic system.
3. Lymph fluid is mostly water, as is the human body. Dehydration only stresses the lymphatic system more and makes it less efficient. Drinking your full fluid intake as clean, clear water will help your lymphatic system flow well. Flush your system with up to a gallon of water per day. Avoid too much caffeine and alcohol. This further dehydrates the body and is, or course, detrimental to overall health and lymphatic flow.
4. Diet. Diet is of utmost importance in any situation. Eating a diet of wholesome foods free of artificial ingredients like colors, flavors, sweeteners, additives and preservatives will help your lymph system run more efficiently. Remove things from the diet that do not belong there! That is simple. Focus on leafy greens, cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cabbage, berries, nuts, seeds, and wild caught fish (or supplement with Omega 3s). Unrefined oils like coconut oil for cooking and olive oil for cold preparations are encouraged. Red foods in particular (beets, pomegranate, turmeric, apples, cherries) are great for the lymphatic system!
5. Deep breathing exercises are beneficial to the body in many ways. Practicing deep breathing strengthens the diaphragm which promotes lymphatic system health. Breathing. We do it every day, while we sleep, each and every moment, but we don’t always focus on our breath which can be a mistake. There are no fancy steps that you need to take to practice deep breathing. Simply breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose. Draw in the air and feel it fill your lungs. Now exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat several times daily. You can feel the oxygen saturating your body… who couldn’t use some deep, calming, cleansing breaths daily!? Deep breathing exercising helps with mental clarity, pain relief and relaxation as well as detoxification.
6. Massage – Lymphatic drainage massage is a gentle, specialized form of massage that focuses on lymph. Find a licensed massage therapist in your area that offers lymphatic drainage massage or you can perform it on yourself at home quite easily. YouTube has some wonderful videos to show you just how to do this yourself. It is the most gentle, lightest form of massage and can be done safely and easily in the privacy of your own home.
7. Saunas and detox baths—Sweating It Out in sauna therapy is another way to increase circulation, sweat out harder to remove toxins (like metals) and improve lymphatic flow for cleansing. Many gyms and health clubs now offer infrared sauna therapy which is one of best ways to detoxify the body! An infrared sauna session raises the body’s core temperature, activates circulation and excretes toxins from the lymph and blood through the skin. If you can’t get to an infrared sauna, you may opt for a detox bath at home. There are many different detox bath recipes to be found online, but all you really need to do this at home is a bag of Epsom Salts (magnesium sulfate) and good old-fashioned baking soda. Use 1-2 cups of Epsom Salt and ½- 1 cup baking soda, mix well and soak in a hot bath for at least 30 minutes. Most people own essential oils, and why not blend some bath safe oils into your soak to increase the effectiveness? Some of my favorites in the bath are lavender, rose, frankincense, lemon and tea tree. Stir in no more than 10 drops in total of essential oil for an adult detox bath. Avoid mints, clove and lemongrass (among others) in the bath because they can be skin irritants, especially in the bath. If you are going to use bath safe essential oils in the bath, stir in 1 Tbsp of coconut or olive oil into your detox bath recipe before adding to the water.
8. Not smoking, reducing stress & inflammation and getting enough sleep are paramount for lymphatic health. Go to bed before 10pm and rise with the sun if possible. Lack of sleep is one of the worst things for your body! Take magnesium glycinate before bed and take a cup of relaxing herbal tea such as chamomile or lemon balm. Poor quality sleep can cause a host of issues from depression to chronic illness. Getting adequate rest, deep sleep, can boost your mood, lower stress levels during the day, aid in weight loss and increase lymphatic system health.
9. Laughter! Certainly the easiest and most joyful way to improve lymphatic flow. Laughter is GREAT medicine!! Laughing boosts your immune system, reduces depression, protects the heart, stops fear, relaxes and comforts us and those around us! Injecting laughter into your life can also ease pain and boost recovery time from surgery or chronic illness. Laughter brings people together because laughter is contagious! How many times have you and your best friend or sibling NOT been able to STOP laughing once one of you starts giggling? Laugh and the world laughs with you! Laughter is just as effective as deep breathing which we already know boosts lymphatic health.
10. Employ herbs. Lastly but certainly not to be overlooked is herbal supplementation in the form of teas, tinctures, or capsules! Ayurvedic herbs like red root (aka Manjistha), astragalus root and ginger are superb “lymph scrubbers!” Other more commonly known herbs such as calendula (a member of the marigold family), mullein, turmeric and cleavers are wonderful allies for lymphatic system health! These can be found in capsule form, tincture form or can be combined in different variation as an herbal tea.
One of my favorite teas for lymph congestion is:
2 parts calendula flowers,
1/2 part ginger,
1 part cleavers,
1 part lemon balm
Use 1 Tbsp of dried herbs in total for each cup of tea. Bring water to boil, steep herbs 20 minutes. Enjoy with honey. Serve warm for best results.
Unlike the heart, the lymphatic system does not have its own built-in pump. In order to keep the toxins moving, it relies on breathing and bodily movement to function properly. Follow some of these steps above to improve lymphatic system, and OVERALL health of the body!