The lymphatic system is an intricate network of vessels, organs and lymph nodes in the body that move lymph fluid from tissues into the bloodstream, acting essentially as an inner “drainage” unit. It is an important part of the immune system and plays a huge role in helping to protect the body from outside threats like bacteria, infections and cancer cells, all while helping keep fluid levels in balance. Experts in all wellness fields agree that a well-functioning lymphatic system is essential to vibrant health. Read on for simple and easy ways to care for this critical system.
Maintaining proper hydration is critical when it comes to the health of the lymphatic system. Lymph fluid is roughly 95% water, so properly hydrating the body is the key to keeping this system flowing. Most people will feel their best by consuming roughly half their body weight in ounces of water. For example, a person weighing 150 pounds will need about 75 ounces of water daily.
Focus on the Gut
A sluggish and compromised digestive system can lead to congestion in the lymphatic system. Eating a nutritionally dense diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids, organic leafy greens, fat-soluble vitamins A and D and balanced probiotics helps to reduce inflammation and provides a diverse array of healthy bacteria. Additionally, red foods like beets and cherries promote healthy lymph flow.
While dry brushing does take a bit of getting used to, it is a simple and inexpensive way to stimulate the lymphatic system. Starting at the feet, use long, repetitive strokes to dry brush the entire body, moving in the direction of the heart. Aim to spend 5–10 minutes dry brushing, showering after to wash away dead skin cells. The extra benefit of dry brushing is that it leaves skin soft and smooth.
Wear Loose Clothing
Because the lymph system does not have a mechanical “pump” to move it throughout the system, it relies on unrestricted flow and the natural movements of the body to keep it moving. One way to prevent lymph from getting stagnant is to avoid wearing tight clothing. This is especially important at night, as the body carries out complex and crucial detoxification processes during sleep.
The rhythmic flexing and releasing of muscles during physical activity is the primary way fluid is pumped through lymph channels. In particular, rebounding or bouncing on a mini-trampoline or exercise ball, and yoga, are great ways to move lymph. Exercise does not have to be strenuous to effectively clear lymph pathways. Stretching, deep breathing and walking help too.
Lymphatic Drainage or Massage
Deep tissue and self-massage are excellent for moving lymph. Adding oils specific for circulation like bay leaf, citrus, peppermint and ginger can be a great way to boost the effects. Additionally, manual lymphatic drainage, a light rhythmic massage style specific to lymphatic stimulation, is an effective and pleasant treatment for sluggishness and stagnation.
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