Redwood Naturopathic Medicine
Your Guide to the Lymphatic System
Updated: Mar 7
Like the circulatory system, the lymphatic system is a massive network of vessels that spans the entire body. Lymph, however, is a clear fluid that is scooped up from the extracellular matrix (the watery soup that surrounds all the tissues in the body) and transported through the veins. However, the lymph system consists of more than the veins that transport lymph. Lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, appendix, tonsils, and adenoids are also a part of this system.
Cellular waste products are released into the lymph to be removed from the body. The blood also sends toxins from the intestines to the lymphatic system via the liver. When the lymphatic system is overworked and backed up, its ability to filter and neutralize waste is significantly reduced. This builds up toxins in the body, makes inflammation more likely, and makes the immune system less effective.
In addition, when toxins are produced inside the body at a rate that is higher than the rate at which the body can process and expel them, the body will suspend those toxins in fat and interstitial spaces to prevent the organs from being damaged. This toxic buildup leads to inflammation of soft and connective tissue and an excessive buildup of lymph fluid, all contributing to chronic fatigue and a compromised immune system.
Why Focus on Lymphatic Health?
People do not sweat or move as much as they should due to the increase in sedentary lifestyles more prevalent nowadays. As well as the declining levels of exercise and the usage of antiperspirants, which block sweat (toxins) from leaving the body, our body lacks basic abilities to release toxins efficiently. Consequently, toxins and waste products produced by the metabolism remain within the body rather than being expelled through the skin.
When the lymph is chronically overloaded with toxins and waste products, it can result in symptoms such as joint pain, swelling, bloating, frequent infections, allergies, PMS, low energy, rashes/acne, digestive problems, mood changes, and food intolerances. But you can do a few easy things each day to support a healthy lymphatic system.
How to Support the Lymphatic System
The heart functions much like a pump, which is necessary for blood circulation throughout the circulatory system. In contrast, the lymphatic system does not have a central pump; instead, it relies on the activity of our muscles to carry lymph throughout the body. It is essential to move the body daily to keep the lymph moving via the lymph veins. The movement of the lymph through the body can be assisted by participating in popular activities like rebounding. The rebounder functions like a miniature trampoline and everyday use should consist of 10 minutes to 1 hour of mild bouncing. If no trampoline is present, spending a few minutes jumping rope or jumping around your room achieves the same effects.
The truth is that any form of exercise will assist in the movement of lymph throughout the body. Daily yoga, qi gong, and walking are excellent exercises that keep the body strong, the cortisol levels balanced, and the lymph moving.
Brushing the skin with a dry bristle brush is a highly efficient method that helps the lymphatic system and boosts circulation. Brushing your skin with a dry brush helps manually move lymph (especially important if you spend most of the day sedentary), activate your sweat glands, open your pores, and improve blood circulation to the organs and tissues that lie beneath the surface of the skin.
Always use the brush dry, avoiding water and lotions/oils during the process. Pass a soft brush over the skin, beginning at the edge of the body and working your way toward the middle of the body. To get the best benefits, dry brush before you shower or bath. You're going to feel an exciting tingling all over your body. In addition, the skin will become noticeably more supple, soft, and radiant as a result of the treatment. Note that you should avoid the face when using a dry brush; the skin is too sensitive.
A lymphatic massage is performed very similarly to dry skin brushing, except that it consists of soft kneading motions that begin at the extremities and move inward. Keep your feet elevated for five minutes daily, and gently massage the areas around your lymph nodes.
Lymphatic Support Herbs
Herbs can be a helpful tool when supporting lymphatic health! They can stimulate lymphatic drainage, help lymph flow freely, and promote cleansing. When choosing herbs it is important to think about sourcing and quality. Tea is a great way to incorporate one or more of the herbs at once. It is best to opt for loose leaf and organic, when available.
If you are dehydrated, the lymph fluid will become quite viscous, and it is much more challenging for a thick liquid to travel through the lymph veins than for a thin fluid that is relatively light in consistency. Drinking at least half your body weight in ounces (in water) each day is best practice. Also, using supporting herbs in tea form can be an easy way to achieve hydration and herbal support simultaneously!
Regarding lymphatic drainage, the sauna is meant for preventative measures to ensure your detox pathways remain open and functioning correctly. When using a sauna, you assist your lymphatic system function by sweating out some of the toxic load. If the body is bogged down with toxins and there is no efficient way to expel them, they are recirculated back into the body. When this happens, the lymph has nowhere to dump the toxins that are continuously created, and the system gets backed up. If you cannot access a sauna, sweating through exercise is also a great option.