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The lymphatic system is basically your body’s defense and cleaning system. It’s a network of vessels, nodes, and organs that work together to help keep your body healthy. Let’s make sure we understand what exactly the lymphatic system is and make sure you know ways to be supporting your lymphatic system.
What Exactly is the Lymphatic System?
The lymphatic system is an important part of the immune system. It is an organ system complimentary to the circulatory system consisting of lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, lymphoid organs, lymphoid tissues, and lymph.
Just as blood flows through your body, there is a fluid (lymph) that flows through the lymphatic system. The fluid (lymph) is made of water, proteins and white blood cells.
The lymph vessels, which are spread all over much like blood vessels, carry lymph throughout your body. Along the path of the lymph vessels are small structures called lymph nodes which filter the lymph and catch harmful substances such as bacteria, viruses, etc. The white blood cells in the lymph help to fight off these invaders.
The spleen, thymus, bone marrow and tonsils are actually parts of the lymphatic system. Yes, that’s right. There IS a reason for tonsils!
It’s actually a pretty complicated system, but let me summarize it briefly. The spleen acts like an extra big lymph node and it also filters blood. The thymus is sort of like the ‘training center’ of the lymphatic system. It teaches special immune cells called T-cells how to defend your body against germs and other invaders. The bone marrow in the lymphatic system produces important blood cells, including white blood cells. The tonsils at the back of your throat help catch germs as you breathe and swallow.
So, the lymphatic system is crucial for your immune system. It helps your body fight off diseases by getting rid of harmful things and keeping your immune cells healthy. It also helps regulate the balance of fluids in your body
If you’ve ever had swollen lymph nodes when you’re sick, that’s your lymphatic system at work, fighting off the infection.
Why Address the Lymphatic System?
The lymphatic system is closely tied to our overall wellness. Our immune system depends on our lymphatic fluids flowing smoothly and the rest of the system doing its job.
A clogged or compromised lymphatic system can lead to several health issues.
Swelling, known as lymphedema, can make it challenging for your body to remove excess fluids and toxins. This results not only in discomfort but greatly impaired immune function.
Lymphatic blockages can also prevent the body from combating infections and contribute to a weakened immune response.
Additionally, if the lymphatic system is not working properly, it may fail to transport immune cells throughout the body. This leads to increased risk of illnesses and hinders the body from healing or protecting itself effectively.
What are the Symptoms of Poor Lymphatic Drainage?
While any of these symptoms could indicate a number of things, experiencing several of these symptoms consistently over time may indicate a clogged lymphatic system.
- fluid retention
- limited range of movement
- fluid leaking from the skin
- problems breathing
- problems swallowing
- problems talking
- frequent colds and illness
- skin discoloration
- skin changes or other issues
- brain fog
- swollen glands and/or tonsils
- painful joints
What Causes Poor Lymphatic Drainage?
An unhealthy lifestyle can lead to lymphatic congestion.
There are a number of factors that qualify as an unhealthy lifestyle but the primary characteristics include a diet high in processed foods and other toxins, lack of physical activity, and chronic stress. Dehydration also plays a significate role in the ability of the body to pump lymph fluid.
How To Support Your Lymphatic System
Now that you understand a little more about your lymphatic system, what it is and the role it plays in your immune system, what can you do about it? What are the ‘tools’ you can place in your wellness basket to support your lymphatic system?
Hydration is really important for your lymphatic system. Of course, I admit, it’s the biggest struggle I have when it comes to self-care. For whatever reason, I just don’t seem to have a natural desire to drink or natural thirst. I have to make a lot of effort to get in my personal goal of at least 64 ounces a day, which is actually a bit less than I should aim for. Check out my post on hydration.
Remember, hydration needs to come from water or natural herbal teas. Avoid counting caffeine drinks in your hydration goals. They are not as beneficial as water or diuretic teas. See the herbs listed below for suggestions on which ones are best to include in your daily tea to support the lymphatics!
Movement of the body gets the fluids moving. Any exercise is good for the lymph system and walking is a nice gentle and easy way to improve lymphatic flow.
Did you know that in the 1980s NASA did studies that showed rebounding (jumping on a small trampoline) is more gentle on the body than running on a treadmill? When you jump/bounce on a rebounder, your lymph is being pumped through your body as the motion of going up and down allows gravity to help circulate the lymphatic fluid.
If you don’t have a rebounder, check out Amazon. They have quite a selection. Here’s one that folds. It may make a great Christmas present for yourself or someone you know.
Many lymphatic system vessels lie just below the skin. Because of this, it is said that dry brushing your skin on a regular basis helps to simulate lymph flow in the body and helps to body to detox naturally.
Want to learn more about dry brushing and how to do it? Check out this post at DrAxe.com
I never knew this was a thing until my functional medicine doctor recommended it a few years ago. It seems to be growing in popularity. Make sure you ask before making an appointment if your massage therapist does lymphatic massage as not all are trained to do it.
Foods to Support the Lymphatic System
Eating a whole foods diet and avoiding processed food products is best for everyone. Fruits and vegetables in particular are helpful. Additionally, there are specific foods that are said to be especially beneficial in supporting the lymphatic system. These include garlic, onions, dark greens, apples, cherries, brazil nuts, seaweed, and cocoa.
Herbs to Support the Lymphatic System
There are a number of herbs that are reported to be especially helpful in gently getting your lymph fluids moving and/or supportive of the lymphatic system. These include Burdock Root, Nettle, Red Clover, Calendula, Cleavers, Goldenseal, Ginger, Turmeric, Violet, Yellow Dock, Astragalus root, and Echinacea.
Earthley offers a product called Lymphatic Cream. This delightful cream is infused with several herbs ( Calendula, Yarrow, Cleavers, Burdock Root, and Ginger) that help to promote the flow of your lymphatic fluid. Many customers report noticing how the cream relieves swollen lymph nodes or soreness. This was actually my first purchase I made with Earthley and I absolutely love it!
Naturally you can incorporate any of these herbs into a tea or purchase a tincture. Here’s a few links to teas and tinctures to get you started:
Mary Ruth’s Lymphatic Support Drops – I have worked with this brand for several things. This is a good supporting blend.
Buddha Teas – I like to add calendula flowers I buy from Foster Farm Botanicals or Mountain Rose Herbs but I have some of these on hand for when we travel. Their calendula and red clover are great choices. Check out others as well.
Toxins can overload the lymphatic system. Try to eat organically whenever possible and avoid foods and skincare products as well as household cleaning agents and plastics which contain harmful chemicals. Don’t nourish your body with toxins. Do what you can to avoid them.
In Summary: Support Your Lymphatic System
As with every body system, the lymphatic system plays an important role in your health. A healthy lymphatic system supports your immune system. Doing things to keep your lymphatic system in check and healthy can make a huge difference in your overall health. What new tool are you adding to your wellness basket to keep your lymphatic system moving well?