What’s Your Lymphatic System Anyway?
If you aren’t familiar with what the lymphatic system is and how it works, check out this post first. It also goes over symptoms of lymphatic congestion.
One Key to Understanding the Health of Your Lymphatic System
Your lymphatic vessels are present throughout your body similar to the veins and arteries in your cardiovascular system. There’s one tiny but extremely important difference between the two vasculature systems…
Why is this important? Because there is no pump for your lymphatic system, you activate your lymphatic system with your movements. This details is absolutely essential for understanding how to support your lymphatic system functioning overall. All of the ideas mentioned below will involve this idea in some way.
What You Can Do to Support Your Lymphatic System
Walking has so many benefits, but one of them is that the natural moving pattern helps to get your lymphatic system circulating. It’s also one of the safest exercises for most people. The key is to do it for 20-30 minutes at a brisk pace and get those arms swinging! The higher intensity and arm movements will optimize your lymphatic system activation.
Jumping or Rebounding
This is a more advanced move, but wow is it effective!
Walking is certainly the gentler approach that most people can do, which is why I mentioned it first. However, if you are able to jump, you need to try it! And the most effective way to jump is actually on a rebounder. Here is a brief video that shows the benefits
Sweating essentially pushes the extra water and tiny particles of toxins that would have been cleansed and recycled through your circulatory system outside of the body. This process means that your lymphatic system has less overload to deal with, which is actually a good thing! This is assuming of course you aren’t sweating for hours on end daily and dehydrating yourself.
Improve Your Armpit Health
Your armpits actually have several superficial lymph nodes just under the skin. (There’s a great picture of all of them on this page.) Do you remember when you were little and you had that little inward curve under your armpits? That is actually a sign of lymphatic health! If you raise your arm up and don’t have a dip in the skin in your armpit, your lymphatic system is overloaded!
One thing you can do to relieve the pressure on the lymph nodes under your arms is to switch to an all natural deodorant. These will not prevent you from sweating so you will be able to push the extra toxins out, but they do help to control the bacteria present on the surface of your skin so that your sweat will not smell. The one exception of course is stress sweating… you will still smell if you experience unusual stressors. But no deodorant fully stops that.
If you aren’t sure where to start with natural deodorants, the one I have used the longest and still enjoy is Jason’s Purifying Tea Tree Deodorant Stick. I have been able to find it in several stores locally and occasionally on sale!
Who doesn’t want another reason to have a massage? Because the superficial lymph nodes are just under the surface of the skin, massage can be very effective for supporting the lymphatic system. Make sure to tell your massage therapist that you are concerned about your lymphatic drainage so they can incorporate those techniques into your session.
If you don’t have the time or money for a massage, here is a video from a massage therapist explaining how you can do some self-massage techniques to get quick relief. It’s especially helpful if you have head congestion from a cold or sinus drainage.
Most of these other techniques discuss pushing water out of your body or moving fluids around within your body, but if you aren’t pushing fresh, pure liquids into your body to replace them you can easily dehydrate. I recommend filtered water without fluoride. If you can add some minerals to it, even better!
One of my favorite hydration drinks is actually one that was designed for laboring mamas. Weird, I know, but it’s tasty and super hydrating! Check out the recipe here.
Dry brushing is a quick and easy way to exfoliate your skin while stimulating your lymphatic system. There are a few conflicting ideas on the best practice for this, but in general you want to:
- Get a body brush that was designed for the job like this one. The bristles are pretty stiff, so if you are fair-skinned expect a bit of a redness reaction temporarily.
- Start brushing from your feet and hands using short brisk strokes towards the heart.
- Don’t skip your armpits, ribs or shoulders as there are lots of lymph nodes in these areas!
If you want a video to follow, here is a good one. Although there are several others out there that vary slightly on the details, this one is pretty detailed and explains how to do dry brushing in a way that really works with how your lymphatic system is laid out.
Avoid Tight Clothes
I have mentioned that there are superficial lymph nodes under your arms, but there are more around your rib cage and along your bikini line. If you wear tight clothing, you can actually restrict the lymphatic flow! This is a great reason that men should be wearing mostly boxers instead of briefs, or at least not tight briefs. Also women, be careful with the tight pushup bras as well as the restrictive undergarments like Spanx. If you need to wear these for a certain event, or even if you just can’t imagine not wearing them to work, get in the habit of changing into looser garments as soon as you can to resume healthy lymphatic drainage.
Consider Your Nutrition
No matter what your health goal is, there is almost always some nutritional way to address it, and lymphatic health is no different. Obviously eating clean foods and cutting out the typical processed things that pass as food will help. Beyond that, though, adding in more citrus fruit and berries which are well known for detoxification benefits. Eating more green veggies or supplementing with chlorophyll can be helpful to cleanse your blood, which will mean less junk in the lymph to get cleaned out. If you are feeling extra adventurous, you can even search out sea vegetation to add to your diet- kelp, spirulina, nori, chlorella and such are also wonderful for your lymphatic system. Of course supplementing with a good greens mix with several of those dense veggies can be helpful, but without the fiber the effects are often limited from what you would experience eating the food as a complex.
It’s common knowledge that when you are stressed, your risk of high blood pressure and a risk of a cardiac event increase. Your lymphatic system is so closely intertwined with the cardiovascular system that stress will likely have an impact on both systems. Granted, there are often life events that just happen which you might not have control over. But learning to manage your stress actively to minimize the impact on your health.
Support Your Digestive System
I mentioned in the first post about how there are lots of lymph nodes around the digestive system. It makes sense then that if the digestive system is slow, you would possibly experience some lymphatic congestion. So the same things that will help your digestion will boost your lymphatic system also. In particular, I recommend daily hydration, fiber, prebiotic and probiotic foods to help nourish and sustain your gut microbiome. Supplemental magnesium can also be beneficial.
What do you think? What’s your next step?
There are a lot of options in this post, but hopefully one or two sparked an interest for you. Maybe it’s just motivation to drink one more glass of water each day or maybe you are ready to buy a rebounder and jump your way to fantastic lymphatic health. Be sure to post your thoughts in the comments below.
Regardless of where you are in your health journey, I hope these posts have increased your awareness of the lymphatic system and given you some doable-for-you tools to help you move forward.
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