We’ve all heard about your immune system and endocrine system and even nervous system. But what about your lymphatic system – what is it? Why is it important to stimulate your lymphatic system? We’re keeping it simple, and giving you the basic information you need to know. Here are 15 easy ways to begin practicing today! Which one is your favorite?
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VERY IMPORTANT: If you have had lymph nodes removed and/or have lymphodema, do not participate in any of these activities or attempt to stimulate your lymphatic system without clearance and directions from your doctor.
One thing I’ve learned after battling breast cancer and Hashimoto’s is that health begets health and disease begets disease. These two diseases didn’t “just happen.” They grew over time. I thought that chemo for cancer and Synthroid for Hashi’s would fix me and make me all better. It wasn’t until my health plummeted to a crisis level that I learned about root cause healing, and how this healing begins with drainage.
Think of a pond without a water source. Stagnant water will produce mosquitoes, bacteria, parasites, and other harmful insects. Now think of a pond with a water source. It has lily pads and lotus flowers and butterflies and beautiful life forms.
Your body is the same as that pond. It eliminates toxins and waste via BULLS – bowels, urine, lungs, lymph, and skin, and needs proper drainage to do so. We all know about pooping and urinating and breathing and sweating. But what about your lymph? What exactly is the lymphatic system and how do you get it to move? Keep reading to learn how to stimulate your lymphatic system…
What is the Lymphatic System?
Here is a super basic 101 on your lymphatic system.
You have approximately 600 lymph nodes throughout your body, primarily around your throat, armpits, chest, groin, and stomach. The lymphatic system is actually a part of your immune system and has three roles:
- Protect your body’s immune system against infections
- Maintains the balance of fluid between blood and tissues
- Absorbs fats in your digestive system.
It’s our best defender against getting sick – anything from the flu to cancer to autoimmune to pretty much any kind of disease. Like the water example above, when you are sick or injured, the lymph can become stagnant, swollen, and stuck. Your lymph needs to be healthy and flowing!
Do I Have Stagnant Lymph?
When I was at my sickest, it was difficult to put into words how I felt. Yes, the fatigue was unbearable. But it was more than that. I felt… stuck. And I knew if I told my Endocrinologist that I felt “stuck” she would look at me like I had 3 heads. What does that mean? Is it even a thing? I was later validated by a more alternative practitioner, once I realized that my lymphatic system and entire mesentery system was completely clogged and massively “glued shut.”
Hence, I really was stuck. My lymph was a stagnant pond. If you feel the same way, I promise you that it’s not in your head. You have to look deeper to get to the root cause.
You may have stagnant lymph if you:
- Have an autoimmune disease or another chronic illness
- Have or had cancer
- Life a sedentary lifestyle
- Had surgery
- Get sick often
- Have food allergies
- Suffer from chronic pain and/or fatigue.
How Do You Stimulate Your Lymphatic System?
So how do you stimulate your lymphatic system? Here are 15 easy ways to begin practicing today! I practice all of them and can attest at least for my own healing how much better I feel after my lymph started moving again. Which one is your favorite?
1. Chiropractic care
More than to ease your back pain, chiropractic care, when done properly, can get these systems moving and flowing. Many Doctors of Chiropractic (D.O.) practice alternative medicine and are the unsung heroes of holistic healing. When I started regular chiropractic treatments, I found that I healed more in the first 8 weeks then I had in the previous 8 years.
According to Dr. Sean Woods of Panacea Nutritionals, chiropractic care and philosophy is based on the correction of the nerve system, the lymphatic system also shows signs of improvement with spinal adjustments and soft tissue correction. This makes sense because the two systems intermingle with one another, in very intimate ways, all throughout the body.
Let’s begin with a little controversy. Tight-fitting clothing may cause restriction against the lymph nodes. As stated above, many lymph nodes are concentrated around the armpits, chest, and groin. Minimize or even avoid underwire bras, tight-fitting jeans, and other restrictive garments. As a breast cancer survivor, my ears perked up when I learned about this one. I’m actually participating in a bra-free study led by Sidney Ross Singer of Dressed to Kill fame. I wear a tank top instead, and when we go out for a fancy night on the town, I’ll wear a bra without a wire.
3. Deep breathing
Aim for 10 deep breaths at a time at least once per day. Set an alarm on your phone if you have to. You can practice either deep diaphragm breathing or deep breaths from the lungs while stretching your arms. Breathing is one of 5 ways your body eliminates, and this will also help your lymph flow. It goes without saying, but stop if you feel light-headed.
A plant-abundant diet in fresh, organic fruits and vegetables is optimal. Red fruits and berries (think strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, cherries, pomegranates) and citrus fruits (lemons, oranges, grapefruits) are ideal, along with greens, root vegetables (beets, sweet potatoes, carrots), garlic, and pumpkin seeds. These are all anti-inflammatory foods rich in anti-oxidants.
5. Dry Brush
Dry brushing is one of my favorite health hacks! It helps to stimulate circulation. Basically, all you need to do is take a brush with coarse bristles and brush your skin in the direction of your hearth. Give a little extra attention to your groin, armpits, chest, and neck area. The experts suggest you dry brush for 5 minutes a day, but I don’t hit that mark. I’ll sprinkle some Essential Oils on the shower floor, turn the shower on, and dry brush while the water temperature is warming up.
6. Epsom Salt Baths
Add 1/4 cup of Epsom Salts to a foot bath, or 1 cup to a regular warm bath. Epsom Salts are great detoxifiers and may also help you to relax and reduce stress. Soak in the tub for 15-20 minutes. Be sure to rinse off after your bath.
NOTE: If you have an adverse reaction to Epsom Salts or have a sulfur sensitivity, do not use them.
7. Essential Oils
There are many Essential Oils which may help your lymph, but some of the top ones are:
I make a roller bottle and roll along my neck and below my armpits. I’ll switch it up, but mostly it’s a combination of lemon, frankincense, grapefruit and oregano.
UGH. There’s that dreaded 8-letter “E-word” again. Exercise may be one of the best ways to stimulate the lymphatic system because it increases oxygen which stimulates lymph and blood circulation. When you participate in your favorite fun, sweaty activity, it not only gets things moving, but you are also going to be breathing deeply and sweating. So it’s a win-win-win!
Many of our beloved readers in the Pink Fortitude Tribe are battling severe chronic illness, fatigue, and/or pain. Even if traditional exercise isn’t on the docket for you, try and move as much as you can. Go for a short walk, rebound (see below), or practice yoga (also below).
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9. Herbs and Supplements
Remember the pond? Not only do you want to support your lymph system, but also the support to your liver and kidneys, which is your drainage channel. Some of the herbs you can enjoy in your food, but some you will need to take in supplement form. The biggest needle-mover for me was the Lymphatic Detox by Microbe Formulas. A few of the more common herbs and supplements that help with this are:
- Lymphatic Detox (proprietary blend)
- Milk Thistle
Drink half of your body weight of properly filtered water in ounces. More if you are exercising or going through a detox. Water gives us life at the cellular level and helps every single system in your body function. Drinking water is the quickest, easiest, and cheapest way to take care of your body. And in today’s society of lattes at the coffee shop and energy drinks and way too much soda consumption, we are losing our ability to properly hydrate.
My own personal health hack – I drink a pint of water with a squirt of lemon first thing in the morning, as soon as I get out of bed.
Raise a glass and cheers to you, my friend!
11. Infrared Saunas
Infrared sauna use is perhaps the most effective and efficient method of promoting a state of hyperthermia for the purpose of detoxification. A fever is the body’s natural mechanism for releasing bacteria, viruses, and other toxic organisms by sweating them out through the skin. It is a natural means of healing. Hyperthermia (heat therapy) refers to the various methods of creating a fever to stimulate the body’s healing process. Toxic chemicals from our environment, such as pesticides and phthalates, can be excreted through the body through sweat. Infrared saunas are also great for those who cannot participate in vigorous exercise.
VERY IMPORTANT: If you have had lymph nodes removed and/or have lymphodema, do not participate in any of these activities without clearance from your doctor.
Twist your arm, I know, right?!? Massage is great to promote flow and drainage of lymph. Book 30, 60 or even 90 minutes – whatever you can afford. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the pampering while your body is working for you.
Using a mini rebounder (or full-on trampoline if you have one in your backyard) is a low impact way to move the body and get the lymph flowing. Especially for those who are limited with vigorous exercise, rebounding is a great way to move with minimal effort and in a short amount of time. Jump while listening to your favorite song (or 2 or 3).
14. Reduce Stress
Stress in a diseased body is like throwing a lighted match on gasoline. POOF! Stress increases inflammation in the body. And when your body is inflamed, it produces disease and stagnation. Many of the activities listed in this article are helpful to reduce stress. Other stress-busting activities include:
- Being mindful
- Practicing gratitude
- Spending time with loved ones.
The most important thing is that you enjoy the activity. Do what you love and be present and in the moment.
Whether it’s for meditation, strength, flexibility, zen, or overall wellness, yoga is the ultimate for restoring your body. Obviously, if you are just starting out, joining a yoga studio or reputable yoga class is ideal. You will have a live instructor to watch over you and to help you get into the poses and perfect your form. According to Michelle Mirkovich, LA Celebrity Yoga Instructor and owner of The Yoga Noho Center, “Commit to at least five classes. Everyone is going to feel lost in the beginning – learning yoga poses is like learning a new language.” Try and find a smaller class where the instructor is hands-on (literally) to help you with your poses, form, and safety. If you can’t make it to a class, there are many free websites and YouTube channels to pick from.
Poses that engage your core and poses that twist are especially helpful. Here are five of the more basic and simpler poses to try:
- Childs Pose
- Downward facing dog
- Forward Bend
- Legs up the wall
- Seated spinal twist
There’s no time like the present. Grab a glass of water, start drinking, and then pick your favorite activities to get moving and flowing!
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