What is The Lymphatic System?
The lymphatic system is a network of blood vessels and lymph nodes that transport lymph fluid throughout the body.
It’s a critical aspect to our immune system and has many functions that aid in our bodies ability to fight infections and disease-causing inflammation.
When your lymphatic system is functioning poorly, you have an increased risk for infections, cancer, and other chronic diseases.
Lymph vessels, which are smaller than blood vessels, transport lymph fluid throughout the body which contains white blood cells, protein, glucose, and other substances.
Scientists have demonstrated the importance of the lymphatic system and how it plays a role in chronic inflammation, cancer metastases, and can be a system to utilize as a therapeutic modality to help fight disease. (1)
How does the Lymphatic System Work?
The lymphatic system plays multiple important roles in your body to keep your healthy and maintain homeostasis.
1. Aids in Detoxification
Unless you have been living in a pristine rainforest your entire life, you very likely have been exposed to numerous synthetic chemical in our environment. It’s near impossible to avoid it all, which is why detoxification is such an essential aspect to attaining optimal health.
Our lymphatic system plays an important role in detox by removing and destroying waste, pathogens, toxins, dead blood cells, and cellular debris that can cause harm to our health if not eliminated.
Phit Tip: Sauna therapy is another great way to aid the body's detoxification ability.
2. Balances Fluid Levels
Lymphatic vessels transport fluid into and out of surrounding tissues in order to avoid excess water retention and swelling.
It also pushes unnecessary or excess fluids out of the body, which can be a way to eliminate waste byproducts that can lead to cellular dysfunction.
3. Transports Fats and Fat-Soluble Nutrients
The Lymphatic system helps our bodies transport fat and fat-soluble nutrients, such as Vitamin A, D, E, and K, from our digestive system to other parts of our bodies where they can then be used by our cells.
These essentially fatty acids and fat-soluble nutrients are incredibly important for numerous functions within our bodies and we rely on our lymphatic system to aid in delivering these nutrients where they need to go so they can be used.
4. Critical Aspect to Our Immune System and Fighting off Invaders
When bacteria, toxins, or microbes enter our body, they are moved into the lymphatic fluid which is then transported to the lymph nodes.
The lymph nodes is where the the immune system fights particles that are seen as a threatening to the body by bringing in more white blood cells and filtering out harmful bacteria.
This is why you may have experience swollen lymph nodes near the throat or sinuses when you are sick. This is you lymphatic system doing its job and fighting the foreign invader.
There are about 500-600 lymph nodes within the body, and they are critical for filtering the lymphatic fluid of harmful waste and bacterial pathogens.
"Our lymphatic system plays an important role in detox by removing and destroying waste, pathogens, toxins, dead blood cells, and cellular debris that can cause harm to our health if not eliminated
10 Strategies to Naturally Improve your Lymphatic System Drainage
When your lymphatic system is not working optimally, you can experience many adverse health implications such as inflammation, IBS, cancer, obesity and metabolic syndrome, among many others.(2)
Here are 10 strategies to improve your lymphatic system:
Unlike our circulatory system, which has the heart to pump blood, our lymphatic system has no pump. Movement of the body’s musculoskeletal system acts like a pump for our lymphatic system and helps with drainage.
Jumping up and down appears to be one of the most effective forms of movement you can do to benefit your lymphatic function.
Jump roping is a great option for some, but it can be too much impact on the joints for many folks. If that is the case for you, then I recommend jumping on a rebounder (mini trampoline)
Rebounders provide you with the same lymphatic stimulating benefits of jump roping, without all the stress on your joints.(3)
Since lymph fluid runs mainly vertically, experts believe that jumping up and down can be a more effective exercise for the lymph system than horizontal activities like walking, jogging, or swimming.
Regularly using rebounders is an integral part of healing programs in many natural cancer clinics, since this practice is so helpful for enhancing the immune system and detoxification pathways in order to treat cancer.
Go jump around today! Jumping outdoors in the sun provides even more health benefits.
While jumping may be one of the most ideal exercises for lymph flow, movement in general is absolutely essential for optimizing this system.
People often focus too much on intense exercise, and not enough on movement. Moving your body constantly may be one of the most important things you can do for weight loss, avoiding chronic disease, and living a long, healthy life.(4)
Any form of movement will stimulate the musculoskeletal system, which will help the lymphatic system. I always recommend finding forms of exercise you enjoy as this will greatly increase the chances you do it consistently.
Some of our favorites here at Living Phit include:
- Mountain Biking
- Playing Sports
- Free driving/snorkeling
- Stand up paddle boarding
Find fun activities you can implement into your weekly schedule to ensure you get out moving on a regular basis!
3. Massage Therapy and Foam Rolling
Getting body work from a massage therapist can really help stimulate lymphatic drainage, which will aid in detoxification.(5)
Lymphatic drainage massage is a term used to describe a specific type of body work that helps break up lymph congestion.
These types of massages will also aid in flushing excess fluid from within tissues.
It can be helpful to seek out a massage therapist who is trained in manual lymphatic drainage, although any type of deep tissue work can be beneficial.(6)
Using a foam-roller is an excellent form of myofascial release (7) which can greatly help to break up tight tissues that can cause soreness, tightness, and various aches and pains.
It’s a great habit to incorporate to your life since it doesn’t take very long and is relatively inexpensive. Foam rolling can help improving your lymphatic system the same way a massage would.
One caveat: it can be painful during your foam-rolling session. The idea is simulating a deep tissue massage, which isn’t exactly relaxing. If you can manage through the “good pain” , the end result is well worth it.
4. Deep Breath Work
The power of your breath is often overlooked and underestimated. It’s a bodily function most people take for granted, and few understand the benefits of conscious breathing techniques.
Deep diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to help move lymph through the body and aid in detoxification of many toxins and waste products.(8)
Making your exhales twice as long as your inhales brings oxygen to the blood which helps activate the lymphatic system.
You can ease into this and work your way up. Here is an example.
Breath in for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds, and breath out for 10 seconds.
Then, increase the time to whatever you can manage and feel comfortable with.
Breath in for 10 seconds, hold for 10 seconds, breath out for 20 seconds.
You can do this breath work seated or lying down. Perform at least 2-3 minutes (more is even better) of deep diaphragmatic breathing once or twice per day.
Phit Tip: Incorporate this breathing technique into a 10 minute morning meditation practice.
5. Stay Hydrated
Your lymph fluid is made up of about 95% water, making water an essential component for its fluidity.
Dehydration is one common cause of lymph congestion, among many other common issues of dehydration.
Drinking enough water is one of the most simple, easy, and important things you can do to improve your overall health and lymphatic system function.
We recommend getting at least half your bodyweight in ounces of water per day.
Phit TIp: Adding trace mineral drops will alkalize the water and provide even more hydrating and health promoting benefits.
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6. Ditch The Wired Bra
Ladies this one's for you. Ever take off your bra at the end of the day and see an indented line in your skin where the wire-part rested and wondered if that was harmful?
Well, it certainly is.
One of the largest clusters of lymph nodes are located in the armpit and upper chest area, and those nodes are essential for drainage and detoxification of those tissues.
When your wire bra is too tight, it will restrict lymph drainage and after a long period of time can lead to lymphatic dysfunction and possibly even increase your risk for breast cancer.
Phit Tip: Read “Dressed to Kill” to learn more about this topic. (9)
7. Nutritional supplements
In today's world, certain nutritional supplements are essential for optimal health.
Some of these supplements have been shown to benefit the lymphatic system such as:
- Proteolytic enzymes: These special enzymes can help break up debris and thereby improve lymph flow, among numerous other benefits.
- Red Clover: This is a commonly used herb to increase lymph flow
- Milk Thistle: This ayurvedic herb can detoxify tissues and improve lymphatic flow
- Omega-3 FIsh oils: Omega-3s can help normalize blood viscosity and reduce inflammation which in turn will benefit the lymphatic system.
- Tumeric: Has also been shown to help by way of its anti-inflammatory properties
- Burdock Root: This herb can aid in detoxification
Phit Tip: Check out our article on the "5 Essential Nutritional supplements for optimal health”
8. Eat a Healthy Diet
While supplements can certainly be helpful, the foundation and main focus should always be your diet.
Consume ample amounts of non-starchy vegetable, healthy fats, and high-quality proteins.
Avoid or minimize processed foods, refined vegetable oils, fast food, non-fermented soy, factory-farmed and over cooked animal protein, sugar, alcohol, and high-glycemic carbs (starch)
Phit Tip: Check out our list of 105 Alkalizing Foods.
9. Sauna Therapy
Sauna usage has been shown to have many health benefits including detoxification and improved circulation.
Increasing blood flow and aiding the body in detox will both help to improve the function of the lymphatic system.
10. Dry Skin Brushing
This is a technique that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries for boosting circulation and aiding lymph flow.
You simply take a dry skin brush and brush towards the heart, starting with your feet and working your way up.
This practice is best done in the morning right before you should since your body releases and builds up toxins while you sleep.
It will get rid of dead skin cells, stimulate sweat glands, open pores, and help lymph flow. .
As an added benefit, dry skin brushing can help in improving skin health and reducing cellulite.
Make an Effort to Improve your Lymphatic System
As outlined in this article, your lymphatic system is necessary to maintain health throughout your entire body.
Make an effort to implement the 10 tips shared above and you will greatly enhance the function of this important system and as a result, improve your overall health.
Always remember, your health is your greatest asset and dedicating time and resources to optimize it, is time well spent.