Lymph System 101
Our lymphatic system is a delicate system that sits just below the surface of our skin. It is a subsystem of the circulatory system that consists of a complex network of vessels, tissues, and organs. The lymphatic system helps maintain fluid balance in the body by collecting excess fluid and particulate matter from tissues. When working and flushing out properly, we feel energized, nutrients are being delivered to our cells and toxins are freely moving out of the body where they belong. When our lymph system is not working correctly, we can feel sluggish, sick (think sore lymph nodes around the throat) and we can retain fluid throughout different areas of the body, face included.
Healthy lymph is a clear, watery fluid that flows out from capillary walls to bathe the cells in the tissues of the body. It carries oxygen and nutrients to cells and contains white blood cells to fight infections. As lymph delivers nutrients, it also picks up waste such as carbon dioxide and toxins from our cells to deliver out of the body. When the lymph fails to function properly, it becomes sluggish or even stagnant. The clear lymph fluid becomes cloudy and thick, changing from a water like substance to milk to yogurt to cottage cheese.
Our lymph vessels normally draw fluid up from around the cells, collecting waste product throughout the body, then filtering through the lymph nodes, (mini-detox plants) and throughout the lymphatic system, draining back into the blood through the lymphatic channels. There are between 600-700 lymph nodes present in the average human body. It is the role of these nodes to filter the lymph before it can be returned to the circulatory system. Although these nodes can increase or decrease in size throughout life, nodes that have been damaged or destroyed do not regenerate.
When the lymphatic system is not working correctly, lymph builds up and causes swelling and fluid retention. The lymph system does not have a pump of it’s own so that is why exercise, movement, dry skin brushing, jade rollers and such are important factors in keeping our lymph moving and draining correctly throughout our entire bodies. I’ve created a simple list below with a few things you can do on the daily to ensure a balanced and circulating lymphatic system.
Legs Up the Wall Pose | Simply placing the legs up the wall will reverse the effect of gravity. This helps to drain the lymph towards the heart, increasing the rate in which it is cleaned and filtered. Legs up the wall is also a well known yoga asana, Viparita Karanialso. This pose is restorative, helps to reduce stress and induce sleep, especially if you suffer from insomnia.
Jade Rollers and Skin Brushing | Use these tools to perform light movements on the surface of the skin following the direction of the lymphatic system to stimulate lymph circulation.
Lymphatic Massage | Similar to dry skin brushing and jade rollering, lymphatic massage is a massage technique performed lightly on the the surface of the skin to help stimulate lymphatic flow. It is gentle, detoxifying and extremely relaxing.
Water and Lemon Water | Lymph consists of mostly water. When the body is dehydrated, it becomes stagnant and congested. Water is the only way to stay hydrated, adding lemon helps to re-mineralize the lymph and increase detoxification in the body.
Cold Showers | Rinsing with cold water at the end of your showers is a fantastic hydrotherapy practice. Cold showers, or when alternated between hot and cold water, will increase lymph circulation by contracting the lymph vessels when exposed to the cold and relaxing them when exposed to the heat. This essentially pumps out any lymph fluid that may be stagnate in your lymph vessels.
Loose Clothing and Wireless Bras | Because the lymph system is located just under the skin & is extremely delicate, tight clothing and bras can cause congestion throughout the delicate lymph system and lymph nodes. Take a break when you can from loose fitting clothing & be sure bras fit properly. A large cluster of lymph nodes are located just under the armpits, it is important that this area stays free flowing and open for the lymph system to drain properly.
Staying active is ideal for all circulation throughout the body. Stagnation throughout the body is a breeding ground for toxins and dis-ease so keep it moving and remember the importance of your lymphatic system for your health.
How do you care for your Lymph? What tips and tricks work best for you? Do share below