You may or may not know it, but the lymphatic system is one of the most important systems in the body. Its health largely effects the strength of our immune system, the efficacy of our liver, and the body’s ability to remove wastes and toxins from our cells, tissues, and organs. Keeping it strong and healthy is one of the best ways to help prevent illness and disease.
How to Maintain a Strong Lymphatic System
So, what does our lymphatic system do exactly?
The lymphatic system carries out a few very important functions in the body and is part of the circulatory system and immune system. It is comprised of an intricate network of lymphatic vessels which transport a clear fluid called “lymph” towards the heart.
Our circulatory system processes 20 liters of blood per day through capillary filtration – a process where plasma is removed from the blood stream and filtered into the interstitial spaces between cells. 17 liters of this plasma is directly reabsorbed into the blood vessels while the remaining 3 liters remains interstitial fluid. It is the primary function of our lymphatic system to provide an accessory route back to the blood via these 3 liters. Blood itself never actually comes into contact with most cells in the body, so it is the interstitial fluid that goes into the spaces between cells to provide them with nutrients and waste removal before returning back the blood stream for filtration via the liver.
This interstitial fluid not only helps the body remove cellular wastes, it also helps defend our immune system. Lymphocytes and white blood cells populate this fluid in order to aid in the removal of pathogens, bacteria, and other debris which helps support health and overall well-being in the body.
Our lymphatic system also plays a key role in the development of new T cells within our bone marrow which are the body’s number one defense system against illness and disease. And let’s not forget the lymph nodes throughout the body and the corresponding lymphatic tissues like the spleen, tonsils, and thymus which help the body initiate an adaptive immune response to antigens, pathogens, bacteria, and other invaders.
As you can see, the lymphatic system is extremely important! So how do we maintain a strong lymphatic system?
7 Tips That Support a Strong Lymphatic System
1. Essential Oils
Using essential oils is a fantastic way to stimulate the lymphatic system and help it flow and drain. They can also be used for reducing inflammation in the lymph nodes and are especially useful when added to massage oils.
Some of the best essential oils to use for improving lymphatic circulation and drainage include:
You can read more about how to detox the lymphatic system using essential oils here.
One odd fact about the lymphatic system is that it’s unable to flow on its own. That means it completely relies on you to move your body throughout the day in order for it to deliver nutrients to your cells and remove wastes. This is why having a sedentary job or lifestyle often leaves you feeling tired, worn down, stiff, achy, and stagnant.
Any type of regular movement will get the lymph fluid flowing as your muscles contract and your diaphragm expands with deeper breathing. Simply walking more per day will really help improve circulation and lymphatic flow.
However, there are a few exercises that are especially beneficial for a strong lymphatic system that really get things moving.
• HIIT (high intensity interval training) – intense plyometric exercise spikes your heart rate while fast-paced movements increase fluid flow
• Jump rope – just like rebounding, jump rope uses gravity to literally pump your lymphatic system by bouncing up and down
• Rebounding – this is done using a mini trampoline and is one of my favorite ways to refresh lymphatic flow throughout the day
• Swimming – a great way to work out every muscle in the body and increase circulation
• Yoga – yoga poses twist the body and drain stagnant fluids
All of these exercises improve circulation, use gravity to increase fluid drain, and get your heart pumping. I recommend choosing one of these and doing it daily. It’s also important to get up and move around every waking hour to keep the lymphatic system from becoming stagnant for too long.
3. Improve Circulation
Improving circulation through the use of exercise, massage, essential oils, eating spicy foods, or taking a nice hot bath are just some of the ways to help increase and support good circulation and lymphatic flow.
One of my favorite ways to increase blood flow and stimulate the lymphatic system is to use a dry brush on my skin twice a day. I use it before I dress (whether that be in the morning or before bedtime) and then again before showering.
The bristles on a dry brush massage the skin and the tiny capillaries underneath as well as the interstitial fluid near the surface of the skin. It’s an incredibly effective way to strengthen the lymphatic system while also encouraging soft healthy skin.
Always brush towards the heart to better drain the head, limbs, and body cavity walls. Using bodily movement will better drain the thorax, abdomen, and pelvic region so be sure to do both of these activities daily.
4. Infrared Sauna
This may sound a fancy, and it sort of is in a way, I mean, who owns their own sauna right? However, having your own near infrared sauna, or going where you have access to one, is one of the BEST investments in your health you could ever make.
This is because it’s one of the best ways to naturally support the immune system and detox the body by increasing sweat production. The increased circulation and release of toxins, the better regeneration of tissues, and the infrared heat all work together to improve lymphatic flow.
You can read more about the benefits of near infrared saunas here.
5. Massage and Foam Rolling
I’ve talked about the benefits of foam rolling before, but I didn’t mention how great it is for supporting a strong lymphatic system.
The pressure a foam roller puts on tissues is some of the most direct you can get aside from a good massage as it gets deep into tissues and helps increase circulation and lymphatic flow.
Getting a massage or giving yourself one is another alternative that works really well for stimulating the lymph. Simply rub a bit of carrier oil into your muscles towards the heart for best results at least once per day. I like to do this after a shower or bath.
6. Reduce Inflammation
Another important thing to do when trying to strengthen the lymphatic system is to reduce inflammation in the body as much as possible. It goes without saying that swelling restricts fluids and it’s no different for the lymphatic system. The lymph is already very slow moving and having chronic inflammation slows it down even more.
Having a chronically impaired lymphatic system has been linked to:
• Chronic fatigue
• Frequent infections/viruses
• Getting sick more often
• Hodgkin’s Disease
• Joint pain
• Muscle aches and pain
• Sore throat
• Swollen lymph nodes
Eating a diet high in anti-inflammatory foods supply the body with high quality nutrients and anti-oxidants while also lowering free radical damage. So be sure to get plenty of dark leafy greens, berries, and omega-3s into your diet along with regular daily exercise. This combination along with a healthy lifestyle will help keep inflammation at bay so that your lymph can flow freely.
7. Use Herbs
Using lymphatic herbs that stimulate circulation and lymph flow is an easy way to support your lymphatic system.
Some of my favorite herbs for the lymphatic system include:
• Astragalus – cleanses the lymph, eases conjestion and swelling, and boosts the immune system
• Calendula – a wonderful herb to use for swollen lymph nodes, cleansing bodily tissues, and for reducing inflammation
• Cleavers – enhances lymphatic function, decreases congestion and inflammation, and improves its ability to flush out toxins
• Dandelion – a detoxifying and purifying herb that helps cleanse the lymph of built-up wastes
• Devil’s Claw – improves lymphatic drainage, promotes detoxification, and cleanses the lymph
• Echinacea – anti-inflammatory and a powerful immune stimulant
• Goldenseal – a powerful anti-inflammatory and very cleansing for the lymph
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