What Is The Lymphatic System?
The lymphatic system is part of our circulatory system and a major component of our immune system. It is a network of organs, nodes, ducts and vessels which carry lymph (a clear fluid) from tissues to the bloodstream.
The lymphatic vessels travel alongside blood vessels throughout our body. They carry lymphatic fluid, which is made up of immune cells that are sent out to fight foreign invaders, such as bacteria and viruses, as well as destroying abnormal or damaged cells.
Because it helps destroy and remove foreign invaders, it’s also referred to as the waste filtration system of the body. Previously it was thought that the lymphatic system only went up to our neck, but recent research has mapped new lymphatic vessels going into the brain, uncovering new links between the brain and the immune system.
Why is it Important to Have Good Lymphatic Drainage?
Lymph is collected at various drainage points throughout our body. Because the lymphatic system is an integral part of our immune system, helping to carry waste material out of our body, adequate lymphatic flow at drainage sites is essential for good health.
Poor lymphatic flow can cause an increase in fluid retention, increase the appearance of cellulite, and lead to more toxin accumulation in the body.
4 Ways to Naturally Improve Lymphatic Drainage
1. Dry Skin Brushing
Dry skin brushing helps to stimulate the lymphatic system, increase circulation, promote removal of toxins, and decrease the appearance of cellulite. It also helps to exfoliate your skin, removing dead skin cells.
Using a dry-skin brush (available at most health food stores) or a loofah, brush your skin using gentle strokes in the direction of the heart. Start from your feet, brushing the front and back of each leg, and the buttocks.
Then move onto your fingers and brush upward toward the upper arms and shoulders. On your abdomen and your back you can brush using short strokes in a circular direction. Avoid doing this on your face as the dry skin brush can be rough on delicate skin. You should try to do this at the beginning of every shower.
2. Alternating Hot and Cold Showers
The perfect accompaniment to dry skin brushing, ending your regular shower with alternating hot and cold water can be a great way to boost circulation, improve the immune system, and even walk out with a burst of energy.
At the end of your morning shower, turn the tap to hot (as much as you can tolerate) for 2 minutes, and then to cold (as much as your can tolerate) for 30 seconds. It is best to start with warm and cool, and gradually work your way up to your temperature extremes without burning your skin. Also, only do this on the neck down and be careful to avoid your head.
Doing this as part of your morning routine will leave you feeling invigorated.
3. Avoid Allergenic Foods or Your Specific Food Sensitivities
Foods which don’t react well with your body can lead to inflammation, water retention, weight gain, and poor circulation. Sugar is a big one that everyone should avoid to decrease water retention and improve lymphatic flow.
Other common allergens include wheat and dairy, but you should really get tested to see which foods are an issue for you.
A few good foods to focus on that help to detoxify and decrease inflammation include:
Green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, arugula, dandelion greens)
One of the best ways to increase circulation is physical activity, and that goes for lymphatic circulation as well. Moving your muscles also creates a pumping action to get the lymph flowing. Find an activity you enjoy and invest some time in it every day.
1) Lymph System. Medline Plus. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002247.htm
2) Missing Link found between brain, immune system; major disease implications. Science Daily. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150601122445.htm
3) Ball J, et al. Seidel’s Guide to Physical Examination. Lymphatic System. Chapter 9; 166-183.