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Your lymphatic system is a network of fluid, capillaries, and nodes that remove toxins from your body. It’s part of your immune system—a natural sewage byway that expels nasties. Without a lymphatic system, you would become seriously ill.
The lymphatic system is named after the Roman water goddess Lympha because it uses fluid to remove toxins. Lymph fluid is managed by a system of capillaries and vessels and is finally drained clear by the lymph nodes.
Lymph fluid is an almost colorless liquid that’s packed full of white blood cells. White blood cells are vital to our health because they fight infection and disease. Lymph fluid transports these disease-fighting white blood cells throughout your body and around your tissues 24/7 to keep you in tip-top health.
We’ve all felt our lymph nodes during cold and flu season—we sometimes call them “swollen glands,” which isn’t far from reality.
Lymph nodes are situated throughout the whole body. You have hundreds, but the nodes you really notice are in your neck, groin, and armpits.
When these nodes feel hard and painful, it means they’re working hard to cleanse the lymph fluid with antibodies that process out bacteria, cancer cells, fats, proteins, and excess fluid. When your cold has passed, they settle down and you can’t feel them. They are pretty amazing things.
There are other parts to the lymphatic system, too, including your spleen, tonsils, and sinus. They can also feel sore and painful during periods of ill health as they work to clear toxins from your body.
RELATED: All You Need to Support Your Immune System
What Are the Signs of An Unhealthy Lymphatic System?
Sometimes our lymphatic system can perform badly, meaning it doesn’t process out the bad stuff efficiently, or it takes a long time to cleanse and causes us to feel unwell.
The symptoms of a sluggish and unhealthy lymphatic system are unfortunately vague and symptomatic of many other conditions. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor for a checkup, as they can point to a variety of illness.
Here are some of the symptoms of a weak lymphatic system.
- Feeling stiff and achy in the morning
- Regularly swollen lymph nodes
- Weight gain
- Dry, itchy skin
- Brain fog, such as confusion and poor concentration
- Low immunity—you get lots of colds and infections
- Allergic reactions to common things like dust and pet hair
What Causes a Weak Lymphatic System?
Your lymphatic system can be adversely affected by several issues, but symptoms are most commonly experienced when the lymph fluid cannot circulate properly.
A digestive imbalance that affects intestines, an iodine deficiency, stress, and tight-fitting clothing can all prevent your lymphatic system from performing at its best.
Some researchers suggest that tight-fitting underwire bras impede lymphatic fluid and lead to a buildup of toxins in the armpit and chest area that may develop into breast cancer.
If your bra is too tight, go for a professional department store fitting.
7 Tips For a Healthy Lymphatic System
1. Drink plenty of water.
Your body needs water for every single function, and the lymphatic system is no exception.
Water helps create lymph fluid and maintains its cellular base. Drinking lots of water will help to flush out your system.
Exercise always pops up as a way to keep healthy. We might not enjoy it much, but being active keeps our muscles, bones, and immune system functioning well.
Lymph fluid isn’t pumped around like blood; it relies on body movement. Exercising exerts pressure on lymphatic vessels and keeps fluid flowing.
3. Eat Well
Gut villi naturally living in your intestines affect the quality of your lymph fluid, so it’s important to cut down on salty, sugary, and processed foods.
Eat plenty of bran, fruit, vegetables, and beans to boost your digestive capability and create healthy lymph fluid.
4. Get A Lymph Massage
Get fluids moving with specialized lymph massage.
There are practitioners that specialize in lymphatic massage, which is sometimes called a detox massage. Lymph massage is different because its strokes are light and don’t press into the muscles.
Pressing hard on the skin is thought to block lymph circulatory channels, so a specialist practitioner will gently stroke your skin in the direction of your lymph nodes so fluid can be processed and toxins eliminated.
People say that even though it’s a feather-light touch, lymphatic massage is tiring, so it’s best to have a few hours’ rest afterward.
RELATED: Try These 12 Self-Massage Tips to Boost Your Well-being
5. Try Dry Brushing
Dry brushing is a technique that involves brushing your skin with a special brush. Most people tend to dry brush before taking a shower.
Many lymph vessels run just beneath the skin, and some experts believe that brushing the skin can stimulate lymph fluid flow.
Dry brushing is usually hailed as a skin treatment, as it sloughs away dead skin and helps break down cellulite. If it helps with lymphatic drainage, too, that’s a triple whammy of health benefits from a very simple, low-cost action.
RELATED: 6 Amazing Benefits of Dry Brushing Your Skin
6. Relax and De-Stress
Stress has a major influence on all aspects of health. Too much stress raises blood pressure, contributes to heart disease, and is associated with depression.
It’s not known whether stress has a direct effect on lymphatic systems, but it certainly affects other areas of health that may influence it. Lack of time to exercise, for example, and stress-induced insomnia dampen your immune system as a whole.
Taking up a form of stress-relieving exercise, such as tai chi or yoga, can help. They aid relaxation and their stretching poses stimulate lymph flow.
7. Loosen Your Clothing
If your clothes are too tight, particularly your underwear, go up a size. Restricting the flow of lymph fluid can prevent it from entering the nodes and stop toxins from flowing out.
Look after Your Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system is certainly an overlooked aspect of bodily health, but it’s one we all need to think more about.
If we’re unable to expel infections, bacteria, and other toxins properly, they stay in our bodies, causing untold issues.
Getting your lymphatic system moving can lead to better health and potentially prevent diseases in the future.
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