Your body is naturally designed to heal and find balance. One of the main systems for cleaning waste and normalizing blood circulation is the lymphatic system. Symptoms ranging from cellulite to bloating can be attributed to a blockage in the lymphatic system.
The Lymphatic System: What It Does
The lymphatic system consists of tissue that produces, stores, and transports white blood cells, and includes a complex network of vessels, ducts, lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, adenoids, and tonsils. This extensive system is found throughout your body and helps regulate your immune system by removing waste from every cell.
Lymph is the fluid that flows through the lymphatic system; It is made up of different components as it passes through different parts of the body. Sometimes it contains protein and sometimes it contains bacteria and fat. Regardless of the lymph content at any given time, it must flow freely to prevent waste products from accumulating in the tissues. Breathing and other muscle movements move the lymph fluid through many filtering points called lymph nodes. These lymph nodes contain collections of white blood cells (lymphocytes) that help destroy harmful pathogens or toxins.
The Lymphatic System: Why Is It Important?
This network of lymphatic vessels and nodes acts like a giant drainage and filtration system for the body. Just like the plumbing in your home, the lymphatic system needs to be free of blockages and flowing well in order to function properly. When lymph flow becomes stagnant and blocked, waste and toxins begin to accumulate. It weakens the immune system and leads to various health problems.
Poor waste removal in the lymphatic system affects almost every part of your body. When your lymphatic vessels are blocked, you may experience:
Stiffness, especially in the morning
Itchy, dry skin
Stubborn weight gain
Chronic sinusitis, sore throat, colds, ear problems
Breast cancer with menstrual cycle
Cold hands and feet
There are various causes of lymphatic congestion. Although the body is designed to naturally cleanse itself of waste and toxins, an imbalance can reduce your ability to detoxify and allow waste to accumulate. Stress and digestive imbalances are two of the main causes of lymphatic congestion that can reduce your ability to cleanse effectively, as discussed below.
Causes of lymphatic congestion: Stress
Biochemical and hormonal changes occur when the body is under stress. Over time, these stress chemicals contribute to inflammation that damages cells and creates waste. It clogs the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is directly stimulated by sympathetic nervous system fibers that are activated as part of the stress response. Studies in mice show that chronic stress can remodel lymphatic vessels and cause cancer to spread.
Causes of Lymphatic Congestion: Imbalance in the digestive system
The digestive system is susceptible to stress, especially when it is chronic, and the lymphatic system is closely related to the gastrointestinal tract. The largest collection of lymphatic vessels in the body, called the gastrointestinal tract (GALT), surrounds the gastrointestinal tract.
The GALT is located near the lumen of the intestine where nutrient absorption takes place. The intestinal lymphatic system is essential for maintaining a balanced microbiome and maintaining the integrity of the intestinal mucosa. This barrier protects against harmful toxins and pathogens and allows for selective absorption of nutrients. Intestinal lymphatics play a major role in processing absorbed fat to the liver.
GALT can become blocked when the gut becomes inflamed or irritated by chemical additives in food, food allergies or sensitivities, or a diet with too many processed foods. It is the main cause of stagnant lymph flow, detoxification, digestive disorders, and weakened immunity.
Relax your lymphatic system to restore body balance
If you experience symptoms of lymphatic congestion, unblocking your lymphatic system may hold the key to rejuvenating and rebalancing your body. It is very important to open your lymphatic channels before starting any other type of detoxification program. (As with any cleanse or detox program, check with your doctor before making any changes that are right for you.) Try these six steps to rebalance your body.
- Stay hydrated
Lymph is about 95 percent water, so it needs to be hydrated enough to flow freely. Stay adequately hydrated by following the Ayurvedic practice of sipping warm, purified water; Drink throughout the day to prevent dehydration.
Water first thing in the morning
can help to flush toxins out of your system that may have built up overnight. Avoid sugar-laden soft drinks, processed juices, sports drinks, and alcohol, which add an additional metabolic burden on the body. It is also wise to steer clear of too much caffeine, which dehydrates the body.
- Heal Your Gut
A sluggish digestive tract contributes to congestion within the lymphatic system, so good gut health is fundamental for lymphatic flow. Healing and maintaining a healthy gut requires removing factors that cause irritation and imbalance, repairing the gut lining, and balancing the microbiome within the gut.
Follow a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet that is individualized for your unique needs and sensitivities. Omega-3 fatty acids, leafy-green veggies, fat-soluble vitamins A and D, and balanced probiotics can often help heal the intestinal lining, reduce inflammation, and provide a diverse array of beneficial bacteria. This makes your digestive tract more resilient to the harmful effects of stress and keeps the GALT healthy.
- Eat Lymph-Cleansing Raw Red Foods
Ayurvedic medicine teaches that naturally red foods like pomegranates, cherries, cranberries, and beets help keep the lymph moving freely. The naturally occurring enzymes, antioxidants, and bioflavonoids in these raw fruits and vegetables help to break down toxic buildup and combat free radicals, while the fiber in produce promotes regular elimination and cleansing of the intestinal villi to keep the intestinal lymphatic system healthy.
Beets appear to be especially promising for reducing inflammation. Raw beets are powerful lymphatic cleansers since they thin the bile for more effective fat digestion and scrub the intestinal villi where the lymphatic vessels originate to keep the lymph flowing. Try fresh raw beet juice or grated raw beets in your salad to enjoy these lymph-cleansing benefits.
- Dress Smart
Since the lymph does not have a mechanical pump to propel it through the body, it relies on unrestricted flow and natural muscle movement to keep flowing. One simple way to prevent restricting lymphatic flow is to avoid tight clothing.
Wearing tight fitting or restraining garments, like a bra with an underwire, or tight briefs or jeans, can restrict the drainage of lymph fluids from surrounding tissues. Look for looser-fitting clothing. It is especially important to choose unrestricting clothing when sleeping since the body carries out extensive detoxification activities during sleep.