The lymphatic system is an important part of the immune system, comprised of a large network of lymphatic vessels that carry lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body. This network of tissues and organs helps rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. Some health conditions can cause lymph fluid to build up or become blocked. Let’s talk through a few ways to tune up the movement and function of the lymphatic system.

How the Lymph System Works

Unlike the circulatory system, which operates in a circular, cyclic motion powered by the pumping of the heart, the lymphatic system is linear and does not have a “pump” to keep it moving. Lymph fluid drains into lymphatic capillary vessels and collecting lymphatics, which are embedded with multiple lymph nodes. From the lymph nodes, it eventually returns to the blood circulation through the thoracic or lymphatic ducts. 

This is mostly an uphill, against gravity, process that is accomplished without any dedicated internal mechanism pushing it in that direction. Because lymph relies on muscle contractions to keep it moving, it can get sluggish and backed up at times. When this happens, it can’t effectively relieve the body of some of its toxic load. This can cause digestive issues and fluid accumulation throughout the body.

Signs of Sluggish or Blocked Lymph

Some signs that the lymphatic system is sluggish and not effectively removing toxins from the body include:

  • Edema or puffiness of body parts, especially the eyes, face, hands, ankles, and feet
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen or tender glands
  • Bloating
  • Frequent headaches
  • Sinus infections
  • Soreness or stiffness upon waking
  • Constipation
  • Breast swelling or tenderness
  • Brain fog
  • Worsened allergies
  • Food sensitivities
  • Increased colds or flu

Need a Lymphatic Tune Up?

There are several things you can do to encourage good lymphatic flow in the body.

Get Moving

Because the lymph system relies on skeletal muscle contractions to move lymph throughout the body, exercise is a great way to keep things flowing. Especially if you sit for a large portion of the day, take frequent breaks to get up and move around. Additionally, people who are overweight are more likely to have impaired lymphatic function.

Rebounding, or jumping, is a great way to encourage lymphatic flow. Consider a balance ball chair at your desk, or just get up and do a few jumping jacks periodically.

Limit Toxic Load

The more toxins you take into your body, the more work you create for your lymph system. Limit your toxins by removing chemical cleaners and personal care products from your routines. Eat a clean diet and limit your intake of inflammatory foods, like sugar, processed foods, and red meat. Also drink plenty of clean, pure water throughout the day, every day.

Avoid Tight-Fitting Clothing

Lymph vessels sit directly beneath the skin surface, and can easily become compressed. Avoid wearing constrictive clothing for extended periods of time. Women especially should make sure their bras fit properly and not too tightly. Go braless as much as possible, and never sleep with a bra on.

Lymphatic Massage

Lymphatic massage can help release blockages in the lymph system, thereby improving the overall function of the immune system. This gentle massage technique encourages the movement of lymph fluid in the body. You can find a professional lymphatic massage therapist, or you can try it yourself.

  1. First create a massage blend: Combine 1/2 cup fractionated coconut oil (or other carrier oil), 10 drops fragonia essential oil, 10 drops cypress essential oil, 6 drops frankincense essential oil, and 5 drops grapefruit essential oil.
  2. It is best to massage after a bath or shower when the skin is warm.
  3. Locate lymph nodes on the body in the diagram to the right. Gently massage the oil blend into the areas in a circular motion for at least 10 seconds.
  4. If you notice any tender areas or lumps, continue massaging to encourage release. Never press too hard as to cause pain.
  5. Be sure to drink plenty of water following the massage.

Dry Brushing

This technique is similar to lymphatic massage, except a natural dry brush is used to stimulate circulation through the skin.

  1. Purchase a natural bristle brush.
  2. Remove all clothing and jewelry, and stand in a bathtub or over a towel.
  3. Start brushing at your feet with long, sweeping motions towards your heart. Gradually move up your legs, to your torso, arms, neck, and face. Brush several times in each area, overlapping as you go.
  4. Be careful around more sensitive areas, and adjust your pressure to comfort.
  5. After brushing your entire body, take a hot shower to further encourage circulation and remove loosened dead skin.
  6. For best results, dry brush your body every day or at least 3 times a week. Be sure to clean your brush with soap and water weekly.

What are your tips for encouraging lymphatic movement? Comment and share your strategies for lymphatic tune up!

Come check out this post on How the Body Detoxifies.

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