Lymphatic System 101
The lymphatic system is an integral part of our immune system. It has many functions such as: maintaining body fluids, removing cellular waste, absorbing excess digestive fats, removing pathogens from the body. In short, it is a waste elimination system that helps maintain a healthy immune response.
So what exactly is it?
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels, tissues, and organs in the body. The lymphatic vessels connect to hundreds of lymph nodes throughout the body, and these nodes are where lymph is filtered. They work in tandem to collect excess lymph (a watery, colorless liquid) from bodily tissue and distribute it back into the bloodstream.
By collecting excess fluids that drains from cells and tissues throughout the day, the lymphatic system essentially cleanses the body.
A critical part of the immune system, the lymphatic system produces and releases white blood cells and other immune cells that monitor and overpower pathogens, bacteria, parasites and viruses.
It also removes waste products, excess, and abnormal cells from the lymph. In modern society where we are surrounded by excess, supporting the lymphatic system in doing its job can uplift our overworked systems.
Many people are aware of the groin & underarm lymph nodes, as they are close to skin's surface, but there are hundreds of lymph nodes throughout the body from your knees up to your head. These nodes act as a filter, catching excess debris or waste found in the lymph. So as the lymph passes through the nodes, it is essentially cleansed. This is when infection is assessed & white blood cells are released to counter the present pathogen, bacteria, virus or infection.
The lymphatic system relies on expansion and contraction of muscles or external stimulation for it to move. It does not have it's own pumping mechanism.
Unless you live in a pristine environment with access to natural spring water, toxin free air, minimal stress and a very clean diet- you might want to consider supporting your lymphatic system. These factors can strain the system, which can lead to congestion. Stress disrupts the body, and I've yet to meet anyone who hasn't experienced stress in late-stage capitalism (haaaay just saying!).
Lymph congestion may look like puffy under eyes or break out. The skin is an easy channel of elimination for build up and waste, so when lymph is congested- the skin tends to inflame.
It can also look like swollen fingers or legs, stiff body, swollen nodes, fatigue, stiffness, a cold. It can look like a lot of things, and this isn't to scare you. But many people don't consider supporting their lymphatic system when they are looking at ways to improve their daily care. Ayurveda & Traditional Chinese Medicine both integrate lymphatic support into their centuries long history of medical care, and empirical evidence shows us how effective daily lymphatic care can be for energizing & supporting the body.
How to support
Drink Lots of Water. That's my life advice to everyone, and it certainly applies here.
Move your legs. The muscles around the knee pump your lymph nodes to move lymph fluid. You can achieve this by having someone bend your leg at the knee and through exercise.
There are hundreds of nodes throughout the body, which is why many say that physical activity is a great way to support the lymphatic system. But I want to note for someone who is disabled or with limited mobility, physical activity might not be a possibility. This is when other external stimulation might be most effective, and it can often be achieved with a trusted partner.
Gua Sha. Helps move excess lymph fluid in the face into nodes to be processed. Gentle pressure & a quality oil are required.
Take a Hot Shower, finish with a Cold Shower. By opening & closing the capillaries, you stimulate the lymphatic system. Plus it feels invigorating & exciting.
Dry Brush or Body Oiling. Start on the left side. Work your way up the leg toward heart. Move to arm & work in toward heart. Work up torso into heart. Repeat on right side.
I personally find that supporting my lymphatic system is energizing. I'm less likely to feel run down when I take daily care to support my natural bodily functions. At the site of a cold, I apply the Bodywork Oil to my neck & practice a gentle gua sha routine. When my body feels bogged down, I do my full lymph support routine.
If you are concerned about your lymphatic health, contact your trusted healthcare practitioner. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure disease.