A major part of being healthy is to ensure that any toxins that enter our system are effectively identified by the body and escorted out in a harmless fashion. There are many systems, organs, and glands in place to make sure this occurs, but unfortunately, many of them have become clogged and compromised to the point of complete dysfunction. One of those important systems that aid in the removal of toxins and has become clogged in many ways, is the lymphatic system.
Purpose of the lymphatic system and signs it is clogged
The lymphatic system is a complex drainage or “sewer” system that consists of tissues, organs, glands, lymph nodes, spleen, thymus gland, capillaries, and adenoids. Its primary role is to cleanse our cells by absorbing excess fluids, fats, and toxins from our tissues and clearing them out of our body, as well as battling infections and transporting white blood cells and nutrients to where they’re needed most.
Unfortunately, due to our toxic burden, nutritional deficiencies, and relative inactivity, this system has become increasingly polluted. If you suffer from any of the following, it may be a sign your lymphatic system is clogged and needs a serious cleanse:
- Skin conditions
- Unexplained injuries
- Excess weight or cellulite
- Chronic fatigue
- Sinus infections
- Digestive disorders
- Enlarged lymph nodes
If you identify with any of these conditions, you will want to strongly consider incorporating the following 10 factors to help cleanse your lymphatic system.
If you have a toxic lymphatic system, the best approach is to start slow on the exercise, and be consistent. Think of the tortoise rather than the hare in the beginning and as you get more energy you can incorporate more vigorous and intense exercise.
One of the easiest, safest, and most profound exercise you can incorporate is rebounding. This is the simple act of lightly bouncing up and down on a “mini trampoline”, which is the perfect movement for stimulating lymph flow, and toning other detoxification organs as well.
If you don’t want to purchase a mini trampoline, brisk walking, jogging, and skipping rope are three other beneficial exercises to get the lymphatic system pumping.
A lymphatic drainage massage is one easy way to detoxify your lymph system as a skilled practitioner will stimulate circulation and drain fat, fluids, toxins, and other waste products away from your cells for proper elimination. Acupuncture, an ancient and effective TCM treatment, also helps open up pathways (meridians) in your body to help stimulate lymph flow and help remove toxins from the body.
An infrared sauna is also an excellent and easy option, as the sweat excreted through your skin can help release the toxic burden on your lymphatic system and allow it to work more effectively.
You can also use a vibration machine which will really stimulate the lymphatic system. Due to it’s effectiveness, you’ll want to go at it slowly at first so as to not stimulate too much toxin removal in a short period of time that may create undesirable symptoms.
Hot and cold showers
Although it may seem a little sadistic, a hot and cold shower has merit when it comes to benefiting the lymphatic system. The hot water increases blood flow to the surface of the body and cold water drives blood to the core of the body. This creates an “accordion” effect that increases blood flow and speeds up circulation, while bringing fresh oxygenated blood and nutrients to organs and glands which helps take away toxins and pathogens.
This process can reduce build up of fluids and ease inflammation, as well as allowing the immune system to attack any foreign pathogens in the fluid. It can also break down cancerous growths in the lymphatic system by improving circulation and detoxification, which then allows these growths to be removed from the body.
The first step to using this method is to ensure your shower water is pure, so make sure you have a good filtration system in place. Next, you can get extra benefits by using a natural bristle skin brush to gently exfoliate your skin prior to entering the shower. Lastly, make sure to try this technique very slowly at first, and discuss with your medical doctor prior. Since the hot and cold can put stress on your heart and cardiovascular system, it may be contraindicated for those with serious heart conditions. Listen to your body and slowly build up your hot and cold tolerance to the full routine, if possible.
Hot and Cold Shower
- Get in the shower and get completely wet at a temperature that is completely comfortable for you.
- Slowly increase the temperature to the point you can barely stand it. Expose all areas of the body to this hotter water, including the top of your head and your face. Do this for a minimum of 30 seconds and up to 2 minutes for more effect.
- Now turn the water down to the coldest tolerable setting, and expose all areas of the body to this colder water. Do this for a minimum of 30 seconds and up to 2 minutes for more effect.
- Repeat this alternating hot and cold exposure 5 times or more, always ending with cold.
At first, your hot and cold tolerance may be minimal, and it is important to honour your extremes in the beginning. However, you should work on building up to hotter and colder temperatures to increase your tolerance and the health benefits of the routine.
Since your lymph system has no central pump of its own (unlike the heart), this therapy and others which stimulate this type of action are great solutions to get it flowing properly again.
Use dry brushing
Dry brushing is a technique that has been long used in Ayurveda, and is a powerful and very economical healing therapy. It helps remove dead skin cells and opens your pores, as well as stimulating the movement of your lymphatic fluids. To do it effectively, use the following technique:
- Beginning with the feet, and moving up the legs, brush toward the heart. You want to use long, sweeping motions — not scrubbing or back and forth movements. Don’t brush so vigorously that the skin is red or irritated. For the stomach area, brush counterclockwise. Next, focus on your backside with upward strokes. End the session with the hands, arms and chest. Avoid delicate areas like the face. Remember, both the skin and brush need to remain dry for the entire session.
You should try to dry brush your skin at least once a day, with each session lasting between 2 and 20 minutes. Before your morning shower is ideal. Look for a natural, stiff-bristled brush with a long handle for reaching tricky areas like on your back.
Drink adequate amounts of clean water
You’ve heard it before – drink your water! However, I must point out that if you don’t properly source your water, you’re actively adding to your toxic burden by ingesting easily absorbed toxins often present in water such as fluoride, chlorine, VOC’s, xenoestrogens, and more. You can avoid these toxins by not using tap and plastic bottled water, and using only distilled, reverse osmosis, filtered, or clean spring water.
Once you have a clean and well-mineralized source of water, then you can safely consume up to half your body weight in ounces of water a day (160 lbs = 80 ounces of water). If you eat plenty of hydrating foods like raw fruits and vegetables, that will also assist with your overall water intake.
Remember, you are up to 75% water and it is very important for lubricating and cleansing the body. Use it wisely, and your lymphatic system will ultimately benefit.
Avoid restrictive clothing
It’s important to not wear tight clothing that can cut off proper circulation within the lymphatic system. This can cause blockages to occur and toxins to build up in different areas of the body.
Areas of particular importance where this may occur is bras for women that may be too tight in the axillary lymph node area (armpit area), and in the inguinal lymph node area (groin) where tight fitting underwear could cause a problem over time. Bras with underwires are especially problematic due to their constriction of lymphatic flow.
It’s fine to wear something tight from time to time, but avoid being excessive and keep the bra off as much as possible. If you must wear one, consider a bra that doesn’t contain an underwire to improve the flow dramatically.
Another method of “pumping” lymph properly comes from deep breathing. Since our bodies have 3x more lymph fluid than blood, this exercise becomes increasingly important in order to get the toxins into the blood so they can be detoxified by your liver and kidneys.
An excellent way to improve deep breathing is to do yoga or meditate on a regular basis. Both these practices emphasize long, deep, and highly oxygenating breaths which will be of tremendous benefit to your lymphatic system and overall health. It will also help improve your mental state, which always results in more natural and healthy breathing.
If you need a place to start, breathe deeply in through your nose for 4 counts, and exhale through your mouth for 2 counts. As you get better, increase the amount of time by breathing deeply through your nose for 5 counts, hold for 10 counts, and exhale for 5 counts. This may seem awkwardly slow at first, but it will leave you feeling very refreshed after you are done.
Eat foods that promote lymph flow
Eating a clean, nutrient rich, and mostly raw food diet rooted in produce is the first step to promoting healthy lymph flow. Some particularly cleansing foods that promote lymphatic flow include:
- Dark leafy greens
- Low sugar fruits
- Ground flaxseed
- Brazil nuts
These types of foods will help provide the necessary vitamins, minerals, EFA’s, and enzymes to cleanse your lymphatic system more efficiently.
Avoid foods, personal care products, and environments that cause lymph stagnation
Half the battle of cleansing your system is providing it with enough power to do so, and that can’t be accomplished if you keep polluting your body with a variety of toxins. This means avoiding conventional personal care products loaded with parabens, petroleum, and phthalates, like deodorants, lotions, make up, and sunscreens.
With respect to the environment, staying out of heavily polluted outdoor areas as much as possible is critical, and opting for more oxygen rich environments like parks, forests, lakes, and beaches is imperative. Your indoor environment is just as important if not moreso, so use plants, essential oils, and air purifiers to keep the air as clean and fresh as possible.
In addition to that, avoiding the following foods are critical to improving your lymphatic health:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Conventional dairy
- Conventionally raised meat
- Refined grains
- Processed foods
- Preservatives and additives
- Table salt
- Baked goods
Take herbs that stimulate lymph flow
Herbs are great natural stimulators, and when used appropriately can be very useful for kickstarting various areas of the body. Your lymphatic system is no different.
Some great herbs to consider for teas, juices, and more include:
- Wild indigo root
- Red clover
As with most chronic conditions, a multi-faceted lifestyle approach is often the only way to do a proper clean up of any system, and that goes for the lymphatic system as well. So be sure to layer in all of these factors for a much more comprehensive cleanse, and enjoy the improved health that comes with rejuvenating a clogged lymphatic system.