What Have You Done for Your Lymph Lately?

 When was the last time you paid attention to your lymphatic system? If you’re in the same boat I was in about two years ago, you probably answered, “Um, what exactly is my lymphatic system?” It’s not that I woke up one morning and said, “Hey, today I think I’ll do something nice for my lymphatic system.” Not even close. It’s more like I woke up to an email offer for something called lymph drainage therapy.

By that time, I was committed to my self-health journey and loved learning about new ideas that could take me to the next level. When I read the email about lymph drainage therapy, I thought, “Oooh, what’s that? I’ve never heard of such a thing.” My interest was piqued, so I needed to find out more. It was time to let the researching begin!

But there were just a few things to clarify before I started my new journey:

What exactly were my lymph nodes, and what purpose did they serve?
Why would I need something called lymph drainage therapy?
Was this therapy painful? Because it kind of sounded like it could be!

I’d recently picked up a copy of Health Is Simple, Disease Is Complicated by James Forleo, DC, but had only glanced at the table of contents. I did remember seeing a mention of lymph something or other, so I reached for the book and started educating myself.

Of course, I did have a basic understanding of the word lymph—I’d heard people mention their lymph nodes before, and I knew the ones in my neck became swollen and tender sometimes when I didn’t feel well. But I had no clue how significant they were until I started exploring the topic. In addition to the lymph nodes located in our neck, they’re also found in the muscle area of our chest, as well as the armpits, the inner side of our elbow joint, and the groin area. Along with some body tissue, these nodes make up the lymphatic system, and are often referred to as the body’s sanitation system. The nickname derives from the fact that its main responsibility is to filter out waste products from bacteria, viruses, and parasites so they don’t end up in our blood, which makes it an important part of our overall immune system. That answered the first question. Now on to the second. Excellent!

I’d wondered why these nodes would need to be drained, and after learning about the lymphatic system’s nickname, I could make an educated guess. But what were the specifics? The lymphatic system and the circulatory system work very closely together. As Dr. Forleo explains, “The lymph system cleanses, and the blood system nourishes.” As we move our bodies throughout the day, the fluid in the lymphatic system flows through a series of one-way valves, to be purified before moving into our bloodstream. Occasionally toxins build up in our bodies, and when this happens the lymphatic system is less efficient. The fluid becomes thick and doesn’t flow through the lymphatic tissue very well. This can cause harmful bacteria and viruses to multiply. If not cleared from the lymph fluid, it can eventually end up in our bloodstream. Suddenly, our immune system has been weakened.

Now that things were becoming clearer, I just had to ask myself if I was willing to undergo the lymph drainage therapy. As it turns out, the technique simply involves a gentle massage of the lymphatic system, both to ensure that the fluid is flowing in the right direction and that it has the right consistency. I’ve always been a big fan of all kinds of massages, and have never found them painful. So why not give it a try? I signed up for the email deal and made my appointment. During the therapy—which was subtle, gentle, and very relaxing—it was discovered that a portion of my lymphatic system was pushing the fluid in the wrong direction. But after only two sessions, things were back to normal. And I keep it that way by going back every once in a while for maintenance, so to speak. The biggest change is that the congestion I hadn’t even realized I’d been dealing with has gotten much better, and I’ve felt an increase in my energy level. These days, there aren’t many of us who wouldn’t benefit from that.

Of course it also helped that my wonderful massage therapist is a professional who believes in educating her clients in self-care to reduce the number of visits to her office. How refreshing! Try looking for a therapist whose philosophy mirrors the one outlined in Dr. Forleo’s book.

  • Try dry skin brushing. This will not only help keep the lymphatic system running smoothly, it will also help dry skin by shedding dead skin cells—great for any time of the year. You can do it in about five minutes before hopping into the shower—not time consuming at all. Keep in mind that you should always brush in the same direction as your lymphatic fluid flows. Remember, it’s a one-way system. View this video for the basics, or look on the Internet for a diagram on the finer points of dry skin brushing. A natural bristle brush like this one is recommended.
  • Follow a clean diet. To keep your lymphatic fluid from getting thick, drink plenty of pure water and avoid pasteurized dairy products, refined carbohydrates, and hydrogenated fats.
  • Get plenty of exercise. Again, it’s the movement of our bodies that gets the fluid coursing through the lymphatic system. To keep it running smoothly, try going for a walk or jumping on a mini trampoline.
  • Give yourself a facial lymph massage. This is something I discovered on my own, and it’s quite effective. In fact, the results you get from this simple technique—as shown in this video on self lymph drainage massage—just might surprise you.

If you haven’t given your lymphatic system much thought lately, it might be time to change that. Do something nice for it—and yourself—soon, whether it’s taking one of the self-care suggestions above or finding a certified lymph drainage therapist in your area. In the end, you’ll give your immune system a boost and improve your overall sense of well-being.

Is there something about the way your body works that you’d like to know more about?

Photo from iStock/AlexanderNovikov

Paula Widish

Paula Widish, author of Trophia: Simple Steps to Everyday Self-Health, is a freelance writer and self-healther. She loves nothing more than sharing tidbits of information she discovers with others. (Actually, she loves her family more than that—and probably bacon too.) Paula has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public Relations and is a Certified Professional Life Coach through International Coach Academy.

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