02 Apr Lymphatic System
Boost your Lymphatic System … and improve your health!
A healthy lymphatic system is the key to a steady metabolism, balanced and better energy levels and clear, glowing skin. Give your lymphatic system some daily TLC and you’ll reap myriad benefits.
Why is the lymphatic system so important?
Well, together with the cardiovascular, which pumps blood, oxygen and nutrients around the body, the lymphatic system controls the body’s circulation. Among its many functions, is the flushing out of wastes and toxins thereby helping to keep our major organs, including the skin, in optimal health. It also manages fluid levels in the body, deals with bacteria and cancer cells and helps to absorb some dietary fats. Here’s where it gets tricky though … where the cardiovascular system has the heart to pump it, the lymphatic system doesn’t come with its own pump. It relies on us getting off our butts and giving it a bit of a push. If we neglect it by leading sedentary lives, or we consume too much sugar, bad fats, caffeine, meat or processed foods, it quickly becomes overloaded and sluggish. Not only does this show in your looks (think: dull, dry skin, lacklustre eyes, puffiness and fluid retention, acne and cellulite), it can lead to more serious health complications such as a compromised immune system, obesity, tonsillitis, glandular fever, Crohn’s disease and more. Flip the equation to enjoying a healthy, active lifestyle that’s loaded with plenty of pampering beauty rituals, and you can look forward to great lymph health, better energy levels and an altogether more glowing you!
Here are a few expert pointers:
Embrace a plant-based diet
We’re pretty sure if you’re reading this article on this website, then you’re already all over this. However, there are some particular plants that will work specifically to give your lymph a bit more pep. Allow us to introduce you to them … “Raw, enzyme-rich foods help support digestion and the breakdown of food more generally,” reveals nutritionist, naturopath and herbalist, Amie Skilton from whatthenaturopathsaid.com.
This includes raw, fresh kiwi fruit, pineapple, papaya, and well, pretty much anything raw and green. Also, eat plenty of fibre-rich foods like crisp, fresh veggies and sprouts, which are also brimming with micro-flora supporting prebiotics, too. “Prebiotic fibres nourish our microbiome and these natural microflora have powerful detoxifying capabilities, which reduce the load on the lymphatic system by lowering the absorption of toxins from the gut,” says Amie.
Include mung beans, alfalfa or lentil sprouts, in every salad you toss or stir-fry you serve. “Toxins in the body are released into the bowel,” explains Amie. “The fibre in our food soaks them up and subsequently removes them via our natural excretory functions. If you’re not eating enough fibre, these toxins will be reabsorbed into your system, creating lymph-lag.”
Kick start both liver and kidney function with beetroot and asparagus. When these essential organs are working well, the benefits to the lymphatic system are abundant.
What to avoid?
Say sayonara to cigarettes, too-much alcohol, an excess of caffeine, soft drinks (especially sugary ones), processed fast foods.
Watch your fat intake, too. While we need some fat in our diet, including some saturated, too much can put a strain on the lymphatic system. Stick to the good fats like Omega 3s, found in avocado, flaxseed, Chia seeds, Brussels sprouts, walnuts and hemp seed. The jury is still out on coconut oil, which some experts say is a panacea to all of our health problems, while others increasingly are questioning whether it has any health benefits at all. They key as always, is moderation.
Jump on it
Regular exercise as we know, is essential for all aspects of health. However, the type of exercise you do can also give your lymphatic system a real jump start (pardon the pun). Yep, anything with a bouncing or jumping motion will really improve the flow of lymph through your body. “When your muscles contract, they help to carry the lymph fluid around the body and back into the circulatory system for metabolising via the liver,” explains Amie.
“Embrace activities like running, skipping, Burpees, or bouncing from a mini trampoline.” Hanging upside down or inverting yourself somehow (think yoga headstands) are really encouraging to lymph flow, too. “It allows gravity to drain your lymph,” explains Amie.
If you don’t mind a bit of public upending, find a lush spot your local park and invert yourself. The contact with the earth surrounds you with negative ions, which brings with it a sense of calm and the release of tension.
Get a Massage
This is the best advice we’ve heard all year and truly, nobody needs to suggest it twice! Aside from being totally relaxing and blissful, lymphatic drainage massage specifically works with lymph flow. The techniques used are light, sweeping movements that work the help clear the lymph ducts and remove wastes, toxins and excess fluid. Be sure to drink plenty of water following this type of massage and avoid alcohol and caffeine. Have one as frequently as you can afford it, but otherwise, aim for every six weeks or so.
The latest wellness craze sweeping the world is Cryotherapy, and for good reason. ‘Cryo’ involves exposing the skin to extremely cold, dry air (-140 °C) for one to three minutes. It uses liquid nitrogen to safely achieve the sub-zero temps. Why do this? Aside from general health improvements, Cryo is useful in managing chronic pain, arthritis or muscle soreness, and it’s also great for recovery, weight loss, skin rejuvenation and, you guessed it – lymphatic drainage! “The extreme temperatures trigger the release of anti-inflammatory molecules and endorphins, increase oxygenation of the blood and flush toxins,” explained Peter Watson, from Cryo Fitness in Penrith, Sydney cryofitness.com.au. If Cryo is a bit drastic for you, try a Turkish or Swedish bathhouse, where you can go from a steam room and then into an icy plunge pool and back again. Going from hot to cold temperatures exercises the blood vessels and creates the contraction that the lymphatic system needs to work.
Editors note: These kinds of therapies are not recommended for everyone, people with high blood pressure, heart conditions, thyroid disorders or women who are pregnant. We would always recommend checking with your doctor before trying any new therapy.
Alternatively, simply turn your shower from warm to cold right at the very end. Do that every day, even in winter (if you can bear it) for similar benefits.
Water, that is. As with every function of our body, water is imperative to a healthy lymphatic system, stresses Amie. “If you are dehydrated the lymphatic system really suffers.” Aim to drink between one and a half to three litres daily but boost it with liquid chlorophyll it to take the pressure off the lymphatic system. “It helps to mobilise and bind toxins and it also supports the liver,” explains Amie. “The better the liver works, the less build up will be in the lymph.” “Add a few tablespoons to a 1.5 litre bottle of filtered water and keep it on your desk,” advises Skilton. “It’s an amazing detoxifying compound.”
You can also get your daily water intake via herbal teas like peppermint, nettle or chickweed (drink them in place of coffee, which is dehydrating and quite unkind to your lymphatic system).
A bit of daily skin pampering goes a long way for lymph health, says leading beauty therapist, Jeannie Bourke of Venustus salon in Paddington, Sydney venustus.com.au. “Begin with daily dry body brushing before each shower,” she advises. “Start at your left ankle and sweep the brush in long, firm movements upwards towards your heart. Continue around your body in the same direction as your blood flows. The brushing should leave light redness on the skin, which indicates you’ve got both the blood and lymph pumping.
Don’t go too hard though – it should never hurt or sting.” Try Ecotools Dry Brush, $15.95, which not only carries Cruelty Free certification, but is 100 per cent vegan and made with the health of our planet in mind. Bourke also advises using a quality body scrub once or twice a week. “This will help slough away dead skin cells that prevent toxins being removed from the skin via sweat, as well as emulate the effects of a lymphatic drainage massage.”
“Use a product with pure essential oils of grapefruit, geranium, ginger, rosemary, juniper and cypress, which all have stimulating properties. Massage in firm circular motions from your left ankle, following the direction of blood flow.” Follow your daily shower with a hydrating, stimulating body oil containing the same essential oils.
Try Venustus Cellulite Eliminator Body Scrub, $59 and Body Serum, $99, both of which are vegan and made using the finest quality cruelty-free ingredients.
Inhale and exhale – deeply!
This helps with everything in life, especially lymphatic drainage. “The movement of the diaphragm created by deep breathing techniques cause an upward drag to pull the lymph up,” explains Amie. “Find a quiet place and inhale deeply for the count of 10. Hold for 10 seconds and then exhale for 10. Repeat 10 times. It will take you less than 10 minutes and improve your physical, mental and emotional wellness enormously.”
Beauty and Lifestyle Director Shonagh Walker