By Melanie Carden
The immune system—the headline-grabbing superstar of wellness stories—has its own bouncer, of sorts—the lymphatic system. This often-overlooked system is the true hero, and most of us have been ignoring it. So, what does it do?
The lymphatic system—a complex network of vessels throughout the body—removes toxins from our bodies and expels them through sweat, urine, and bodily waste. It’s not sexy, I know, which is why it’s not in the headlines very much. But here’s the thing, our immunity is directly tied to how well (or not) our lymphatic system is functioning. To grasp the far-reaching importance of healthy lymphatic flow, New Jersey lymphedema specialist Cynthia J. Shechter shared some essential facts. “A sluggish lymphatic system can result in a lowered immune system, fluid retention, cellulite, and fatty deposits. Those with lymphatic sluggishness have experienced symptoms that include respiratory issues, sinus infections, swollen glands, eczema, ear infections, dry skin, fatigue, unexplained weight gain, food sensitivities, and muscle and joint stiffness or soreness; especially when they wake
Even a brief discussion of lymph leads to the quick realization that this natural detoxification process should prioritize our day-to-day wellness goals.
Nutrition Eating whole, nutritionally-dense foods is vital. Highly processed foods introduce into our system foreign chemicals and additives that can be a challenge to process. Avoid added sugar, artificial ingredients, and additives while focusing on a diet of grass-fed proteins, low-sugar fruits, vegetables, nuts, and dark leafy greens. Drinking plenty of water aids in the detoxification process.
Breathing Shechter reminds us to create time throughout the day for deep breathing. “It will help detoxify the system, and it’s great for reducing stress, which can also add to the toxins in your body.”
Sleep As with all health-related topics, sleep is vital to the proper functioning of lymph movement. Most experts still agree that 8-hours is a good goal.
Massage Many spas now offer lymphatic drainage massage as a targeted service for clients. A quick Google search will also yield self-massage techniques to incorporate into your daily routine. Shechter also mentions the benefits of gentle skin-based activation of lymph movement—called dry brushing.
Dry Brushing Taking a cue from Shechter, dry brushing is an excellent way to kick-start lymph movement. Although I’ve heard of dry brushing, I called on Jaime Cross for her expertise. Cross is the MIG Living founder, an international leader in clean skincare and wellness.
Cross explains that it’s low-cost, easy-to-incorporate, and highly effective. All you need is a bristle or boar-head brush. Before showering, brush your skin in an upwards motion beginning at your feet. Direct all brush strokes towards your heart. Work your way upwards counterclockwise to dry brush your entire body. Cross shares these benefits of dry brushing:
Exercise Both Shechter and Cross stress the importance of exercise as the most effective way of improving lymph function. You don’t need to be a marathon runner—daily low-to-moderate movement will work wonders, especially if you follow the other guidance. The action gets lymph moving and sweat expels toxins; it’s a win-win. Shechter and Cross also echo the suggestion of many lymph-wellness sources—rebounding (a bouncy activity like jump rope or bouncing on a small fitness trampoline) can be a great lymph mover.
Avoiding chronic illness and a devastatingly long list of day-to-day health issues relies on our awareness of the lymphatic system. Proper, natural detoxification of the body is within our reach every day. Avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Reduce consumption of highly processed foods and added sugar. Instead, focus on low-sugar fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grass-fed protein. Grab a dry brush and make that spa appointment. Remember, though, to incorporate these wellness strategies in tandem to get the lymph flowing properly, improve immune function, and live your best life.