Lymphatic Health: What it means and how you achieve it
The lymphatic system is the body’s natural detox system. It is a network of vessels, nodes and tissues that form part of our immune system and lipid absorption. The lymph nodes cleanse your body from toxins, metabolic waste and more.
How does it work?
According to Women’s Health, Lymph vessels move lymph fluid through 500 filtration and collection points — your lymph nodes. The lymph nodes are spread throughout the body, from behind your ears right down to the right inner-thigh. The most prominent places, however, being in the throat, groin, armpits, chest and abdomen.
The Lymph tissue generates and stores white blood cells. This stops infections, diseases and prevents certain cancers.
Essential parts of the lymphatic system are bone marrow, the adenoids, spleen, tonsils and thymus gland — each connected to the other in a web of lymphatic vessels.
The lymphatic system can get blocked, which leads to a whole array of imbalances in the body!
You have to keep the lymphatic system moving through various methods: massage, exercise and a healthy diet.
Keeping the lymphatic system moving relies on the movement of our muscles through contraction and the pumping action of deep breathing.
Stagnant lymph fluid can turn toxic to the body. When the fluid isn’t flowing through the system, patients can notice pain and swelling at the site of the blocked node. Some also experience joint pain, nausea and fatigue, depending on the severity of the blockage.
People who experience lymphedema also develop a painful swelling around the broader area surrounding the nodes. A prolonged, extreme blockage causes lymphedema. It’s usually experienced by people who are sick with other illnesses, while suffering from blockages. If you have ever had the flu, or a throat or urinary tract infection, you would probably have experienced swollen lymph nodes.
The dangers of stagnant lymph fluid
Lymph fluid contains harmful bacteria, viral infections and even cancerous cells. When these aren’t flushed from the body, it can be dangerously toxic.
Several systems throughout the body are connected to the lymphatic system. All work together to cleanse the toxins from the cells and expel them as waste.
The digestive system, circulatory system, respiratory system and lymphatic system all work in unison to keep you non-toxic and thriving!
- Blocked lymph nodes and stagnant lymph fluid have been linked to:
- GI issues including loss of appetite
- Muscle cramping, tissue swelling
- Frequent cold and flu infections
- Menstrual cramps
- Breast tenderness and fibrocystic breasts
- Mental fuzziness
- Depression/mood irregularities
- Heaviness in the abdomen
- Worsened allergies and food sensitivities
- Headaches and migraines
- Joint pain and arthritis
The Lymphatic system and its effect on mental health
The lymphatic system doesn’t only affect your physical health, but your mental health as well.
According to LifeSpa, if the lymphatic vessels in the brain are blocked, it could leave pathogens in the brain. This, of course, has both autoimmune and psychiatric issues.
Several studies have shown that there is a link between poor lymphatic brain drainage and mood disorders. Studies used NSAIDS (Aspirin, Advil) paired with Serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (anti-depressants) to treat the swelling and inflammation caused by blocked nodes to study the effects on the brain. It reduced the need for further psychiatric intervention.
Cancer spreads through the lymphatic system.
The lymph, or fluid that moves through the vessels, is a clear, fatty fluid produced by the bone marrow, organs and glands, explains Live Love Fruit. Lymphs carry nutrients to every part of the body and removes wastes that are too big to move through veins. The lymph nodes then filter it.
The lymph nodes contain lymphocytes. Lymphocytes destroy cancer cells, along with any other abnormalities before the waste is moved to the liver and kidneys for detoxification. It then moves out of the body through the intestinal tract and kidneys, as waste (excrement and urine).
Lymphocytes are one of several different types of white blood cells. Some lymphocytes make antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that destroy germs and stop infections or mutated cells from spreading.
When cancer cells break away from a tumour, they can get trapped inside a nearby lymph node, which is why swollen lymph nodes are a potential sign that a cancerous tumour could be lurking says, Dr Axe. Doctors always check the lymph nodes for swelling and abnormalities when they test a patient for cancer.
How to keep the lymphatic system in good condition?
The lymphatic system thrives on movement. As mentioned earlier, the system has no ‘pump’, so to speak, so it relies heavily on the body being active. People who lead a sedentary lifestyle will experience more blockages and swelling than their active counterparts.
Deep breathing promotes lymphatic system health. There is a proper way to breath to achieve optimal results. Lie down on your back. Place both of your hands flat down onto your stomach.
Inhale through the nose, expanding the stomach and keeping the shoulders still. Slowly exhale through the mouth. Rest between breaths. Do this once a day, or as often as your schedule permits.
Experts usually perform lymphatic massage, but there are certain things you can perform on your own body. Be sure to speak to your doctor before attempting any massage or exercise as there is always a risk of injury. Having medical insurance like Affinity Health at your disposal makes seeing a professional more affordable and convenient.
In very light, stroking motions use your middle finger and index finger to massage under your arms, between your groin and thighs and behind the earlobes. You may feel a slight cramp when you start. This usually indicates a minor blockage. Be sure to be very gentle.
Medical News Today suggests the following tips:
- These massage movements should affect only the skin. Do not press hard enough to feel the muscles.
- Keep the hands relaxed.
- Do not massage swollen or infected areas.
- Do not massage areas of the body that have undergone treatment for cancer.
- Drink 2 to 4 glasses of water after each massage to help flush the body.