The lymphatic system plays a highly crucial role the preventative and curative health system of the body. It is a network of tissue and organs that form a part of both the circulatory and immune systems and its main role is to manage and maintain fluid levels in the body to ensure that there is no excess or shortage, clearing bacteria and toxins and supporting immunity. Diet, exercise, alternating hot and cold showers or baths, skin brushing, massage and some herbal medicines are ways of supporting the lymphatic system.
The circulatory network of the lymphatic system comprises lymphatic vessels that are similar only in appearance to arteries and veins of the cardiovascular system.
The lymphatic system of the body is anatomically described as an open system because it has interactions that are external to its own network of tissue.
This is unlike, for example, the cardiovascular system in which all its circulatory fluids are confined to a dedicated series of vessels and organs.
The immune network of the lymphatic system comprises lymphoid organs including the spleen, appendix, tonsils, bone marrow and thymus and other specialized tissue in the gut. Lymph nodes and lymph ducts are found at various points of the lymphatic network, such as the neck, throat, armpits, chest, abdomen and the groin, and are usually situated closest to the arteries.
Excess fluids from surrounding tissue that has seeped from blood vessels during the circulatory process is drained away through the lymphatic system.
Bacteria, toxins and other debris are filtered and removed from the body through the lymphatic system, and production and storage of white blood cells (lymphocytes) occurs within structures of the lymph system. These work to defend the body against bacteria, viruses and other pathological threats.
The lymphatic system consists of lymph, lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, bone marrow and the thymus and every duct, node, vessel and organ within the lymphatic network has a function to perform. Some of these have very particular functions.
Because of its highly active function, the lymph system can be quite susceptible to infections and diseases if it is weakened or vulnerable for any reason. Some common problems that may affect the lymph system are infections, oedema, lymphatic obstruction and tumours.
Common infections of the immune system can range from mild and relatively benign infections, such as strep throat or tonsillitis, however other more serious infections also affect the lymphatic system.
The lymph nodes will usually become swollen and inflamed when an infection is present.
One of the main functions of the lymph system is to drain fluid from surrounding tissue and organs to maintain equilibrium of fluid levels. When the system is not functioning properly for any reason, excess fluids becomes trapped in tissues and organs and causes oedema (swelling). Oedema can occur in one or many internal organs or tissue or it may occur in more visible parts of the body such as the extremities. However not all symptoms of oedema are due to malfunctioning of the lymph system.
Lymphatic obstruction is blockage of vessels of the lymph system and can cause lymphoedema. Obstruction of the lymph system can result in a stagnation of flow and to an array of health issues such as cellulitis, skin conditions, excess weight or even arthritis. Poor dietary choices and insufficient movement may contribute to lymphatic obstruction.
A healthy diet of nutrient rich, natural foods eaten raw or lightly cooked is good for all aspects of health including the lymphatic system. Foods that are especially good for promoting lymph flow include dark leafy greens, cilantro, parsley, low sugar fruits, garlic, seaweed, chia, ground flaxseed and avocados. Avoid processed sugars, artificial sweeteners and colors, MSG, table salt and baked goods can help.
Any physical activity will help promote the flow of lymph fluid through the action of muscles in the body. One of he best exercise for the lymphatic system is ‘rebounding’. Rebounding involves genlty jumping on a trampoline. Other suggestions include walking, swimming, yoga and pilates.
Cold showers alone are actually as beneficial to the body as they are cringe-worthy to even think of. Cold showers boost circulation and immunity of the body. However, to target the lymphatic system it is best to alternate the water between hot and cold during a shower. The hot water dilates the vessels while the cold water constricts them. This will train and enforce the vessels to adapt to the dilation and constriction reflexes that imitate the ‘pumping’ action of circulation.
Breathing, or rather the inadequate or incorrect technique of breathing can have a significant impact on circulation and immunity. To promote lymph and blood flow, practice deep breathing techniques. These can be taught by a professional in order to get the most accurate deep breathing techniques. A proper sitting and walking posture may also have a very big impact on breathing technique.
Herbs that can be used to promote lymph flow include:
Dry brushing, moisturizing, exfoliation and massage are other techniques which can be included to support lymph flow.
Dry skin brushing using a natural bristle brush in a circular motion directionally towards the heart will help with the flow of lymph, circulatory and immune. Hot and cold shower after dry brushing is recommended.
Moisturizing and exfoliating the skin using personal care products without the nasties made from more natural ingredients such as olive oil, avocado or coconut oil provides gently stimulation.
Lymphatic massage is a gentle and relaxing massage using upward strokes towards the heart.
Laugher is considered one of the best medicines. In the case for lymphatic health, some research has found that laughter can promote lymphatic health by strengthening cardiovascular functions, reducing stress hormones, oxygenating the body, boosting immune functions and endorphins and create a generalized sense of well-being. This is a perfect excuse to get together with loved ones and have a good time.
Detoxification is a natural process by which environmental and dietary toxins are changed into less harmful substances and then eliminated from the body. Effective detoxification occurs when the key elimination channels such the kidney, liver and colon are working efficiently. Detoxification can be an effective way to improve your overall wellbeing, increase energy and reduce digestive complaints such as bad breath, bloating and constipation.
The information provided is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing any health concerns, please consult your doctor for advice.
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