Why Lymph Health Really Matters
Recently, we’ve seen a bunch of hype over the lymph system and lymph “massage.” We’re here to help you understand the “why” behind all of the hype along with some helpful tips on what your lymph system needs to stay in tip-top shape.
First off, what the heck is the lymph system anyway?
Your lymph system is a network of lymph nodes, vessels, and fluid that are VITAL in keeping you healthy. It’s literally the only job it has. Here are some important things to know:
- Lymph nodes are scattered throughout your body but are more highly concentrated in certain areas like your neck, under the armpits, the groin, abdomen, and behind the knees.
- The lymph vessels are like a complex highway, carrying lymph fluid to and from the lymph nodes. These nearly mirror placement of the vessels within the vascular system as well, which can help with movement. As the heart pumps blood, the pulsing blood vessels and arteries can inadvertently stimulate lymph movement.
- Lymph fluid, called interstitial fluid (ISF) within the lymph vessels is made up of water, protein, and fat.
- ISF carries toxins, bacteria, virus’, cancer cells, and other waste from the body towards the heart/thoracic duct to be excreted as waste.
- There are one-way valves throughout the lymph vessels that only open and close in one direction, preventing backflow and keeping the fluid moving towards the heart for excretion from the body.
- If the valves are closed, the lymph fluid along with all of the cancer cells and toxins stay put (aside from the small amount of facilitation it gets from the cardiovascular pump).
- When lymph fluid is moved, it forces the valves to open and then will create a chain reaction. Fluid pushes through one set of valves, forcing more fluid to move.
- Once movement is facilitated, it can be active, draining, and moving for up to 24 hours.
- MOVEMENT is key.
***Fun fact: Believe it or not, we ALL have cancer cells in our bodies at all times. Without the lymph system, those cells would never leave the body. YIKES..
Okay, so now that you have a general idea of how it works, let’s talk about what happens when it becomes a problematic lymphatic system:
- Fluid stays put which means all that should be transported OUT is also staying put.
- Sluggish digestion.
- Nasal congestion.
- Cancer cells have an opportunity to grow within the tissues of the body because they can’t get into the ISF to begin with.
- Compromised immune system
- Skin becomes congested, causing acne, skin hardening, and color changes.
- Pain and/or swelling in the breasts and underarms
- Exhaustion and fatigue
What causes the lymph system to slow down?
Things like chronic stress, shallow breathing, lack of exercise, and too many toxins can keep your lymph from performing its best.
A few simple practices can keep things flowing smoothly to support lymph health:
- Dry brushing
Before a shower, try taking a coarse bristled brush and gently brushing the surface of your skin. You’ll only need very gentle pressure. Start with some deep breathing, gently massage the lymph nodes before you work on each limb, and then work your way in segments, brushing toward the nodes to stimulate movement. Dry brushing daily can be a game changer for your lymphatic health! Here’s a video tutorial.
- Manual Lymphatic Drainage
This massage is done with very light touch, stretching the skin and targeting the lymph nodes, to help the lymph move and drain. Manual lymphatic drainage is a great way to treat yourself and boost your immune system – book at Arukah Wellness here.
Exercise is an excellent strategy to get your lymph moving; it also provides a ton of other mood-boosting and health benefits. Even a gentle walk or a few minutes of yoga will keep your lymphatic system going strong. Remember, your lymph system doesn’t have its own pump so it relies on you to move it along. A sedentary lifestyle is your lymph system’s worst nightmare.
- Legs Up the Wall
A calming inverted yoga pose, “Legs Up the Wall” helps your lymphatic system drain the opposite way that it has been flowing all day. Lay flat on the ground, with your behind up against a wall and put your legs upward, with the soles of the feet facing the ceiling. You can even alternate bending one leg at a time to facilitate a bit more movement. Try this daily before bed!
Girlfriend. MOVE. Move like you’ve never moved before. Go on a walk, swim, bike ride. Have sex. Lots of sex. 😉 Deep breath every single day. Learn how to manage your stress, get some sleep.
If you only take away ONE thing from this, it should be the desire to MOVE YOUR BODY. 30 minutes of dedicated movement each day will change your life!!