We all know that a lack of exercising, too much overeating and a lot of time spent as a “couch potato” is not conducive to good health. When we do get the motivation to get fit and healthy, we often focus on the health of the heart and lungs as well as, the strength of our muscles. Nearly all of us won’t take into consideration the health of our lymphatic system. In fact, this vital system must be carefully maintained.
The lymphatic system is essentially our body’s sewage system to eliminate cellular toxins and provide antigens to purify liquids which may contain threats, like allergens or cancer cells, to the body. The fluid which does this is called ‘lymph’ and while there is more of this fluid in your body than there is blood, there is no pump to help keep it flowing. If this lymphatic fluid is not eliminated from the ducts into the kidneys and liver, just like a sewer line, it backs up.
Guess what happens from here? Anything which gets clogged never produces positive results and backed up lymph fluid can lead to infection. When this happens you might think to yourself “I have swollen glands”. Sound familiar?
Your lymphatic system is made up of glands, lymph nodes, the spleen, thymus gland and tonsils. When it carries your body’s toxic cells away from important tissues and the blood, it sends it to the liver and kidneys. From here, all of these toxins are released into the intestines where they become eliminated through urine and/or a bowel movement.
The toxic cells, or sewage, which builds up in your body and results in a sluggish lymphatic system is a result of several different attributes which include medications, alcohol, cigarettes, air pollutants, harsh chemicals, processed foods, pesticides and other by-products leftover from our bodies processes. Two other issues which some experts associate an unhealthy lymphatic system to are stress and chronic digestive imbalances.
The former, stress, is said to be a leading cause of illness and disease with approximately 80% of disorders resulting from too much stress. Chronic digestive imbalances such as constipation or diarrhea are caused by irritation in the intestinal walls. Both of these are commonly caused by lymph congestion and because a large portion of lymph surrounds the gut, it is crucial that the fluid flows properly.
If your lymph is congested, you are more prone to cellulite, fat deposits and obesity. You may also experience fatigue, aches and pains, bloating, digestive problems, have a lot of mucus buildup in the morning or often become sick.
More importantly, before reaching the kidney and liver, the lymph fluid must be released through the thoracic ducts which are on either side of your spine, just between your shoulders and back. If you often feel pressure, stiffness or pain in these areas, you may have lymphatic congestion. This congestion could also cause these ducts to swell leading to pressure on nerves which cause the arm and/or hands to ‘fall asleep’; it’s important to note that this feeling can arise even when you’re sleeping.
Another sign of an unhealthy lymphatic system is headaches which start as the pressure in the back of the neck and lead to a sensation that the top of your head, or your sinuses, have a lot of pressure on them.
By disregarding the health of your lymphatic system, you could experience more serious health issues such as a suppressed immune system, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome and cancer.
A healthy lymph system is one of the most important, but overlooked elements of health and wellness. It is very important to take the health of your lymphatic system seriously and practice various activities which will help it to stay in tip-top shape.
Massage will stimulate your body’s lymph nodes and promote fluid movement in the vessels. It is very important that after a massage, you drink plenty of water.
Yoga is great to get the body moving and will encourage the lymph fluid to join in the movement. Different asanas in yoga will also promote pressure on specific points of the body which act as a self-given lymph massage.
Regular exercise such as, running, swimming, cycling or even jump roping are all great activities to keep the lymphatic system healthy and happy.
Because the lymphatic system has no organ to pump the fluid around your body, it relies on deep breathing to help it to transport the toxins to the liver and kidneys. Fitness activities and Pranayama breathing exercises, which are a part of yoga, are great to get your breathing going.
The enzymes and acids naturally found in fruits are very powerful lymph cleansers. By eating, or drinking, raw fruits on an empty stomach, your digestive system will become activated and encourage your lymphatic system to get busy.
Try to consume natural foods that contain vitamins, minerals and healthy fats which promote a healthy lymphatic system. These include leafy greens, flaxseed oil, walnuts, avocados, spirulina and coconut milk, oil and meat.
Without plenty of pure water, your lymph fluid will not be able to flow right. Not to mention that once the toxins are being processed by your liver and kidneys, you’ll need to be hydrated to help with proper elimination of them.
A once or twice a year detox will help your body to flush out all of the toxins which have built up from pollutants and unhealthy habits. A regular detox will reduce the number of toxins circulating in your body and in turn, put less strain on your lymph system.