Imagine a crystal clear, gently flowing glacial river. The water is pure, oxygenated, and free-flowing from its pristine mountain source as it travels down through floral valleys filled with butterflies, birds, and baby animals. Now imagine a brown, stagnate pond that smells like decaying algae and muck where only Nature’s decomposers dwell. The sparkling river is your lymphatic system when it is healthy. The stagnant pond is your lymphatic system when it is clogged up.
Lymphatic drainage is key to keeping your lymphatic system free-flowing and healthy like that glacial river. The good news is, there are easy, at-home lymphatic drainage techniques you can employ to support lymph flow.
The Role of the Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system helps the body remove natural waste, i.e. cellular waste, damaged proteins, environmental toxins, and pathogenic invaders. It is a vast network of vessels, nodes, fluid (lymph), and organs (spleen and thymus) that work as part of your broader immune system. The lymphatic system produces white blood cells known as lymphocytes (T and B cells) that travel through the lymphatic system on a mission to defend the body against unwanted guests, such as bacteria, viruses, foreign particles. This action of deploying T and B cells is part of the adaptive immune response. When any part of the lymphatic system becomes blocked or sluggish, disease and dysfunction can abound in the body.
The lymphatic system is also responsible for draining excess fluids and proteins from your tissues and depositing them back into the bloodstream as well as absorbing fat and fat-soluble vitamins from the digestive system and transferring them into the bloodstream. As concisely stated by Medical News Today, “loss of the lymphatic system would be fatal within a day.”
Symptoms of Poor Lymphatic Drainage
Toxin overload—we are exposed to hundreds of environmental toxins daily—physical stagnation, poor diet, chronic stress, dehydration, and an irregular sleep cycle can all contribute to damning your lymphatic river.
Common systems of a blocked lymphatic system, which leads to a clogged immune system include:
- Brain fog
- Chronic fatigue
- Cold hands and feet
- Digestive issues
- Dry skin
- Enlarged lymph nodes (we have 600 of them)
- Excess weight
- Frequent colds and flu
- Infections (sinus, ear, etc.)
- Respiratory problems
6 DIY Lymphatic Drainage Techniques
The key to a healthy lymphatic system is to replace stagnation with flow.
Deep diaphragmatic breathing supports the flow of lymph fluid. Unlike the heart in the circulatory system, the lymphatic system does not have a pump to push lymphatic fluid into the bloodstream. It depends on muscle and joint activity to keep things flowing. The largest lymphatic vessel is the thoracic duct, and its primary pump power source comes from belly breathing. Supporting your lymphatic system’s flow is just one of many benefits of mindful breathwork.
Alternating between hot and cold water exposure can improve circulation and lymphatic drainage. The repeated cycle of vasoconstriction from cold water and vasodilation from hot water not only stimulates lymph flow and immune cells but can also boost your mood, increase your energy, and reduce pain and inflammation in the body.
While contrast hydrotherapy is offered in many spas, this practice is easy to do at home. Simply alternate between one to two minutes of cold and one to two minutes of hot water in the shower. Repeat at least two complete rounds.
Dry brushing is a simple self-care practice that helps boost circulation, promote lymphatic flow, remove dead skin cells, release toxins, and add a radiant glow to your skin. Typically, this enjoyable practice takes three to five minutes to complete and is done in the morning before taking a shower.
A lymphatic massage is not a deep tissue massage. It is a gentle massage focused on the fluid just below your skin and right above your muscle bed. The massage points are centered around the lymph nodes in your neck, collarbone, armpits, abdomen, and the top of your thighs. This type of massage also helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, where healing occurs.
It should be noted that a self-lymphatic massage is not recommended for individuals with congestive heart failure, a history of blood clots or stroke, a current infection, or liver or kidney problems.
Rebounding, or in other words, bouncing on a mini trampoline, is an easy (and fun) way to improve your lymphatic flow. The up and down movement increases lymphatic drainage. In fact, most vigorous movement will support better lymph flow. Remember, the lymphatic system doesn’t have its own pump, so flow relies on movement.
Here’s how to do it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxbOrd5175o
Hevert Spagyrics (Detox Kit)
As explained in this IM article, “the Hevert Detox kit consists of homeopathic medical plant extracts designed to enhance the function of our excretory pathways. It gently supports innate detoxification mechanisms. These combination medicines target the lymphatic, hepatic, gastrointestinal, and urinary excretion systems to promote the elimination of toxins. It retrains the organs of elimination to resume optimal function.” Within the kit, there is a specific solution for lymphatic dysregulation.
A Healthy Lifestyle Supports a Healthy Lymphatic System
Aside from keeping your body moving (avoiding stagnation), other lifestyle factors greatly affect your lymphatic system function. This includes eating a clean fruit and vegetable-rich diet, managing your stress levels, exercising regularly, staying hydrated, keeping to a regular sleep cycle, and reducing your exposure to environmental toxins when possible (from your water, food, household, and cosmetic products, electronic devices, etc.). In short, healthy lifestyle practices support healthy lymphatic function, which in turn supports an overall healthy, whole body.
Disclaimer: The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products or treatments mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult a licensed medical practitioner for medical advice.
At Innovative Medicine, we believe in transparency. We want you to know that we may participate in affiliate advertising programs pertaining to products mentioned herein.
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