Warmer weather is (hopefully) around the corner, so it's time to talk about getting the body systems flowing again after Winter hibernation. Specifically, I want to address lymph drainage, and how you can support your lymphatic system to better detoxify and circulate lymph through the body.
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels that is part of the immune system. It assists the circulatory system in draining fluids from tissues. Specifically, it drains fluid lymph) that has leaked from the blood vessels into the tissues, and reroutes it back into the bloodstream via the lymph nodes. This important system helps manage fluid levels in the body, protects the body from invading pathogens and removes cellular waste.
These are my tips to keep a healthy flowing lymphatic system;
Dry brushing is a great technique to help the lymphatic system process fluids. The key is to use a body brush that is big enough to give you access to your whole body. You can start at your lower legs and do strokes upwards towards your groin and then move to your arms and stroke the skin towards the armpits. The point is to use strokes on the skin that promote flow to where the largest amount of lymph nodes are in the body - groin, armpits and neck. This can be done daily and has beneficial effects specifically with regards to reducing swelling and cellulite.
Having a regular massage (bi-weekly or monthly) can help the tissues of the body move and dispel fluid back to the lymphatic system. Massage techniques work in the pattern of physically pushing stagnation in the tissues towards the trunk and the most prominent lymph nodes. This is especially beneficial when muscles are sore due to fluid stagnation.
Support the Liver
The liver is responsible for filtering the blood in the body. The better it is at doing that job, the less burden it puts on the lymphatic system. This is why folks with liver dysfunction usually suffer from swelling, as the lymphatic system struggles to support the overload. My favourite herbs to support healthy liver function are Milk Thistle, Chelidonium, Dandelion and Globe Artichoke. These can be found in tincture form, but most easily in capsule form in my favourite supplement - Liv Complex by Seroyal.
Staying hydrated is extremely important for a proper functioning circulatory system and lymphatic system. We all know that 8 glasses of water per day is the general recommendation, but it can be so much more than that depending on activity levels. The American Council on Exercise recommends drinking 7 to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise, so this would mean one would need to consume an extra 3-6 glasses of water, per 1 hour of exercise, per day. Be sure to watch symptoms of thirst and dark urine, which are the signs that you need to hydrate immediately.
I am wishing you all happiness and healthy flowing systems this spring!
Dr. Kate Hunter, ND