A complicated network of fluid-filled nodes, vessels, glands and organs that touches almost every part of the body, the main function of your lymphatic system is to cleanse the body of toxins and remove waste. In addition, by working directly with the cardiovascular system, it also adds extra leukocytes and lymphocytes to the blood to help protect against harmful invaders and defend against infections. When the lymph is working well, we stay healthy; when we’re ill, it helps us recover more quickly.
Unlike blood which loops through the body, enabled by the heart, lymph only flows in one direction via its own propulsion system however, just as blood is always circulating throughout the body, lymph is continuously being moved, albeit comparatively slowly, out of the tissues, toward the heart by muscle motion, pressure and one-way valves.
Tackling toxins that are introduced to the body from both external means (food, air, personal-care products) as well as internal ones (damaged proteins and cellular/metabolic waste) the lymphatic system acts like a drainage system, carrying our body’s waste away from the tissues and into the bloodstream, making it a key detoxification pathway.
Imagine this system as if it were a network of highways reaching out to every part of the body. Now imagine an excess of traffic on one of those highways, with massive delays, excess pollution and a high risk of accidents. If your lymphatic circulation slows or stagnates, toxins will accumulate and immune cells won’t be delivered to the areas of the body where they’re needed, leading to impaired immunity and disease.
Signs your lymphatic system may need some assistance include headaches, sluggishness, inflammation, poor digestion, mucus build-up, general stiffness, the development of cellulite, edema (fluid retention) and fatty deposits. Other, more severe symptoms of a sluggish lymphatic flow may manifest as chronic sinusitis; swollen glands, ankles and eyes; eczema; arthritis; consistent upper respiratory, sinus and ear infections; throat problems; colds; tonsillitis and bronchitis.
Encouraging the movement of lymph (and blood in underlying organs and tissues of the body) will help to clear any built-up toxins; the good news is, that keeping your lymph moving doesn’t take much:
Stay Hydrated – Lymph is about 95% water, without adequate water, lymphatic fluid can’t flow properly. Water, and only water, can adequately re-hydrate the body, so stay hydrated by drinking half your weight in ounces of water a day.
Do Yoga – simple inversions such as placing the legs up against a wall, help to drain the lymph towards the heart, escalating the rate in which it’s cleaned and filtered; the practice of twisting the abdomen, in which the organs and muscles are squeezed, forces lymph out of the tissues, whilst the natural dynamic flow of a yoga workout causes the muscles in the body to contract and relax – the primary way lymph moves through the body.
Eat Healthy – avoid processed, sugary and foods high in oils which can all be clogging to the body; include plenty of citrus fruits – which possess powerful enzymes, along with Vitamin C, that support the body and keep digestion flowing – and sunflower and pumpkin seeds which provide healthy fats to lubricate the body and promote lymph flow.