One of the most invisible networks in our body is the lymphatic system. Although the lymphatic system may not often be in the spotlight, it is indeed crucial. It performs essential functions for our immune system and facilitates the removal of waste materials from all our tissues.
The lymphatic system is present throughout the body and is connected to the circulatory system. Unlike blood vessels, however, the lymphatic vessels do not have their own pumping system: lymph moves through the body due to muscle contractions. Consequently, blockages can easily occur in our lymphatic vessels, resulting in impaired waste removal, among other things.
There is reason enough to pay more attention to the lymphatic network in our body. What does it consist of, how does it work, and how can we take good care of it to maintain its optimal functioning? Find out in this article.
How does the lymphatic system work?
The lymphatic system consists of a vast network of vessels and capillaries, as well as hundreds of nodes, also known as lymph nodes. It was previously believed that lymph was produced in the lymph nodes, but that is not the case. Instead, they serve as storage sites for white blood cells, functioning as an alarm system for the body’s defense. When the lymph passing through the nodes contains pathogens, the white blood cells (lymphocytes) can be activated and start multiplying. This temporary increase in activity causes the lymph nodes to swell, resulting in the familiar painful nodules.
The body contains over 10 liters of interstitial fluid, which is absorbed and transported by the lymphatic system. This fluid within our body is constantly in motion, allowing waste products from cells to be transported and eliminated. Thus, a proper flow within the lymphatic system is vital for the natural detoxification of our body.
Can the lymphatic system become congested?
While blood in our body is pumped by the heart and arteries, the lymphatic system does not have such a pumping mechanism. The only way lymph is transported throughout our body is through the movement of the body itself. It is easy to imagine that in many individuals in the modern world, the lymphatic system does not function optimally. Extended periods of inactivity are unfortunately characteristic of our society, resulting in stagnation within the lymphatic vessels. As a consequence, the immune system may not function as effectively, and the flow of waste materials can be hindered.
Reduced functioning of the lymphatic system has been associated with conditions such as osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, multiple sclerosis, and other autoimmune diseases. When lymphatic circulation is compromised, it can lead to deterioration in kidney function and overall health . Impaired lymphatic system function can go unnoticed for a long time before it starts to contribute as an underlying factor to various health issues .
Supporting the Lymphatic System
What can you do to keep your lymph nodes and lymphatic system in optimal condition for detoxification? Here are a few tips:
1. Stay active
As mentioned earlier, physical activity is the only way to keep lymph flowing in your body and maintain cellular detoxification. So, keep moving! Find small moments throughout the day to take short walks. If you have a sedentary job, even rotating your spine, shoulders, or lifting your arms a few times can help. Scientific studies have shown that weight training, yoga, pilates, and qi gong have a reducing effect on lymph accumulation associated with breast cancer  .
Massage is another effective way to stimulate lymphatic flow and support detoxification in the body. For example, scientific research has found that lymphatic drainage massage is a successful treatment for intestinal blockage .
There are specialized lymph drainage massage techniques, but any form of massage is likely to be beneficial. Preferably massage from the extremities toward the abdomen and heart. You can also practice self-massage!
3. Dry brushing
Take a firm brush and move it over your skin from your toes to your abdomen and from your fingers to your heart. Do this for ten minutes a day before showering to promote lymphatic flow. This technique originates from Chinese medicine and is also taught in Ayurveda.
4. Drink enough water
Lymph mainly consists of water. To keep it flowing smoothly, it’s essential to stay hydrated and drink at least 1.5 liters of water per day.
5. Cold and hot showers
Warm water expands blood vessels, while cold water causes them to constrict. This alternating movement helps get the lymph flowing. The stimulation of the skin by the water jets also contributes to this.
6. Breathe in… Breathe out…
As mentioned earlier, the lymphatic system does not have its own pump to circulate lymph throughout the body. Taking deep breaths creates subtle movement throughout your entire body, encouraging lymph flow and facilitating the removal of toxins through your liver and kidneys.
7. Avoid burdensome substances
In our society, we are exposed to various toxins through air, water, and food pollution, among other things. Since the lymphatic system is part of your body’s natural detoxification system, you can prevent it from becoming overloaded by limiting toxin intake.
Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption are good starting points. Eating organic food can make a significant difference by reducing exposure to chemical pesticides. Additionally, consider the impact of candles, fireplaces, and incense, which can cause indoor air pollution. To support your immune system, you may also consider a detox program.
The lymphatic system plays a vital role in the healthy functioning of your body. For optimal detoxification, it’s important to keep lymph circulating in your body and prevent overloading your lymph nodes. Staying active, drinking enough water, and avoiding toxins are helpful in maintaining your body’s well-being. And if you need an extra excuse, consider treating yourself to a weekly (or more)!