The lymphatic system has roles in supporting fluid balance, regulating immune function, and returning fluids and proteins back to into circulation to maintain fluid levels. It can be seen as a second circulatory system as it acts similarly to the movement of blood throughout the body.
It is made up of lymphoid organs including the thymus, spleen, bone marrow and tonsils. These organs are connected to a network of lymphatic vessels which connect to your lymph nodes. Lymphatic vessels carry the water cleared from spaces within the body, as a fluid known as lymph. Lymph nodes are where this lymph fluid passes through, allowing bacteria and harmful substances to be taken up by the node and destroyed by the immune system.
The lymphatic system also supports in draining fluids from tissues, the transport of fats around the body and supporting the function of our immune system.
How to support your Lymphatic system…
Increasing your lymphatic flow can improve the overall function of your lymphatic system and contribute to a state of wellness. Healthy function of the lymphatic system allows the removal of wastes, improves fluid balance, reduces limb oedema, and supports a parasympathetic nervous system response which enables rest and digest functions rather than “fight-or-flight” responses. Some ways to increase lymphatic flow are:
- Fast walking, running, dance, pilates, and any other form of movement
- External compression from compression wear
- Try out this simple exercise to assist in draining your lymphatic ducts. Place the base of your right palm on your left sternum and slide your hand to the left- you will feel a dip. Push with the base of your palm here, as well as gently pressing this palm with your left hand. It may feel like a bruise- but this is assisting the drainage of the main thoracic lymphatic duct and is a good place to begin your lymphatic massage as everything drains back to this duct.
- Massage: gentle rhythmic massage can encourage the flow of lymph. Ensure you breathe deeply to enhance lymphatic flow and assist in moving the fluid.
- Maintaining a healthy weight via following a healthy, balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise
- Avoiding food allergens and intolerances which can increase inflammation and immune system activation
- Reducing stress levels – consider including meditation, journalling, exercise, creative activities and counselling support to assist in reducing your stress levels.
- Dry skin brushing- purchasing a dry skin brush or gua sha can be a great tool to support your lymphatic flow. Use upward strokes toward the heart and gentle pressure so that you stimulate but do not scratch the skin. Start from your feet, and move up your body in circular, clockwise motions. Follow with a shower and a moisturising lotion.
Please note: The above techniques are not recommended during an active infection, fever, or illness.
When out of balance…
If the lymphatic system is not functioning optimally, we may experience:
- A build of fluid in the wrong spaces leading to oedema, which is the swelling of limbs
- A stagnant lymphatic system results in the lymph not flowing well which can increase the risk of obtaining infections and the functioning of the immune system is compromised
- The build of bodily wastes
- Poor wound healing and skin infections
- Enlarged, tender lymph nodes in the neck, groin, and armpits.
- Aching limbs and weakness
If you feel like your lymphatic system may be out of balance or you’re looking to support your overall health try out the above dietary and lifestyle recommendations. If you’re wanting some extra support, naturopaths have a range of herbs and nutrients available to assist. Book a consult today!