Helping the The Lymphatic System - Andrew Baird
The lymphatic system is part of the circulatory system and an important part of the immune system. It comprises of a network of lymphatic vessels that carry a clear fluid called lymph which is mostly water. There is no pump to move the lymph like the heart moves the blood. The lymph moves by exercise, movement and electromagnetic energy. The lymph carries the waste products of the body to the liver, the colon, the lungs, the kidneys, the bladder and the skin. Most of the lymph in your body surrounds the gut. It is likely that stagnation of normal lymph flow is a major factor in the buildup of plaque in the arteries. If the lymphatic system is uniquely susceptible to stress then it might explain why stress is the underlying cause of heart attacks. The lymphatic system is greatly underappreciated for its role in elimination of wastes from the body.
All body organs have deep lymphatic drainage. Lymphostasis can occur anywhere in the deep system, leading to serious problems. Exercises, outside pressure and deep breathing can all help but sometimes something else is needed to reach the deeper areas. The large groups of lymph nodes located in the inguinal region (the groin) are involved in both superficial and the major underlying deep drainage. Some afferent lymphatic vessels drain to the deep inguinal nodes from the external iliac lymph glands, others feed back up into the lower abdominal tracts. They are very important structures involved in both leg and abdominal drainage. If these major lower abdominal areas are congested, drainage in all other parts of the body will be affected - White R D. Anatomy of the deep lymphatic system.
The major secondary problem in many diseases and particularly hair loss and cellulite is removing the waste. The first problem being what you put into the system as air, fluid, foods, thoughts and exercise. Many of the herbs which are known to help hair loss are also lymph tonics. These include saw palmetto, he shou wu, goldenseal, sarsaparilla, nettles and astragalus. Others that would help are bladderwrack, burdock, clivers, gotu kola, pygeum bark, red root, cranberries, chickweed and red clover. Astringent foods and herbs would also help move lymph. Castor oil is known to help the lymph. Peppermint and rosemary oils also help circulation and will help lymph nodes to drain. All these oils are also associated with hair regrowth. Other spices that help without an obvious hair connection are garlic, non cassia cinnamon, ground cloves, juniper berries, turmeric and ginger.
The lymphatic system is involved in antigen trafficking. This means that vaccine injections pass through the lymphatic system and the secondary lymphoid tissues are responsible for the immune response. If we continue to increase vaccine schedules then this could be placing a toxic burden on our most important detoxification system and leading to autoimmune diseases that originate in the lymphatic system and organs. Autoimmunity might begin in the lymph, the lymph nodes or the thymus (a lymphatic organ). Now do you realise why helping clear the lymph is so important ?
What are the major things that would help the lymph ?
1. Water. Ensure proper hydration as the lymph is mostly comprised of water. Where there has been drinking of alcohol, tea and coffee then it might be helpful to drink 2 litres a day for a month and then reduce depending on how much fruits and vegetables are being consumed. There could be up to a litre a day in fruits and vegetables being consumed. Lemon juice in the water might help support a more alkaline environment if the tendency has been to eat mostly acid forming foods like flour and meat. Sipping warm water throughout the day is one of the best things you can do for the lymph. It's not so easy to do though.
2. Sleep. The glymphatic system works to remove toxins and proteins from the brain and presumably the head. The glymphatic system is active at night when we are asleep. It's best to sleep on your left hand side with a very low pillow. The left side of the body is the dominant lymphatic side. It helps to filter more waste that way. The digestion also works better this way too. Drainage back to the spleen is also helped. The spleen is the largest lymphatic organ in the body and interacts with the kidneys.
3. Lifting. Lifting weights is one of the best things we can do. Raising arms above the head (as long as no cardiovascular risks). Start cautiously and use light weights about 5 kilograms or simply raise arms slowly at first. Lifting knees up to waist high while standing also helps. An alternative is rebounding on a trampoline.
4. Dry brushing. Dry brush before showering. Brush up from the feet towards the chest. A light pressure is all that's required and there is no need to scratch the skin.
5. Hot and cold showers. Hot showers will tend to expand the lymph and the cold showers will tend to contract it facilitating movement of the lymph. Hot and cold showers might increase sweating. Drinking more water will help filter the sweating.
6. Fruits and vegetables high in fibre will help the digestive system and take the pressure off the kidneys and spleen. Reducing alcohol and taking liver stimulating foods and herbs such as fermented beetroot juice, dandelion leaves, globe artichokes, asparagus and burdock root will also help the liver detoxification pathways. Citrus fruits are good detoxifying foods. Berries, particularly cranberries, are very good cleansers of the body. Green vegetables high in chlorophyll and other nutrients are good at removing toxins from the body. Astringent herbs like clivers, nettles, raspberry leaves, rosemary, witch hazel (topically) and yarrow help contract blood vessels and mucous membranes. Antimicrobial herbs will help clear out bacteria and there are many examples such as liquorice, cinnamon, clove, marjoram and thuja.
7. Breathing deeply helps the lymphatic system. Breathe into the abdomen where the lymph tends to congregate. Breathing also reduces stress which is a major factor in lymphatic health. Better posture aids better breathing.
8. Exercise. Walking, sports with jumping involved, swimming and yoga are all helpful to get the lymph moving. Lying semi supine and bringing the knees up to the chest and doing squats would be particularly helpful single exercises. Another technique is to rest with your legs up a wall. This does have a risk of exacerbating lower back issues. There is also inversion chair therapy where you are effectively turned upside down but with more support. A chi machine can provide a means of oscillating the body in a figure of eight in a sideways movement that helps circulation and massages the lymph. There is also an infrared foot massager to use at the same time.
9. Sweating. The skin is the largest organ in the body and intimately tied in with assisting the kidneys. A weekly sauna or steam bath can help the skin detoxify. Using an onion to induce tears may have a benefit for some conditions. Using additional clothes to increase sweating may also help along with the hot and cold showers. Diaphoretic herbs like cayenne, ginger and garlic help to increase perspiration and can help reduce temperature too. A pinch of salt might be needed as part of rehydration if it's being lost through sweating.
10. Incidentals. Wear looser underwear. Use less antiperspirants and deodorants to allow natural sweating. A small amount of omega 3 rich fatty acids from pumpkin seeds, hemps seeds, sunflower seeds and fish helps lymph flow. Fats help absorption of flavonoids which help veins and capillaries thereby improving microcirculation and lymph drainage. Seaweed and algae high in iodine, magnesium, calcium and chlorophyll all help lymph flow by cleaning up toxins.
11. Silica. Silica appears to be high in lymph and reduces swelling. Horsetail is high in silica and is a good herb for the lymph. Nettles are also high in silica. Both of these are good for the hair which is high in silica. Silica prevents kidney stones so again improving detoxification by the lymph. Silica fortifies blood vessels thereby helping the interaction with the lymph system.
12. Magnesium chloride. Magnesium chloride massages of the feet and legs will help the lymph and the relaxation of the muscles and vascular system will help the interaction with the lymphatic system.
What are the things that are bad for us ?
1. Sitting is reputed to be worse than smoking. It may be because it results in the lymph moving less. Shifting positions and lifting the arms might be helpful while working. Sitting cross legged might be one of the worst things to do.
2. The lymphatic system is uniquely susceptible to stress. The bulk of the lymphatic system is surrounding the digestive system and stress tends to affect our abdominal muscles the most as our breathing gets shallower. Stress in the shoulders and the head moving forward as part of sitting at a computer or using a mobile phone will tend to constrict the lymphatic drainage which finally happens in the chest. Work on posture, head, neck and shoulder massage and then lymphatic drainage will help the brain and the head.
3. Processed dairy, gluten grains and other mucous forming foods which have an acidic effect on the body and increase mucous will tend to slow down the lymphatic system.
How can we get to the deeper lymphatic system ?
1. Far-infrared saunas are beneficial for their ability to penetrate tissue. Heating the body and allowing a much deeper sweat. Lymphatic massage is then much easier to accomplish when you are more relaxed.
2. Strong sunshine can be felt deeper in the body. Perhaps, this also helps our deeper lymph.
3. Quartz crystal tools have been used for deep lymphatic therapy particularly in Australia.
4. Reiki, homeopathy and other techniques might help here.
I am basically saying to consider the lymphatic system as part of any problem you have and to facilitate better flow in each of the ways that might be appropriate. More obvious reasons to consult a lymphatic massage practitioner might be sinusitis, skin problems, post surgery swelling, swollen lymph nodes, cellulite issues, autoimmune issues, headaches and repeating colds and infections. There's Manual Lymphatic Drainage practitioners practising with a technique developed by Dr Vodder, the Leduc Method or Complete Decongestive Therapy by Professors Foeldi. Dr Chickly developed Lymph Drainage Therapy in the USA. There's also Complex Lymphatic Therapy using the Casley-Smith method for lymphedema. There's also other practitioners in Lymphatic Drainage Massage and Deep Lymphatic Therapy (pioneered in Australia).
Think of getting to the root of a problem by changing the inputs and then think of improving the elimination of the waste products through the lymph pathway.
- Andrew Baird.