Lymphatic system works constantly to keep your system clean and healthy.
Lymphatic system helps the lymph function optimised by carrying body’s cellular waste away from the tissues to the blood, where it can be filtered by the liver and kidneys; body’s main detoxification organ. This cellular waste is made up of by products of cellular metabolism, certain proteins and hormones, pathogens, microbes, drugs and other toxins.
Lymphatic system is made up of glands, lymph ducts, nodes, and vessels, the spleen, thymus gland and tonsils.
When the fluid in your lymphatic system becomes thick and stagnant with toxins overload, your muscles don’t get the required amount of blood, your tissues feel painful and tight, and you feel tired, fatigued and the energy levels drop.
A sluggish lymphatic flow may lead to a host of diseases ranging from cellulite to cancer…
2. Skin rash
3. Chronic pain
4. Swollen glands
5. Chronic sinusitis
6. Bronchitis, pneumonia
7. Abdominal fat (belly fat)
8. Acid reflux or indigestion
9. Fluid retention or swelling (edema)
10. Recurrent infections due to impaired immunity
11. Bloating and puffiness throughout the body (especially in the abdomen, face and under eye area)
Other, more serious, symptoms can also occur…
3. Chronic Fatigue
4. High cholesterol
5. High blood pressure
Why lymphatic system is so important?
1. Removes pathogens. Lymphatic system helps move and remove pathogens, tumor cells and toxins (sodium, byproducts of cellular respiration) from the body and the blood.
2. Filters the Blood. Spleen (part of lymphatic system) removes old and dead red blood cells and replaces with the new cells.
3. Fights infection. The lymphatic system enhances immunity by producing white blood cells (called lymphocytes) and antigen presenting cells that produce antibodies that are helpful in immune responses that defend the body against diseases.
4. Absorbs fats. Lymphatic system absorbs and transports fats and fatty acids as chylomicrons and fat-soluble vitamins from the gut and delivers these nutrients to the working cells of the body.
5. Weight loss and management. Supporting your lymphatic system can assist in losing weight and gaining muscle tone more easily.
Anatomy of Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system consists of a fluid (lymph), lymphatic vessels that transport lymph and organs that contain lymphoid tissue.
- The colorless or yellow fluid, lymph is similar in composition to blood plasma.
- When the interstitial fluid enters the lymphatic capillaries, it is called lymph.
- It contains undigested proteins, salts, glucose, water white blood cells and cellular debris.
- As the interstitial fluid begins to accumulate between the cells, it is picked up and removed by tiny lymphatic vessels.
2. Lymphatic Vessels
- The tiny lymphatic vessels are called the lymphatic capillaries.
- Lymph capillaries remove interstitial fluid and drain it into vessels called lymphatic vessels.
- Small lymphatic vessels merge to form larger tributaries called lymphatic trunks.
- Lymphatic trunks join until the lymph enters the two lymphatic ducts- right and left.
- The two ducts then enter the subclavian veins near your collarbone and becomes part of venous blood.
3. Lymph nodes
- Lymph nodes also trap and destroy metastatic cancer cells.
- Lymph nodes filter the lymph before it enters the venous circulation.
- There are about 600-700 lymph nodes present in the average human body.
- The lymph nodes are small pockets interspersed along the lymphatic system.
- Lymph nodes counteract infection by engulfing and removing any bacteria and foreign substances
- Once a particular pathogen is identified, lymph nodes create specific antibodies to get rid of them with the help of antigen-presenting cells.
- Lymph nodes are particularly numerous in chest, neck, pelvis, armpits, groin and abdomen and in association with the blood vessels of the intestines.
Nutritional and lifestyle guidelines keep your lymphatic system clear and unimpeded.
A lymphatic system cleanse diet is no guarantee to cleanse the system of lymphatic sluggishness but it surely can help improve the immunity and overall health. The nutritional and lifestyle guidelines…
1. Check your weight.
Obesity can cause pathological changes in the lymphatic system. Experimental studies in animal models have shown that obesity results in progressive lymphatic dysfunction that result in edema, lymphatic vessel leakage, and impaired immune cell trafficking.
A study in PLoS One, 2013 has suggested that diet induced obesity has negative effects on lymph transport and lymph node architecture.
2. Avoid acrylamide.
Acrylamide is considered a probable human carcinogen by international agency for research on cancer in 1994. Presence of acrylamide has been detected in several food items like starchy fried food such as French fries, potato chips and roasted barley tea.
Cigarette smoking causes a threefold increase in blood acrylamide level than any other dietary factor.
A 2012 study in PLos One was the first epidemiological study published that investigated the associations between dietary acrylamide intake and the risk of several types of lymphatic tumors.
3. Avoid processed foods.
Try to eliminate processed foods containing simple sugars or fructose, or foods containing artificial flavors from your diet.
As these foods contains large amount of high fructose corn syrup (a type of added sugar), which can overload liver with function impeding toxins.
The fewer toxins your lymphatic system has to filter, the more easily in will flow in your body.
4. Reduce intake of red meat, shellfish and hydrogenated fats.
Both red meat and shellfish are difficult to digest and can easily hamper your lymph flow, as per natural health practitioners.
A 2014 study has revealed an association between consumption of red meat and lymphatic cancer. The potential reason behind red meat’s cancer-causing effects is the excess amounts of a sugar called Neu5Gc.
Scientists discovered the presence of Neu5Gc in different types of food such as beef, pork, lamb, and bison.
While red meat may trigger the harmful immune reaction leading to cancer, scientists maintain that red meat—in moderate amounts (about 2.5 ounces/day)—is a good source of nutrition.
If you do want to consume animal based protein, go for organic meats. Hydrogenated fats can get oxidized easily and can lead to clogging of the lymphatic system.
5. Foods To cleanse your lymph system.
A healthy and balanced diet produces fewer toxins in your body and reduces the chances of a clogged lymphatic flow.
Foods to cleanse your lymph system…
- Brazil nuts
- Flaxseed oil
- Flax or chia seeds
- Fruits, especially cranberries has been seen to augment lymphatic flow
- Vegetables, especially green leafy veggies (because of their chlorophyll content) can help lymphatic system, bowels and kidneys to get rid of harmful toxins.
These food items are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and other beneficial phytonutrients, which assist lymphatic flow. Add organic fruits, vegetables, and fresh juices to your diet as they contain powerful enzymes that can cleanse lymph.
Foods to avoid…
- Added sugar
- Refined grains
- Artificial sweeteners
- Highly processed foods
6. Hydrate well.
Your body needs pure, filtered water to allow your lymph fluid to drain and flush out any toxins. Inadequate hydration hampers the filtering process of lymphatic system as the lymphatic system is primarily composed of water.
Inadequate hydration can cause water retention and thickening of fatty tissues, called cellulite.
According to The Institute of Medicine, daily intake of water for men should be 13 cups (or 3 liters) and for women it should be 9 cups (or 2. litres).
7. Try herbs.
Many herbs have proven to be effective in improving health of lymphatic system, whether in their ability to increase lymphatic flow or in expediting the clearance and drainage of toxic substances.
1. Red clover a popular herb helps to detoxify lymphatic flow and reduces inflammation.
2. Manjistha is primarily utilized for its ability to de-stagnate lymph flow.
3. Cleavers, Also known as clivers or goose grass, has been used for centuries for its properties to stimulate and drain lymphatic system.
4. Bupleurum and rehmannia are herbal tonics used in traditional Chinese medicine and are known to treat various lymph related ailments.
5. Essential Oils. The Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine Editorial Board reports that essential oils stimulate lymphatic flow through neuro-immuno-modulation.
6. Milk Thistle. Milk thistle is a potent anti-inflammatory and detoxification agent known to cleanse the gastrointestinal tract, lymph, liver, and kidneys, and to promote a healthy thyroid.
8. Get tested for any allergies or dietary issues.
Be sure to get tested for any food allergies or sensitivities and avoid ALL allergens – even those that cause the mildest reactions.
Some individuals can tolerate small amounts of gluten, if consumed in moderation. But, in cases where the lymphatic function is compromised, it may be best to avoid these foods all together to prevent blockage in your lymph flow.
Remember, your body may consider that particular food you are allergic to as a foreign invader – and even a small portion – sets the immune response and inflammation into action and in turn, stresses your lymphatic system.
9. Be cautious of deodorants.
There are some legitimate reasons for not using commercially available deodorants. They impede lymph function.
Firstly most of them have hormone-disrupting chemical fragrances, which can absorb into the skin and disrupt the endocrine system. Secondly most deodorants contain propylene glycol –a carcinogen (cancer causing agent) that can block the skin pores.
But antiperspirant is even worse than fragrances and propylene glycol. This is because of its aluminum content.
In 2010, Researchers from the Department of Medicine at the University of California published a study, which showed a link between aluminum salts and neurotoxicity and Alzheimer’s disease.
Natural health practitioners believe that all of the above mentioned chemicals can clog up your lymphatic system. Instead, you should buy natural, organic and ayurvedic beauty products with limited to no chemical by products.
10. Stick to a regular exercise routine.
Unlike our circulatory system which uses the heart as a pump for circulating blood, our lymphatic system must rely on some intrinsic and extrinsic factors for lymph transportation.
Intrinsic mechanisms involve involuntary contraction of the smooth muscles that line the lymphatic vessels, extrinsic mechanisms involves muscle movement, pressure gradient created by breathing, and the pulsations of nearby arteries (Lane et al. 2005).
During steady-state exercise, lymph flow has been shown to increase to levels approximately 2- to 3-fold higher than at rest.
Walking, running, swimming, dancing with lots of up and down movements or rebounding are all great activities for enhancing lymph flow.
Try to perform 150 minutes total of moderate exercise in a week, i.e. about 30 minutes to one hour of exercise per day.
11. Manual lymphatic drainage.
Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is a specialized massage technique designed to decrease the sequestration and enhance transport of lymph. Specific stroke duration, orientation, pressure, and sequence characterize MLD.
From a physiologic perspective, manual lymphatic drainage stimulates the intrinsic contractility of the lymphatic vessels.
Manual lymphatic drainage reduces the protein concentration within the congested lymph nodes through massage techniques, such as stroking, percussion, or compression.
The massage is very light and superficial, limited to finger/ hand pressures of, ideally, approximately 30 to 45 mm hg.
12. Pneumatic compression.
The usage of intermittent pneumatic pumps has been the mainstay of lymphedema (Edema caused by impaired lymph flow) therapy. A variety of pumps are available.
pneumatic pumps may have single chamber or several compartments. Multiple-chamber pumps generally inflate from distal to proximal part of the limb, thereby producing a wave of pressure, which helps to move edema fluid with it. This allows the retained fluid to be brought to the proximal lymph vessels that might aid in its removal.
13. Dry skin brushing.
Dry skin brushing stimulates the connective tissues surrounding lymph capillaries just under the skin, which can boost lymph flow.
Take a dry brush with coarse bristles and brush the skin in long strokes towards the heart. This stimulates sweat glands, opens pores and gets rid of toxins through skin.
Dry skin brushing also encourages movement of blood in underlying organs and tissues, which helps to clear built-up toxins.
14. Practise yoga/yoga asana.
Yoga works in a number of ways to stimulate the flow of the lymph, relieving congestion and encouraging its detoxification.
Inversion postures such as handstands, headstands and shoulder stands, or just placing the legs up the wall, helps to drain the lymph towards the heart and enhancing the rate in which it’s cleaned and filtered.
Twisting postures such as “Twisting Chair” and “Seated Twist” help in removing out of toxins from the body. While practicing twisting postures of the abdomen, the organs and muscles are squeezed, forcing the lymph to flow towards heart.
Also, the natural dynamic flow through the yoga poses cause the muscles of the body to contract and relax, which escalates the rate at which lymph flows.
15. Breathing exercises.
Breathing exercises can help to improve your overall health, including health of your lymphatic system.
During inspiration, the pressure in your chest decreases and the pressure in your abdomen increase. This pressure gradient can pump lymphatic fluid upwards from your legs and suck lymph from your arms and head to get drained in the venous system.
Your lymphatic vessels have one way valves, so lymph once drained in venous blood cannot go in reverse.
16. Avoid tight fitting garments.
Avoid tight-fitting clothes and tight underwire bras as it can impede normal lymphatic flow. One of the largest groups of lymph nodes is located in the armpit and upper chest area, and these nodes drain the lymph from the breast, arm, and upper chest.
Some evidence suggests that over a period of time tight fitting bras can cause long-term impairment of the lymphatic function, and may contribute fibrocystic breast tissue, infected and swollen lymph nodes and even breast cancer.