The key to improving your body's immune function is to nourish your lymphatic system. Sometimes referred to as the body's secondary circulatory system, the lymphatic system carries away toxins and waste from the body's tissues. The lymphatic system is made up of lymph vessels, lymph nodes, tonsils, spleen, and the thymus gland, and it helps regulate tissue pressure, immune functions, and fat absorption in the intestine. If your lymphatic system is not healthy, toxins can build up and result in lower immune function. Here are 5 tips to help you care for your lymphatic system.
1. Eat potassium-rich foods.
Your lymphatic system thrives on potassium-rich foods. Dark leafy greens, broccoli, bananas, and seafood, like wild salmon, are some excellent choices to consider.
2. Reduce toxins.
Additives and preservatives cause swelling and fluid retention. One such additive, monosodium glutamate, better known as MSG, is often disguised among other ingredients and can have degenerative and deadly effects on the brain and nervous system. Watch out for hydrolyzed anything, autolyzed anything, natural flavor, seasonings and spices, commercial soup or sauce bases, bouillon, broth and stock, gelatin, and even aluminum cookware. All these can introduce toxins to your body that cause your lymphatic system to work overtime. The best way to avoid these is to simply get back to the basics and use all-natural, unprocessed ingredients in your cooking.
It is no secret that exercise is good for you, but did you know that even light exercise can benefit the circulation of both your blood and lymph? Your lymphatic system relies on muscle movements to keep lymph moving through its vessels. Even light exercise such as standing calf raises or a walk around the neighborhood will stretch and contract your muscles, triggering circulatory function. Deep breathing, which is often recommended as a technique for stress relief and boosting blood circulation, will also help release toxins and increase lymphatic circulation.
4. Skin brushing.
Dry skin brushing increases blood and lymph circulation and boosts organ function by stimulating sweat glands and opening pores. It also softens skin and improves the complexion. On dry skin, before bathing, brush with a natural bristle brush gently over the skin. Start with your extremities and work your way to the center of your body, avoiding your face, always moving in the direction of the heart.
5. Lymphatic massage.
This therapeutic massage technique, also known as lymphatic drainage, uses gentle kneading motions to stimulate muscles and in effect, lymphatic vessels and flow. Just as with skin brushing, the motion should always be towards the heart (lymph openings). You can do this yourself or ask your naturopathic doctor about arranging for this therapy.
Lymphatic Drainage Massage
Lymphatic drainage massage was developed to treat fluid accumulation in the body. However, the modern quality of air, water, and food can cause a build-up of waste products even in a healthy body. This can result in low energy, fatigue, and mood swings. Lymphatic massage can help by increasing the system's ability to remove toxins. Even if you are generally healthy, the DIY version of this technique may offer you benefits.
Begin by gently massaging skin that tops the lymph nodes around your neck, ears, and throat, working the skin along the path of the lymphatic system to help stimulate drainage, then move on to the abdomen and the legs. Starting at the neck will help clear the way for lymph to pump to the lymph nodes as you work on the abdomen and legs. A gentle touch is important and always massage towards the heart. Another option is to hire a professional with training in lymphatic drainage massage.
Because of the delicate nature of the lymphatic system, it is important to work with a professional if you will be using it for a pre-existing condition. To find a skilled therapist, visit the National Lymphedema Network website and be sure to consult your naturopathic doctor to decide if this is right for you.
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