The Lymphatic System: An Important Part of Better Health
By Jacquelyn Dobrinska
What would happen if the drains in your house were perpetually clogged? The mess would be unbearable. Yet, oddly enough, many of us feel at home in a place whose pipes are similarly backed up: our bodies.
Working overtime and behind the scenes, trying to keep such a scenario from happening, is the lymphatic system, which plays a potent role in overall good health. If it gets stagnant, we end up feeling stiff, swollen, heavy, and lifeless.
The lymphatic system has been described as the garbage disposal of the body. While the cardiovascular system pumps blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the cells, the lymphatic system picks up the garbage—the toxins, debris, and even living infections eliminated by the cells—from the interstitial fluid. This fluid is carried away through channels and into a series of nodes. The lymph tissue, with its white blood cells, T-Cells and B-Cells, render viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens virtually harmless.
Lymph nodes in the neck and groin are most noticeable when they are swollen, a good sign that the lymphatic system is doing its job to fight infections. (If the lymph nodes are swollen for more than a week or two, however, they may need to be examined by a doctor.) Keep in mind, there are more than 500 nodes throughout the body, including in the gut where much of our immunity originates. If the lymphatic system has a heavy overload of toxins, and can’t clean up the interstitial fluid regularly, every system in the body can suffer. It would be like a city unable to collect its garbage. Every neighborhood would have a problem.
A congested lymphatic system would leave you feeling toxic and fatigued. Your abdomen might feel heavy, joints would feel painful, and feet, ankles, wrists, and hands might swell. Your mood would be affected and you might become prone to infections. If lymphatic drainage continues to be compromised, lymph fluid stores in the nodes. Bacteria, viruses (including cancer viruses), and other toxins might become too much for the body to handle.
Luckily, keeping the lymphatic system functioning properly doesn’t require a lot of effort. Here are a few simple tips to keep everything flowing smoothly.
Breathe deeply and move often
The lymphatic system relies on the rhythmical contraction of muscles during breathing and moving. Walking, jogging, and yoga can all move the lymph.
The lymphatic system needs to be well hydrated. This means drinking eight eight-ounce glasses of water per day. More if you exercise.
Speaking of drinking, limit your intake of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives found in many beverages. They overburden the cells, overloading the lymph.
Massage is a manual way to drain the lymph nodes. The therapist gently rubs, taps and moves the skin in the direction of proper flow.
Try gentle herbs
Cleavers (Galium aparine), wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria) or red root (Ceanothus fendleri) are all lymph movers.
Lastly, your diet has a big effect on your lymph. If cells are nourished with food that grows directly from the earth, are not heavily processed, and do not have a heavy pesticide load, the lymphatic system, will have less to eliminate.
This article contains general information about medical conditions and complementary treatment, and is not to be considered expert advice. Always consult your physician and other qualified healthcare provider before beginning any new treatment, diet, or fitness regimen. Jackie Dobrinska is a wellness coach and sees clients at A Simple Vibrant Life (asimplevibrantlife.com). You can reach her at email@example.com or by phone at 828.337.2737.