A high-functioning lymphatic system is SUPER important for your health and vitality. Why?
Because your lymphatic system is your body’s built-in waste management center that filters out and carries away harmful waste products from every cell, tissue and organ in your body. It also absorbs fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) from your digestive tract and delivers them to your cells.
The lymphatic system is the largest circulatory system in your body consisting of lymphatic vessels, lymphocytes, lymph nodes, tonsils, adenoids, appendix, thymus, spleen and bone marrow. It’s an essential part of your immune functioning that maintains fluid levels, fights infection and produces disease-fighting white blood cells.
So what happens when your lymph fluid isn’t moving effectively?
Lymphatic congestion is a major factor that leads to dis-ease in the body. If lymph is not flowing well, your cells get polluted from their own waste and the lymph fluid becomes a dirty cesspool that results in symptoms like fatigue, inflammation, swelling, infections, headaches, brain fog, fluid backup in the ears, mucous, chronic pain, feelings of heaviness in the arms and legs, constipation, bloating, stiffness, inability to lose weight and more. That’s why we must keep that lymph moving!
But here’s the thing…
Your lymphatic system doesn’t include an automatic pump like your heart does to move blood through your body. You have to move your lymph fluid. YOU are the pump!
Here are 10 simple ways to make it happen and help turn your lymphatic system into a high-functioning rockstar:
1. Hydrate with pure, mineral-rich water:
Dehydration is a common cause of lymphatic congestion, because lymph becomes thicker and less mobile when you’re dehydrated. On the other hand, it flows well when you’re fully hydrated with pure plain water.
How do you stay adequately hydrated? A good rule of thumb is to take your bodyweight, divide it in half and that’s the minimum amount in ounces of water you should drink daily (example: 140 pounds / 2 = 70 ounces minimum per day). If you sweat a lot through exercise, sauna, or other sweat-inducing activity, you’ll need to compensate for the fluid loss by drinking even more.
You’ll also want to make sure your water has sufficient mineral content, so it can effectively enter and charge you cells. Spring water sourced from clean, natural springs is naturally rich in minerals. If you purify your tap water like I do using a reverse osmosis filtration system, the water gets cleaned but it also gets stripped of minerals. I remedy this by putting a pinch of Himalayan pink salt or sea salt into each serving of water I drink, along with a slice of lemon, lime or orange.
A good way to tell if you are adequately hydrated is the color of your urine – the goal is a very light pale yellow.
In addition to drinking enough pure water, another great lymph-moving hydration technique is to sip warm purified water with lemon or tea throughout the day. (We’ll get into specific teas later).
2. Dry brush your skin:
Dry brushing the skin on your body (from your feet to neck) is a very effective way to stimulate lymph movement. First, you’ll need to invest in a quality dry brush…preferably one that’s made from plant fibers instead of bristles made of animal hair or synthetic materials.
Then, you’ll gently brush your skin with long upward strokes toward the center of your chest, since the goal is to move the lymph into your circulatory system. You should apply enough pressure to feel that you’re stimulating movement under your skin, but not so much that you cause irritation.
Start at the top of your feet and then brush up to your knees. Then, brush from your knees to your thighs and up your glutes (AKA butt cheeks). Next, brush the front and back of your torso.
When it comes to your neck and upper chest, you’ll want to brush downward toward your heart (again the goal is to get the lymph into your circulatory system).
Lastly, hold one of your arms up overhead (like you’re raising your hand) and brush downward from the top of your hand all the way to your shoulder and into your armpit. Be sure to really sweep down through your armpit to stimulate the lymph nodes there. Repeat on the other arm.
You’ll want to go over each of these areas with several gentle strokes to make the dry brushing effective. I prefer to dry brush first thing in the morning right after drinking 32 ounces of water, since lymph gets stagnant when you’re sleeping.
You can certainly dry brush more than once a day. The only time I recommend NOT dry brushing is right before bed, since it can be very invigorating.
3. Jump on a rebounder
One of the best ways to get your lymph fluid pumping is by jumping on a trampoline/rebounder for 5-10 minutes a day. The bouncing motion works like a charm! Sure, you could jump rope or do other “bouncy” movements like going for a jog…but the beauty of a rebounder is it takes the impact off your joints. And it’s really fun!
There are several ways to rock a rebounder other than the standard jumping up and down motion. You could do a running motion with high knees. You could do jumping jacks, cross country ski motions and torso twists with your bounces. These fun variations make the time fly!
When weather permits, I like taking my mini-trampoline outside to get some fresh air and natural vitamin D along with my bounce time. Then when I’m done, I can put my bare feet in the grass to connect with the healing energy of nature (I love getting a lot done at once!).
Confession: I also jump rope for 100 reps a day using a cordless jump rope, because my body is accustomed to it and doesn’t hurt my joints. I have a lot more fun jumping on rebounder, though!
4. Drink lymph-activating herbal teas
There are herbal teas that step up lymphatic action when you drink them. These herbs include dandelion, cleavers, astragalus, red clover, calendula, red root, mullein, goldenseal and echinacea (also known as a powerful immune system builder).
The great thing about ingesting these herbs in tea form is that you’re increasing your hydration (water consumption) AND drinking warm liquid, both of which help to keep lymph moving. SCORE!!!
Be sure any tea you consume is high-quality and organic, so you aren’t ingesting a side of health-harming pesticides with your tea or tea bags that have been bleached. If you’re looking for a solid brand that’s fairly easy to find in stores, I highly recommend Traditional Medicinals.
NOTE: If you are pregnant, nursing or on medication, consult an herbalist or an informed doctor (like a naturopath) before drinking these teas.
5. Deep breathing
Even though your lymphatic system has no pump like the heart in your circulatory system, the act of deep breathing creates movement that is a lymphatic pump in itself. In fact, deep breathing is the most important facilitator of lymphatic function. But here’s the thing…
Constant shallow breathing can actually CONGEST the lymphatic system. Yikes! That’s why it’s so important to get in the habit of deep breathing. Here’s a simple method:
Breathe in slowly through your nose for 4 counts, allowing the air to go all the way down into your stomach until it pushes your stomach out. Then, release the breath through your mouth for 8 counts like you’re blowing out a candle. I like to put one hand on my chest and the other on my stomach to make sure I can feel the air fully entering and leaving my body as I deeply inhale and exhale.
If you aren’t already, start implementing a conscious deep breathing practice for at least 5 minutes a day and continuously check-in with your breath throughout the day. Whenever you catch yourself in the shallow-breathing mode outside of vigorous activity like exercise, go back to your deep breathing practice to embed the habit of fully allowing air to enter and exit your body. It’s one of the most important ways to keep your lymph moving to help build health in your body!
More good news…
Deep breathing also activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which shifts your body into a “rest, digest and repair” state. This is so important for managing stress and calming your mind & body…especially since many of us spend far too much time with our sympathetic nervous systems activated, which keeps us in a chronic “flight or fight” mode.
Plus, deep breathing improves blood pressure and digestion. SCORE!
TIP: Whenever possible, I like to lay down flat on my back with my feet up on a chair, wall, couch, etc. when doing my deep breathing practice. It helps me relax and get into the zone more easily than deep breathing while sitting, standing or walking.
6. Gua Sha facial massage
One of my favorite self-care practices also happens to be amazing for moving lymph from the face and neck area! It’s called a gua sha facial massage and is also great for improving blood flow, boosting skin’s elasticity and reducing wrinkles and fine lines.
It’s important to start any facial massage with clean skin that has been lightly covered in a pure face-friendly oil like rosehip, argan or jojoba to allow the gua sha tool to glide easily over the skin.
Click HERE to see a demo I made right after getting out of the shower to show you how to complete a gua sha facial massage on yourself. It’s really simple!
7. Use a balance ball as a bouncy chair
If you’re going to be sitting for an extended period of time, grab a large exercise ball (AKA stability or balance ball) and use it as a chair. You can lightly bounce up and down while sitting on the ball to move that lymph!
Plus, you’ll get some great work in your core and legs to keep your balance on the ball. It’s a health 2-for-1!
8. Stretch or do yoga
Stretching/yoga combined with deep breathing (tip 5) works phenomenally for moving lymph, while providing many other health benefits like activating your parasympathetic (relax and calm down) nervous system.
Stretching/yoga opens your body up and allows everything to flow with more ease. If you’ve never tried yoga before, you can find loads of free videos online to help get you started. Simply search “beginner yoga practice” and have fun trying some new stretches and flows!
9. Sweat in an infrared sauna
Far infrared saunas create light waves that penetrate deep into the human body, which elevates the body’s surface temperature to activate circulation, sweat and the excretion of toxins from lymph and blood through the skin.
The heat also increases your heart rate and encourages deeper breathing, which boosts the drainage process even further. This profound level of detoxification has loads of health benefits.
For example, research shows that using an infrared sauna 4 days a week for at least 19 minutes reduces your risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease by 60% and all-cause mortality by 40%. WOW!
More and more spas are incorporating infrared saunas into their service options. Or, you may have a gym/fitness club near you that includes infrared saunas in the health-focused tools they offer. A simple internet search should reveal any options in your area. The next time you want to treat yourself to a spa day or wellness service, I highly recommend going for an infrared sauna session.
I invested in an infrared sauna for my home (it lives in our basement), so I can use it 5-6 times a week for 25-30 minutes. A quality infrared sauna does come with a hefty price tag, but it’s one of the best investments I ever made…especially considering the top-rated Clearlight sauna I purchased comes with a lifetime warranty.
If you don’t have sauna services available near you and have no interest in purchasing one, you can take very warm Epsom salt baths to simulate a similar process. Just make sure the water is warm enough and you stay in long enough to produce a good amount of sweat. The epsom salt (which is pure magnesium) will help your body relax and facilitate deep breathing as you soak.
If you want to take things to the next level, take a super cold shower immediately after your sauna or bath sessions for 1-2 minutes. This will really ramp up your circulation and stimulation of your lymph.
10. Be mindful of constricting bras, underwear and clothing
This first 9 tips in this list are about helping lymph move. This 10th tip is about not constricting lymph movement with tight-fitting clothing, particularly bras and underwear.
Our breast, arm and upper chest areas are drained by a large cluster of lymph nodes found in our armpits. Underwire bras or any bra so tight it leaves red marks or indentations interferes with lymphatic circulation. This can contribute to swollen lymph nodes, fibrocystic breast tissue and even breast cancer.
For the fellas, tight pants and briefs restrict the flow of lymphatic fluid in the testicles. This can cause toxic buildup and lead to infertility issues and a greater chance of developing cancer.
Wearing shape ware and compression gear for extended periods of time can be problematic for lymph flow, too. So I highly recommend limiting your time or ditching them altogether (unless you have been instructed to use a compression garment for health reasons).
I wish I were brave enough to bounce around town bra-free, but I’m not quite there yet. I have, however, invested in less constricting bras free of underwires. And when I’m home without visitors, I go totally bra-free.
WALK REGULARLY: Another great way to keep that lymph moving is to walk as much as possible. The gentle up and down motion of walking is a great lymphatic pump! It’s also great for digestion, mood, heart health and building strength in your legs.
BE MINDFUL OF NOT PUTTING TOXINS INTO YOUR BODY: The less toxins your body has to deal with, the easier it is for all of your bodily functions to flow and operate more efficiently…including moving your lymph. Be mindful of:
- Eating mostly whole, organic foods. When eating processed foods, be sure you know every ingredient in them to avoid toxins.
- Use personal care and beauty products made with natural, nontoxic elements. (See my Shop page for recommendations.)
- Avoid cleaning your home with toxic chemicals, spraying toxic air fresheners, washing and drying your clothes with toxic detergents and dryer sheets, burning toxic candles and using dishes/cooking tools made with plastic, aluminum and toxic coatings that can leach into your system through your food and drink. (See my Shop page for recommendations on nontoxic options.)
Cheers to creating a high-functioning lymphatic system for optimal health!
With love and gratitude,
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