Strep throat was running rampant in my elementary school when I was in first grade which motivated my Mom to organize a weekly throat swabbing program. It became obvious that some children were “carriers” and were mostly asymptomatic except for swollen lymph nodes. That was my introduction to the importance of a healthy lymph system. Swollen lymph nodes in the neck definitely signaled some kind of infection. Thankfully, the strep epidemic was eradicated by the efforts of my Mom and her volunteer team.
Every two years or so, our beautiful, eighty year old, magnolia tree loves to put her roots into our drain pipe causing a restriction in flow, resulting in a plumber’s visit. It’s a little like our lymphatic system, blockages can occur as we age, by not drinking enough water and a decrease in physical activity. The lymphatic system is our body’s “sewage system”, it maintains fluid levels in our body tissues by removing all fluids that leak out of our blood vessels. The lymphatic system is important for the optimal functioning of our immune responses.
In fifth grade our class trained for the President’s Physical Fitness test, the allure of those uncompromising fitness standards loomed large in my ten year old mind. I was mediocre at rope climbing but I could run that mile in eight minutes and I was very flexible so the v-sit was super easy. I have my patch to this day, it is a barometer of my childhood health. Most of the activities that I participated in were exercise based. I swam, skied, skated, took Ballet, roller skated, and rode my bike or walked everywhere. I have continued to enjoy exercising not just for fun but for longevity and to maintain a healthy lymphatic system.
Trampolines were always a big part of gym class and YMCA summer camp. I took a diving class in college and we practiced the flips on a trampoline. Rebounders became popular when I was living in Hawaii, I would listen to records and jump on my mini trampoline. Little did I know that I was moving my lymphatic fluid and improving my immune system. Jumping, walking, stretching, yoga, Pilates, and other moderate exercises done on a daily basis will really improve the state of your lymph.
Any kind of exercise is good for lymphatic drainage. Most of the time, though, people don’t get adequate full body exercise that engages all the muscles. That’s why whole body vibration plate exercises can make a difference. A vibration plate increases lymphatic draining by improving circulation. The vibrations of the platform create small muscular contractions which cause lymph nodes to wake up and do the work they are meant to do, especially in the aging body where lymph health is even more vital to overall health.
Unlike the heart pumping blood, the lymphatic system has no pump and only circulates by movement. The muscle movement pumps lymph through lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes to collect harmful molecules such as viruses and toxins. Lymph nodes are small, bean shaped structures that are found throughout the body and are usually located in groups.
Start treating your lymphatic system better by avoiding toxins, chemicals, and processed foods. Adding water, cranberry, nuts and seeds (especially chia), garlic, ginger, turmeric, seaweed, and citrus will help remove foreign waste and dangerous microorganisms. Goldenseal, Echinacea, and Astragalus are three herbs that alleviate inflammation and congestion of the lymph nodes and vessels. Studies have shown that ashwagandha can improve your immune response, giving your body a stronger defense system. I switched to organic adaptogen coffee by Four Sigmatic about a year ago, I will never go back to regular coffee. This coffee has ashwagandha, chaga mushrooms and tulsi for an energy boost and focus, without the jitters.
In Ayurveda, dry brushing involves gently exfoliating dry skin with a soft or stiff bristle brush, working from the extremities in toward the core. Dry brushing can potentially stimulate the nerve endings in the skin, making you feel refreshed. Dry brushing gets your lymphatic system moving as it is located right below your skin.
A daily, manual lymphatic drainage massage is the quickest way to cleanse your lymphatic system. Using the index and middle fingers of each hand on either side of your neck, just below the earlobe, stretch the skin by gently sliding the fingers down toward the shoulders, then release. Place your hands on your collarbone and make half circles down your chest to your underarms. Continue by massaging your legs, paying special attention to the area behind your knees. Stroke upward and down through the ankles and feet.
A hot then cold shower is also beneficial to your health, as is infrared therapy. All of these lifestyle changes and habits support long term health.