When I was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in August of 2013, I barely knew what a lymph node was. I had heard of them and knew there were a couple on either side of my throat where my head meets my neck that got a bit swollen when I had a cold, but that was about it. Since several of my lymph nodes were very swollen and had cancer cells rapidly growing in them, I began to learn more about how vitally important this system is in the body.
So as my last blog post for February being Cancer Prevention Month (read the past 4 posts for other important info to lower your risk of cancer), I thought we’d revisit the sometimes sluggish, sometimes flowing Lymphatic System.
Did you know that your tonsils are actually lymph nodes? And did you know there are hundreds of lymph nodes all over your body connected to a system whose main job is to collect toxins and deliver them to be processed and eliminated? According to livescience.com, not only is the lymphatic system the body’s plumbing that carries away and filters out toxins, waste and unwanted materials from every cell, tissue and organ, it also absorbs fats and fat-soluble vitamins from the digestive tract and delivers them to the cells of the body.
The lymphatic system is an essential part of the immune system by maintaining fluid levels, fighting infection and producing disease fighting white blood cells. That last bit is how it can help you lower your risk of cancer. Anything that helps the immune system produce those cancer fighting white blood cells is worth paying attention to. Not only that but we want to remove any toxins we may have absorbed from our bodies as quickly as possible, right?
But, unlike the circulatory system which has the heart to pump blood through the body, and the respiratory system which has the lungs to pump oxygen, the lymphatic system has no pump and needs our help to move the lymph fluid through the body.
Here are a few ways you can keep your lymph system happy and pumping, helping it clear out the toxins we all encounter on a daily basis:
The Lymph System depends on large muscle groups to move the lymphatic fluid throughout the body. Walking is a good choice as is bouncing on a mini trampoline called a Rebounder, which uses gravity to get the lymph moving.
Not drinking enough water can cause the lymph fluid to become thicker and sluggish and may cause congestion. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
3. Deep Breathing
Deep diaphragmic breathing, the kind where your belly moves in and out, actually helps move the lymph through the chest. Try doing this for 5-10 minutes a day.
4. Practice Yoga
The focused breathing in yoga is great for the lymphatic system, as are the stretches and poses, particularly the inverted poses where your feet are above your head, helping pump the fluid from the extremities with the assistance of gravity.
5. Far Infrared Sauna
I love using the sauna I got for my birthday a couple of years ago particularly because far infrared saunas have been shown to help the lymph system by activating circulation, sweating and the excretion of toxins. Many wellness facilities now have far infrared saunas people can use.
6. Dry Brushing
Brushing your skin with light pressure in circular motions, starting at your feet and moving up toward your heart, then from your hands in to your chest, is great stimulation for the lymphatic system which sits just below the skin. Follow with a shower for best results.
7. Avoid Toxins in Your Skincare
Your skin is your largest organ and what goes on the skin goes into your body, into the lymph and adds to the toxin load. Avoid products that include synthetic preservatives, fragrances, foaming agents, and other harmful synthetic chemicals. Instead, purchase cosmetics and skin care products that use safe, plant-based organic ingredients. I recommend Neal’s Yard Remedies Organics.
Taking care of the Lymphatic System is extremely important and can make the difference in keeping your immune system strong and you staying healthy. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. Just an awareness and daily practice can make all the difference.