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The lymphatic system is one of two major circulatory systems in the body. Its primary job is to move immune cells and dead cellular debris through the body to where it can be removed or reused. A poorly functioning lymphatic system is a risk factor for the development of cancer and other chronic diseases.
While most of modern science and the allopathic medical community have spent their time researching the blood vascular system, the lymphatic system is gaining its deserved attention from the holistic community. Today, much of the 21st century research is diving deeper into understanding lymphatic system function and its dynamic role with the health of the human body.
What is the Lymphatic System?
What little you may have heard about the lymphatic system is that it is comparable to drains. When there is a clog in any of the pipes at home you may experience an odor from the sink basin. This is where a buildup of particles such as hair and food become a breeding ground for bacteria. You regularly maintain your pipes in order to avoid a clog, but you should be paying far greater attention to your lymphatic system in doing the same.
A congested lymphatic system can lead to serious illnesses and chronic diseases which stem from a weakened immune system. A clog in your lymphatic “drains” can lead to the accumulation of toxins which the body initially tries to remove. Perhaps your symptoms of body rigidity, headaches, bloating, skin concerns, and cold extremities are actually a result of a sluggish lymphatic system that needs improving.
Detoxification Strategies to Improve Lymphatic System Function
1. Actively Reduce Stress
The following techniques may improve the flow of lymph fluid through your body by limiting both mental and physical stress on your lymphatic system:
- Good posture
- Stretching regularly
- Deep breathing exercises
- Yoga and pilates
All excellent strategies to relieve anxiety and support immune function, such practices relieve congestion and stimulate the removal of pathogens from your body.
Exercise may possibly be one of the most effective and easiest ways for you to improve your lymphatic system function. Exercising increases the oxygen supply to tissues and cells and stimulates blood circulation. When the body does not regularly move, toxins remain in muscle. A condition known as hypoxia in which there is a lack of oxygen to an area of the body leaves the door open for the invasion and metastasis of cancer.
A fun way to exercise is by bouncing on a mini trampoline (called a rebounder) which is often used in sports therapy to help athletes heal from injuries. This low impact exercise is called rebounding. As the body moves against gravity, the lymphatic system is stimulated to pull lymph fluid carrying toxins through the vessels and circulate.
3. Chiropractic Care
The obstruction of any anatomical structure on the thoracic cavity or upper chest region can prevent the final dumping of toxins from the lymphatic system for cleansing. The rib cage works as a major lymphatic pump which is critical for lymphatic circulation. Correcting anatomical abnormalities or displacement from everyday activities helps to promote pressure within the thoracic region which also assists to oxygenate cells.
Herbs are a great source which we can utilize to detoxify the lymphatic system and remove toxins. Some of the most popular herbal treatments to help the lymphatic system heal include the following:
Essential Oils: Traditional practices have used essential oils to help the body heal for centuries. The PDQ (Physician Data Query) Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine Editorial Board reports that essential oils stimulate healing through neuroimmunomodulation. The use of essential oils strengthens the cancer patient’s immune system by relieving anxiety and stress and improving one’s emotional response.
Milk Thistle: Milk thistle is a strong detoxification agent known to cleanse the gastrointestinal tract, liver, and kidneys, and to promote a healthy thyroid. Use milk thistle to help fight inflammation in your body to support a healthy immune system.
Essiac Tea: This herbal treatment may be recommended to patients newly diagnosed with cancer. Essiac tea detoxifies and works to heal the immune system.
Manjistha: Manjistha tea is associated with purifying the liver and blood and can help improve menstrual and skin problems while strengthening the immune system.
Perspiration is one of the mechanisms by which the human body eliminates toxins. Although exercise can promote perspiration, infrared saunas offer a method to circulate toxins out of organs and muscle for the removal through our pores. Infrared saunas use a non-invasive therapy which is a great alternative for those who cannot participate in vigorous activity to detoxify the body. (Note: The use of saunas is not recommended for those who have had numerous lymph nodes removed as it can increase the risk of lymphedema.)
6. Dry Brushing
Dry brushing aids the removal of toxins that have built up on our skin. Dry brushing involves using a coarse brush to gently be moved along the skin in the direction of the heart. This technique boosts lymph flow by stimulating sweat glands and supporting circulation below the skin.
7. Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Consuming a healthy diet rich in antioxidants and full of healthy fats is critical to support a healthy immune system, especially as we age. Pathogenic agents cannot thrive in alkaline environments which makes eating fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy cell-supporting fats absolutely necessary. Red foods are some of the best anti-inflammatory foods you can consume such as:
- Cranberries, raspberries, and cherries
- Vegetables, especially beets
- Manjistha, also known as “red root”
Lymphatic vessels exist at the site of the intestines and are easily susceptible to destruction from unhealthy diets. Maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal tract helps to ensure not only immune system healing but it also decreases your risk of developing obesity and cardiovascular disease.
The lymphatic system is primarily composed of water and must be hydrated to function at the highest level. Drinking purified and mineralized water and water with antioxidant extracts such as lemon water is an excellent detoxification strategy to push toxins from the body.
Dr. John Douillard recommends a lymphatic rehydrating technique which involves sipping warm water every 15 minutes throughout the day for 2 consecutive weeks. This procedure is believed to stimulate the lymphatic system to flow fluidly and relieve congestion and symptoms of a sluggish immune system.
Massage therapy improves immune function and can relieve symptoms of chronic fatigue and pain. Massage techniques such as connective tissue massage promote the flow and drainage of lymph through the body. Patients having been diagnosed with cancer and those receiving a second diagnosis can greatly benefit from massage therapy.
10. Avoid Tight Fitting Garments
Avoid tight fitting garments such as underwire bras to prevent any unnecessary restriction on lymphatic vessels. Lymph nodes are highly concentrated around the chest region to drain fluid from breasts, arms, and the chest. Do not constrict the lymphatic flow.
Supporting Your Lymphatic System When Healing From Cancer
It is critical for individuals with cancer to boost the health of the lymphatic system and detoxify regularly. Removing toxins and supporting lymphatic flow have been shown to decrease the reoccurrence of cancer. One in 5 individuals who have received treatment for breast cancer will be affected by lymphedema later in life. Will you incorporate these detoxification strategies into your daily lifestyle to improve your lymphatic system today?
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Editor’s Note: This article was initially published in January 2016 and was updated in May 2021.
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A poorly functioning lymphatic system is a risk factor for the development of cancer and other chronic diseases.
The following detoxification strategies can help you improve your lymphatic system function:
1. Actively Reduce Stress
3. Chiropractic Care
4. Herbs – including Essential Oils, Milk Thistle, Essiac Tea, and Manjistha
6. Dry Brushing
7. Anti-Inflammatory Diet
10. Avoid Tight-Fitting Garments
It is critical for individuals with cancer to boost the health of the lymphatic system and detoxify regularly. Removing toxins and supporting lymphatic flow have been shown to decrease the reoccurrence of cancer.