Latest posts by Jessica Peatross, MD (see all)
Let’s talk about the sewer system of your body. Yes! Do you know about the amazing lymphatic system? Really, it is too important not to teach people before society’s toxic, consumerist products overwhelm this important detoxification system.
I’m always preaching about the gut and how 80% of our immune cells are contained there. They’re contained in GALT, or Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissue – from our tonsils and adenoids in the throat to our immune cells packed in the colon, the gut is the store house of the lymphatic system. Lymphocytes or white blood cells that are part of the lymphatic system are also stored and made in the thymus behind the heart, the spleen, appendix, bone marrow and lymph nodes scattered throughout the body. See how important mouth to colon health is? Why would the body put nearly our entire immune system throughout the GI tract if exposure to food wasn’t so vital?
What is the lymphatic system’s role? It is the sewer system of the body. The body pumps 90% blood and returns it to the heart. The other 10% is what is known as lymph and has no pump to return it to lymphatic channels for disposal. All viruses, bacteria, toxins, Cancer cells, and chemicals are passed through the lymph where the body is alerted if a foreign particle needs to be removed. Just think about it! Every Cancer diagnosis comes with a lymph node biopsy. Why? The lymphatics are the leftover blood which covers every organ daily. If it isn’t moving properly (like in most Americans), then toxins/cancers cannot be emptied into lymphatic ducts which eventually lead to the detoxification methods in the liver/kidneys/bowels. These toxins fester in the system, are not recognized by the immune system in the lymph but are still slowly exposed to organs where they “seed” that organ and cause metastasis. This is how Cancer spreads. This is why every diagnosis comes with a lymph node biopsy and it’s BAD news if Cancer is located there. It’s been carried all over the body and western medicine now initiates poisonous chemotherapy due to systemic spread. This explains why it is absolutely necessary to keep the lymph system moving and healthy so it can alert the immune cells there’s a problem, swiftly move lymph to the liver for detox and colon for removal.
The lymphatic system is exposed to a myriad of toxins daily including cigarette smoke, pollution, exhausts, prescription pill ingredients, food additives/chemicals, and pesticides. On top of that most of us eat improperly so we are lacking nutrients that serve as fuel. Symptoms of sluggish lymph flow include:
- Swollen fingers or bloating
- AM Soreness/stiffness
- Exhaustion or high levels of fatigue
- Discoloration of legs
- Breast swelling or soreness with each cycle
- Dry or itchy skin
- Brain fog
- Cold hands/feet/poor circulation
Here’s an easy list to kick the the lymphatic system into gear, incorporated from Ayurvedic science:
1. Exercise! What pumps lymph? The lymph system doesn’t have a heart. Movement of muscles stimulate valves in the veins which help to churn lymph upwards towards the heart. Anything that creates moments of zero gravity also help move lymph (think trampolines or roller coasters)!
2. Inversions also pull lymph towards the heart from the lower extremities! What do you get when you add exercise+inversions. YOGA! Yoga is the cornerstone in Ayurvedic science as it is believed that mental health and stillness is inherently tied into physical wellness. I believe this ancient science is onto something!
2. Positive and negative pressure from deep, diaphragmatic breathing is a huge way to move lymph towards lymphatic channels. Our bodies have far more lymph than blood. Pranayama breathing in yoga (constructing the back of the throat to create a texture when breathing) as well as slow, deep breaths throughout the day help to filter lymph and move it properly. Again, yoga. 🙂
3. Diet is huge as usual. Make sure you’re eliminating boxed or processed food. Avoid GMO or pesticides. Eat whole food like our ancestors ate and accentuate a plant based diet. Eat with the seasons. For example, stick with warm food in the winter and cooling foods in summer heat.
The lymph literally becomes thickened like gravy once the toxin load reaches its threshold. Eat raw fruit alone on an empty stomach. In Ayurveda, it’s known for its lymph-cleansing properties. Remember it’s far easier to prevent disease than to cure it later.
4. Dry brush in the morning. Use a natural bristle brush and brush towards the heart where the lymphatic duct is located. Lymph drains in this direction. Brush upwards in a circular motion on the legs and arms towards the heart.
5. Drink lots of lukewarm water. Ditch the sugary drinks and sweets as this adds to sluggish lymph. Water lubricates the lymph and lets it flow easier. Cold water can actually hinder digestion. Make sure you have a fluoride filter.
6. Massages, preferably gentle, stimulate the majority of stagnant lymph up to the heart. Stress can also play a role in poor lymph flow and massages can aid with this too. There are even lymph specific massages!
7. Low iodine has also been reported to be a sign of improper lymph flow. Lugol’s iodine helps to support toxin removal from lymph. Try 2-3 drops a day in your organic tea. If you have a thyroid condition, contact your healthcare provider first.
8. Eat red foods like pomegranates, cherries, beets & cranberries! All have lymph stimulating qualities and are used in Ayurveda to cleanse the system.
Treat your body with love. It is your temple and a healthy physical body is one of the keys to mental and spiritual health.