Liven up your lymph
Do you suffer from aches and pains, feel constantly tired and seem to pick up every cough and cold in sight? This could mean your lymphatic system is functioning below par. Here’s how to give yours a boost.
What is it?
The lymphatic system is a whole network in itself. The circulatory system (also known as the cardiovascular system) uses the heart to pump oxygenated blood around the body in enclosed blood vessels (arteries). This is known as a closed system. But the lymphatic system works differently. It is an open system, with no active pump, and relies solely on movement to circulate lymph fluid around the body; fighting infection, cleansing the body by eliminating waste and helping with the absorption of nutrients. However, the two systems do work together (more on this later).
How does it work?
Firstly, it is a vital part of the immune system. All bacteria and viruses that enter our body make their way into the lymph. This clear fluid then transports these foreign toxins to the lymph nodes (small glands that act like a filter). Here, the immune system kicks in to attack any perceived threats. The lymph nodes respond by producing lymphocytes; a type of white blood cell that fights infection.
The lymphatic system is also an integral part of the inner drainage system, keeping bodily fluids in balance and helping to control water retention. Lymph contains nutrients to feed and clean the body’s cells. As the circulatory system pumps blood around the body, the pressure forces the lymph into the spaces around the cells to cleanse and feed them with nutrients. Once this job is complete, the ‘dirty’ lymph returns to the blood via the lymph vessels.
These small vessels, which merge together and increase in size, connect the lymph nodes together. They are made of smooth muscle that contract to help move the lymph back up towards the heart. This is where the lymphatic system really needs your help. When your skeletal muscles move, they squeeze the vessels and keep the lymph flowing. The vessels also contain valves to stop the fluid travelling in the wrong direction. This is a very similar process used within the circulatory system to pump deoxygenated blood back to the heart through the veins (another form of blood vessel).
In addition to the lymph vessels and nodes, the lymphatic system also includes other organs; each with their own role to help fight infection as bacteria and viruses enter your body. These are adenoids (in the roof of the mouth), tonsils (in the throat), the thymus (in the chest) and the spleen (in the abdomen).
How do you know if yours is struggling?
These are some of the main symptoms:
- Constant tiredness
- Muscle aches and pains
- Sore throats and frequent colds
- Repeat infections
- Swelling in ankles and legs
- Fibromyalgia symptoms (widespread pain and extreme fatigue)
Kath’s tips on keeping your lymphatic system healthy
A healthy lymphatic system will really help with your immune, which is vital at this time of year.
- Exercise – The lymphatic system cannot function well without your movement, so exercise is essential. If you have a desk job, try not to sit still for too long and build exercise into your routine. Find something that suits you, whether it’s yoga or high intensity workouts, just make sure you move!
- Rebounding – Rebounding is a low-impact exercise that takes place on a mini-trampoline. It’s highly beneficial, and just 15 minutes of jumping a day will give your lymphatic system a real boost.
- Stay hydrated – Drink at least 2 litres of water a day to keep your lymph flowing. I always know when I’m feeling dehydrated, especially when I’m working in the clinic which is lovely and warm, as my ankles start to feel tight and heavy. This is a sure sign to increase my intake.
- Dry brushing – Using a natural bristle brush with a long handle, brush all over your body using gentle strokes towards your heart. Try and do this at least once a week to stimulate the lymphatic system.
- Kinesiology – This has a wonderful effect. When an imbalance is found via muscle testing, working on the lymphatic system is one of my fixes. If you come and see me, you’ll know I’m using this method when I firmly rub areas that can feel very sore. These are reflex points (not to be confused with lymph nodes) that stimulate lymph flow to particular areas of the body that need nourishing and cleansing.
Be proactive and book an appointment to see me. Kinesiology is preventative and incredibly effective in helping to keep problems at bay. It can also give your lymphatic system a kick start if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above.