Now is the time to take steps to avoid the usual winter funk. One of the keys to staying healthy and well throughout winter is to make sure your lymphatic system is functioning at its best.
Sluggish lymph functioning is common in today’s society, but winter’s sedentary, indoor lifestyle tends to magnify the problem. The lymphatic system is responsible not just for immune functioning, it is also one of the body’s major detoxification systems. Many people have badly congested lymph flow, and don’t even know it. Sluggish lymph flow can create a toxic overload in the body, resulting in such symptoms as fatigue, allergies, poor digestion, low energy, weight gain, high blood pressure, headaches, and depression. Over the long run, impaired detoxification can also set the stage for many degenerative diseases and accelerated aging.
Follow these five simple steps to keep your lymphatic system (and you!) happy and healthy during the coming months.
1. Get Regular Massage
Regular massage rejuvenates bodily tissues by enhancing cell function and increasing cellular metabolism. Massage puts your body in trash pick-up mode by stimulating lymphatic flow. The pressure applied to the bodily tissues during a massage helps to move toxins that have become lodged in cells and tissues due to chronic tension, past trauma, or lack of use. Massage also boosts the body’s “natural killer cells,” the immune system’s first line of defense against invading illness.
2. Try Dry Brushing
Dry brushing promotes lymphatic flow, and helps move the lymph fluid back into circulatory system. It also stimulates hormone function, improves blood circulation, contributes to better muscle tone, and removes cellulite. It’s great for dry, aging skin, because it stimulates the sweat and oil glands.
Dry brush for a few minutes every day before you jump into the shower. Use a loofah or natural bristle brush (no synthetics). Brush lymph gland drainage sites such as armpits and inner thighs first: that is, brush your armpits before the arms, the inner thighs before the legs. Always stroke in the direction of the heart.
3. Jump for Health
Unlike the cardiovascular system, which has its own dedicated pump (the heart), the lymph system depends on the pumping action of breathing and on muscular movement to stimulate its flow. Without adequate movement, waste products accumulate in the cells. Rigorous exercise increases the rate of lymph flow as much as 14 times its normal rate.
To make physical activity fun, look for types of movement that you enjoy. Movement that engages both mind and body, such as dance, tends to be more satisfying than more repetitious forms of exercise.
You may also want to try rebounding on a mini-trampoline. If that seems just too 1980s, think again. In addition to being one of the best ways of increasing lymph flow, rebounding stimulates every organ in the body, strengthens the heart, improves circulation, and—get this—burns more calories than jogging. If you don’t want to bother with a mini-trampoline, you can also try one of those fun, big exercise balls that sell for less than ten bucks at WalMart. Sit on one of those and bounce up on that for five minutes two to three times a day. It’s kind of like jumping on the bed when you were a kid, which your mom probably told you not to do. Well, now is your chance. (Don’t do this if you have back problems, and as always, it is best to consult with your doctor before starting any exercise routine).
4. Herbs for Lymph Health
Herbalist Matthew Wood suggests these herbs to stimulate lymph drainage and strengthen immune functioning.
Calendula (Calendula Officinalis): When used as a tincture or tea, calendula helps clear debris and swelling from old infections from the peripheral lymphatic ducts. It also has anti-microbial and anti-viral properties. Use it to treat swollen glands, low fevers, colds, flus, yeast infections, and a variety of skin conditions. Don’t use during pregnancy.
Queen Anne’s lace. Flushes out the lymph system and stimulates endocrine functioning. It can help with low thyroid functioning and weight gain due to water accumulation, where the lymph system is unable to move fluids through the system. It is contraindicated during pregnancy.
5. Drink Enough Water
Last but not least: Water is your body’s best friend. It gives vital fluid to the systems and organs that process nutrients, and takes away unwanted refuse such as bacteria and deadly toxins. The more water you drink, the faster and better the body’s cleansing system works.
Eva Norlyk Herriott, Ph.D., LMT, RYT, is a writer and a massage & yoga therapist. She can be reached at 641-469-3063.