The key to improving your body’s immune function is to nourish your lymphatic system. Sometimes referred to as the body’s secondary circulatory system, the lymphatic system carries away toxins and metabolic waste from the body’s tissues. The lymphatic system is made up of lymph vessels, lymph nodes, tonsils, spleen and the thymus gland, and it helps regulate tissue pressure, immune functions and fat absorption in the intestine. If your lymphatic system is not healthy, toxins can build up and result in lower immune function. Here are 5 tips to help you care for your lymphatic system.
- Eat potassium-rich foods.Your lymphatic system thrives on potassium-rich foods. Dark leafy greens, broccoli, bananas and seafood, like wild salmon, are some excellent choices to consider.
- Reduce toxins. Additives and preservatives cause swelling and fluid retention. One such additive, monosodium glutamate, better known as MSG, is often disguised among other ingredients and can have degenerative and deadly effects on the brain and nervous system. Watch out for hydrolyzed anything, autolyzed anything, natural flavor, seasonings and spices, commercial soup or sauce bases, bouillon, broth and stock, gelatin and even aluminum cookware. All these can introduce toxins to your body that cause your lymphatic system to work overtime.The best way to avoid these is to simply get back to the basics and use all natural, unprocessed ingredients in your cooking.
- Exercise…breathe. It is no secret that exercise is good for you, but did you know that even light exercise can benefit circulation of both your blood and lymph? Your lymphatic system relies on muscle movements to keep lymph moving through its vessels. Even light exercise such as standing calf raises or a walk around the neighborhood will stretch and contract your muscles, triggering the circulatory function within your lymphatic system. Moreover, deep breathing, which is often recommended as a technique for stress relief and boosting blood circulation, will also help release toxins and increase lymphatic circulation.
- Skin brushing. Dry skin brushing increases blood and lymph circulation and boosts organ function by stimulating sweat glands and opening pores. It also softens skin and improves the complexion. On dry skin, before bathing, brush with a natural bristle brush gently over the skin. Start with your extremities and work your way to the center of your body, avoiding your face, always moving in the direction of the heart.
- Lymphatic massage. This therapeutic massage technique, also known as lymphatic drainage, uses gentle kneading motions to stimulate muscles and in effect, lymphatic vessels and flow. Just as with skin brushing, the motion should always be towards the heart (lymph openings). You can do this yourself or ask your naturopathic doctor about arranging for this therapy – whether they do this in office or have someone to refer. We discuss this in greater detail in article below.
Support the Lymphatic System – Your Secondary Circulatory System. Gloria Gilbère, N.D.,D.A.Hom., Ph.D. American Holistic Health Association.
Lymph flow dynamics in exercising human skeletal muscle as detected by scintography. Journal of Physiology (1997), 504.1, pp.233-239.
Pizzorno, J. E., & Murray, M. T. (1999). Textbook of natural medicine. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
Hudson, A. (2001). Lymphatic drainage: Therapy I. Castlecrag, N.S.W: Triam Press.