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  • Writer's pictureTracyann Thomas

All About the Lymphatic System

As the wheel of the year turns, Spring incrementally welcomes longer days of light.  The increase in light provides warmth which liquifies the waters of the Earth to move and free itself.  


During Fall and Winter, the trees pull their sap (their life force) into their roots to slow down, shed the old, and restore themselves, but during the warmer days of Spring the sap once again liquifies and disperses throughout the tree to nourish new leaves.


Since we are sentient beings of Nature, the increased light liquifies the water and mucus in our bodies, as well.  





Our digestive fire that we pull into our core during the colder months starts to once again disperse and move into our extremities where it warms up our body to liquify water and mucus and to stimulate circulation.


This rise in loosened moisture will swell the lymph, and if it is not circulated and moved out properly, it can cause edema, congestion, decreased digestive fire and stagnation in the body and mind, among other things, so it is very important to have practices that keep it flowing freely.  


Keep in mind, the clogging and stagnation of the lymphatic system can happen any time of year due to a number of factors relating to unique constitutions, diet and lifestyle practices, and environment, but because of the energies present in Spring, it is a time of heightened risk for all.



 


What is the Lymphatic System?


The lymphatic system is the largest circulatory system in the body and the drain for all the waste in our bodies. 


It has two very critical jobs:

  1. maintaining fluid balance by collecting excess liquid, waste, and particulates

  2. providing immunity by distributing special disease-fighting cells called lymphocytes


It’s what drives the nutrients into the body and it’s what moves the toxins out. It is the major drainage system of every single cell in the body, brain, and digestive tract. 





There is a severe contrast between how little attention is given to the lymph in Western medicine and how highly revered it is in Ayurvedic Medicine.  In our modern culture, it is lumped in with the blood system and is the most forgotten, most understudied, and least understood system in the body.  In Ayurveda, it is in a class of its own and has a whole branch of medicine dedicated to it, called Rasayana Chikitsa.


In Ayurveda, the lymph (called rasa) is considered one of the 7 bodily tissues. The lymph travels with the nerves, arteries, and veins and is, by itself, twice as big as the arterial blood supply system - and maybe twice as important.  It is the first to become compromised under stress, and therefore it is the first system we treat in Ayurveda.


Along with stress, things like digestive imbalances, lack of sleep, dehydration, lack of movement, infections, and toxins can all cause the lymph to become clogged.



 


Symptoms of Lymphatic Congestion


Poor waste removal in the lymphatic system can affect almost any part of your body.  When your lymph vessels become congested, here are some of the things you may experience:






  • Water retention

  • Brain fog

  • Itchy and dry skin

  • Mild rash or acne

  • Cellulite

  • Swollen glands

  • Cold hands and feet

  • Hypersensitivity

  • Mild headaches

  • Fatigue

  • Low Immunity

  • Stiffness or soreness, especially in the morning

  • Stubborn weight gain and extra belly fat

  • Chronic sinusitis, sore throats, colds, and ear issues

  • Breast swelling or soreness with the menstrual cycle

  • Elevated histamine and irritation due to common environmental allergens

  • Occasional constipation, diarrhea, and/or mucus in the stool


 


How to Support the Lymphatic System


Eat the right diet for your constitution and adjust for seasonal changes.  This will be unique for everyone, but diet is a highly impactful factor so being in alignment with your unique needs is vital in keeping the lymphatic system balanced. 


In general, eating an anti-inflammatory and alkalizing diet filled with seasonal, fresh, organic whole & natural foods is a powerful way to support a healthy lymphatic system. Processed and artificial food should be avoided.



To get started, see my post on doshas (constitutions) to learn more about yours.



Interested in an in-depth understanding of your unique constitution to cultivate vibrant energy and well being through proper diet and lifestyle? Book a 1 on 1 session with me!




Stay hydrated  The lymph is 95% water so we need adequate fluid intake and healthy fats to keep the lymph moving freely. 


Avoid sugar-laden soft drinks, processed juices, sports drinks, caffeine, and alcohol, which add additional metabolic burden on the body.  


Drinking hot, plain water is best to sip throughout the day, and especially necessary first thing in the morning.  This makes it easy for the intestinal mucosa to hydrate and receive nutrition as the warmth will open up the cells.  



Healthy fats are also a part of this equation as they provide vital nourishment for the whole being.  Being mindful of which fats and how much to consume makes all the difference. 


For more on this, see my article Oil is Medicine.




Move 


The lymph system does not have a pump, so it requires our body to move or be massaged to help circulate lymph through the channels. 


This is accomplished through physical activity, stretching, and by massaging, including self-massage and dry brushing.  



For more, see my article on: 

Daily Self-Massage (Abhyanga)


For a truly blissful way to support your Lymphatic System, schedule a Lymphatic Massage with me.





Reduce stress


Stress creates an exhaustive chemistry and contributes to lymph congestion so it is important to cultivate lifestyle practices that effectively cope with stress.


Meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and laughter are all excellent ways to relax and boost lymphatic flow.



Slow, deep breathing helps relieve tension and anxiety, and it also moves the diaphragm and abdominal muscles to push lymph through the vessels.


For more guidance here, see my articles The Art of Being and Your Breath is Your Most Powerful Ally.



 


The lymphatic system is the biggest drain we have in the body, and we need to keep it unclogged and free-flowing for true health and immunity.  If it is clogged, our bodies are forced to adapt to an environment of toxins that will stress and weaken our immunity and other important pathways of detoxification, leading to disease.


Therefore, health and longevity are determined by the ability of our bodies to detoxify well and eliminate waste efficiently, which requires a free-flowing lymphatic system along with a balanced digestive fire.


For more ways to naturally bring in balance and well being, follow my blog.

You can also find me on Instagram and Facebook.




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