Lymphatic Cleansing: Why You Need to Support Your Lymphatic Health

by | Jul 14, 2023 | Blog, Integrative Medicine

When we talk about detoxification and cleansing, we often forget about lymphatic cleansing. The lymphatic system is essential for your immune system. It helps to protect your body from inflammation, infections, and illness. 

Unfortunately, if your lymphatic system gets overwhelmed and congested, it won’t be able to safeguard your body effectively. If your lymphatic health becomes compromised, you will be more prone to infections, chronic symptoms, and disease. 

This is where lymphatic cleansing comes into the picture. Stimulating your lymphatic system helps to improve lymphatic flow, reduce lymphatic congestion, and support your overall health. Let’s learn about lymphatic cleansing.

What Is the Lymphatic System?

Your lymphatic system is an important part of your immune system, yet we rarely talk about it. You may think of your lymphatic system as your body’s inner drainage system. It is a network of blood vessels and lymph nodes that together help to transport fluid from your tissues to your blood and vice-versa. 

It is actually similar to your circulatory system, but instead of the blood being carried by capillaries, veins, and arteries, it carries a clear watery fluid called lymph through small lymph vessels. Through the lymph, the lymphatic system can carry glucose, protein molecules, salt, and other compounds. 

Besides your lymph vessels, your lymphatic system is made up of lymph nodes and several organs, including your tonsils, thymus, spleen, and adenoids. Your lymph nodes are found in your groin, armpits, throat, chest, abdomen, and other areas of your body. They play an essential role in fighting infection, recovering from wounds and illness, and protecting your immune system balance. Lymph tissue is found throughout your small intestine as well, mostly in an area called the ileum. Here the lymph follicles are called Peyer’s patches, similar to tonsils, and are involved in immune function and regulating inflammation.

The lymphatic system helps to keep the fluid levels balanced, and your lymph nodes can recognize harmful pathogens. When noticing an invader, they can trigger the formation of lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that can fight infections. Lymphatic fluid by your lymph nodes can trap pathogens and then destroy them. Later lymph with the remains of these harmful organisms is filtered out from your body. In summary, the lymphatic system in your body helps to protect you from bacteria, infection, cancer, and other health issues (1, 2).

Causes of Lymphatic Congestion?

Your lymphatic system may get congested and compromised for a variety of reasons. Chronic stress, inflammation, health issues, and other problems can cause your body to create more and more white blood cells to fight them, leading to more waste filling up your lymph nodes, creating congestion, and causing swelling and lymph-related issues (3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

Causes of lymphatic congestion may include:

  • Chronic stress 
  • Chronic illness
  • Digestive imbalance
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not enough physical activity
  • Iodine deficiency

Symptoms of Lymphatic Congestion

Lymphatic congestion and lymphatic health issues may affect your entire body and cause widespread symptoms. Signs and symptoms of lymphatic issues may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Stiffness
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Bloating
  • Holding onto water
  • Breast swelling during your cycle
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Swollen glands
  • Weight gain
  • Brain fog
  • Headaches 
  • Itchy and dry skin or other skin problems
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Chronic sinusitis, frequent colds, sore throats, or ear infections
  • Cellulite 

Importance of Lymphatic Cleansing and Lymphatic Stimulation

Lymphatic cleansing may promote and improve the function of your lymphatic system. It supports what the lymphatic system already does best and makes its job more efficient. Lymphatic cleansing may help to reduce lymphatic congestion and lymphatic health issues. It helps to stimulate lymph circulation and drain excess fluid from your tissues. By supporting fluid balance and toxin elimination, it may help to improve your body’s immune response and reduce your risk of infections and disease.

Recommendations for Lymphatic Cleansing and Lymphatic Health

Here is what I recommend for stimulating your lymphatic system and lymphatic cleansing:

Rebounding and Regular Exercise

Regular exercise, of course, has many health benefits. Lymphatic stimulation and improving lymphatic flow is just one of them. Exercise helps to stimulate blood circulation, increase oxygen supply and the transport of oxygen, increase lymphatic flow, support immune function, and improve detoxification through sweating. Rebounding on a trampoline is a great way to promote lymphatic flow and get your heart pumping within a short, low-impact, effective workout. Other great forms of exercise you may try for lymphatic flow include running, hiking, swimming, biking, yoga, pilates, or lifting weights (8).

Dry Brushing

Dry brushing is a practice commonly used in holistic medicine for improving lymphatic flow, circulation, and detoxification. It helps to remove dead skin cells, stimulate the development of new skin cells, and open your pores to support sweating. 

I recommend using a body brush made with natural ingredients and soft, natural bristles. When dry brushing your skin, use light and gentle strokes. Brush your entire body. Always move towards your heart to support lymphatic flow. On your stomach, use clockwise strokes. The best time to practice dry brushing is before using your infrared sauna, taking a shower, or taking a bath. If you use it before sauna therapy, make sure to take a shower after to wash away dead skin cells, sweat, and toxins.

Alternate Showers 

Alternate shows mean alternating between cold and hot water during your shower. You may also simply finish your regular warm shower with 30 to 60 seconds of cold water. You may also jump into a cold pool or take a cold shower after spending some time in a hot tub or infrared sauna for similar benefits. This may support lymphatic flow and circulation, reduce inflammation and pain, boost immune health, and improve overall health (9, 10, 11).

Healing Baths

Taking a bath with some health-supporting ingredients may help to support relaxation, reduce stress, improve immunity, and decrease pain. Epsom salt baths are great for circulation, lymphatic flow, and detoxification. Adding sea salt to your baths may help to reduce inflammation, support detoxification, and decrease skin health issues. You may add some lavender or frankincense essential oils to support stress relief, relaxation, and sleep (12, 13).

You may want to combine these first few lymphatic cleansing options we just talked about. A fantastic option is to begin with some exercise to kickstart lymphatic flow. Follow this up with some dry brushing. Then take a healing bath and end with a quick cold shower. Keep reading for more lymphatic cleansing daily tips.

Hydration and Sipping Warm Water

Lymph is a clear fluid that’s made up of water. You may not be surprised to hear that hydration is absolutely critical for reducing lymphatic congestion and supporting lymphatic flow and lymphatic cleansing.

Begin your day with 16 – 32 oz of water. Drink an additional glass of water about every one to two hours. You may add some lemon or lime juice for taste and digestive support. Moreover, you may also try an Ayurvedic technique for lymphatic cleansing and lymphatic rehydration. On top of your regular daily water intake, sip on warm water every 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day. Try this for two weeks to boost lymphatic flow.

Deep Breathing and Stress Reduction

Your rib case serves as a lymphatic pump that supports lymphatic flow. Deep diaphragmatic breathing may help to support proper lymph flow and cleansing. Moreover, chronic stress is one of the main causes of lymphatic congestion. When we feel stressed out or anxious, we also tend to hold our breath in. Practicing breathwork may help to reduce stress and decrease lymphatic congestion at the same time (14).

If you want to try diaphragmatic breathing, breathe deeply through your nose. Hold your breath for about four counts. Then exhale through your mouth for two counts. Then repeat this for two to three minutes. Gradually, with each cycle or session, try to hold in for longer and exhale slower. Aim to fit three short breathwork sessions into each day.

Reducing stress, learning to manage stress better, and supporting relaxation may also help to support healthy deep breathing and reduce lymphatic congestion. I recommend practicing meditation, mindfulness, guided relaxation strategies, visualization techniques, and gratitude. You may try yoga, tai chi, or chi gong as well (15, 16). 

Using Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can be used for all kinds of purposes, including reducing muscle pain, chronic pain, or fatigue, improving tissue repair, supporting performance, improving immune function, aiding relaxation, and enhancing overall wellness. Massage may also help to increase lymphatic and blood flow. 

Many forms of massage, including Swedish massage, shiatsu massage, deep tissue massage, and even self-massage, can help with this. However, there is also a form of massage therapy created specifically for lymphatic health. Lymphatic drainage massage is a specific form of massage designed to enhance lymphatic flow, decrease lymphatic congestion, help flush excess fluid from tissue, reduce toxin buildup, and decrease pain (17, 18, 19). 

Trying Infrared Sauna

Infrared sauna therapy is a type of non-invasive light and sauna therapy. It helps to heat up your internal muscles, enhancing sweating and detoxification. It supports circulation, detoxification, and lymphatic function. Furthermore, it may help to reduce inflammation, pain, and stress. It can be a great option after dry skin brushing and before a cold shower (20, 21, 22).

Trying Compression Socks

Compression socks or stockings may also help with lymphatic health. According to a 2016 study published in Lymphatic Research and Biology, compression stockings and elevating the legs may help to improve lymph pumping pressure and support overall health (23).

Using Lymphatic Cleansing Herbs

There are some herbs that also support lymphatic drainage. Cleavers, dandelion, astragalus, echinacea augustifolia, knotted figworth, devil’s claw, coumarin, and wild indigo root are some good options. According to a 2020 study published in Complementary and Therapeutic Medicine, coumarin may be particularly good for cancer-related lymphedema (24). 

Next Steps

If you are looking for advice on lymphatic health, we can help. If you are experiencing symptoms of lymphatic congestion, I recommend that you speak with your doctors first for more personalized health information and support. I invite you to schedule a consultation with me here to see if you can benefit from the strategies listed in this article. 

If you are dealing with any chronic health issues, for advice on how to improve your nutrition and health, I welcome you to start a functional medicine consultation with me for further personalized guidance. You may book your consultation here

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