7 Natural Ways to Detox Your Lymphatic System

7 Natural Ways to Detox Your Lymphatic System

To say that your lymphatic system has a lot of responsibility for your well-being is a huge understatement.

What Is The Lymphatic System?

The lymphatic system is an intricate “highway” of specialized vessels that move lymphatic fluid from the tips of your toes to the top of your head and to centralized lymph nodes, which helps regulate fluid balance in your body. Its most important function? Detoxification.

The lymphatic system picks up and disposes of cellular “trash” like white blood cells, bacteria, viruses, toxins, and other molecular debris from every tissue in your body. This job is crucial since all cells make waste as a byproduct of their everyday processes. 

What Causes A Slow Lymphatic System?

Several things can slow down the lymphatic system and fluid flow, resulting in symptoms such as fatigue and sluggishness, brain fog, puffy skin, swollen and stiff joints, chronic headaches, and inflammation. The leading cause of this slowness is illness, which makes sense since there’s simply more cellular junk to dispose of when sick.

Sick woman covered in blanket at home in isolation at quarantine

“Chronic illness, in particular, causes congestion throughout the whole body,” Dr. Bill Rawls, M.D., Medical Director of Vital Plan, explains. “When microbes in tissues are flourishing, and more white blood cells are present trying to kill them, they fill up the lymph nodes, causing the nodes to swell, which backs up the whole system.”

But it’s not just chronic illness that impedes lymph flow — even a simple cold can trigger swollen lymph nodes, and part of the reason you feel sluggish may be the extra waste your body is trying to dispose of.

Being Sedentary and Dehydration Slows Things Down

Other key causes of slowed lymph fluid include a lack of physical activity and falling short of water intake. That’s because the lymph system is primarily composed of water — if you’re dehydrated, the fluid slows down and inhibits waste removal from the body. Movement of lymph fluid depends on pressure from breathing and muscle movement to move fluid around. So, being sedentary or dehydrated is like construction on a highway — it can slow things down to a crawl.

Why Keep a Healthy Lymphatic System?

Maintaining a healthy lymphatic system is one of the best ways to support your immune system by quickly and efficiently ridding your body of garbage. Fortunately, this is something we have a lot of control over.

Here are some simple, everyday ways to clear up lymphatic congestion in your body and boost your immunity.

7 Natural Ways to Cleanse the Lymphatic System

1. Eat Plenty of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

A big chunk of your body’s hydration needs should come from water-dense fruits and fresh vegetables. This fluid and the water you drink throughout the day help keep your lymphatic “pipes” lubricated and draining correctly.

A variety of fresh fruits, vegetables top view. Large vegetable and citrus mix collection.

For better hydration, Dr. Rawls recommends drinking alkaline water, which has higher pH levels, to quell free radicals and decrease inflammation.

More Fresh Produce Health Perks?

Fresh produce and other minimally processed, healthy foods help maintain a solid gut-blood barrier, which prevents toxins and food irritants from leaking into the bloodstream (aka leaky gut syndrome). The result is less inflammation and a lower potential influx of toxins that might otherwise clog up your lymphatic system.

Along with fresh vegetables and fruits, if you’re looking for more ways to detoxify your gut naturally, try superfood chlorella in Vital Plan’s Pure Chlorella, which helps promote digestion through natural detoxification, supports a balanced gut microbiome and immune system, all of which ultimately encourages your lymphatic system to work more effectively.

 

 

2. Sleep in Loose Fitting Clothes and Undergarments

At night, between 10 pm and 2 am is when the body naturally goes through a major detoxification process, so make sure you’re allowing the lymphatic fluid the most freedom to move,” says Vital Plan health coach Belinda Macri, a yoga teacher, Ayurveda practitioner, and health coach

Garments that dig into skin or are restrictive, especially under the arms or groin area where you have lymph nodes, might partially cut off the natural flow, she says.

3. Take Deep Belly Breaths

Not only do muscle contractions initiated by deep breathing help move lymphatic fluid, but the mindfulness practices accompanying deep breathing are some of the best ways to manage stress. And regarding factors that congest the lymph system, “Stress is a biggie,” Macri says.

If you can spend a chunk of time each day in meditation, that's great. But even taking mini time-outs throughout the day to focus on breathing is beneficial.

Macri suggests scheduling 5 minutes at 10 am, 2 pm, and 5 pm and using that time to close your eyes and take three to five deep belly breaths. Here’s how to do it:

black woman in white tshirt taking deep breaths with a smile

“When you inhale, simply allow your belly to fully expand like a balloon,” Macri says. “It’s a huge de-stresser — truly one of the most powerful things you can do.”

Indeed, research suggests slow, deep, conscious breathing helps decrease feelings of anxiety and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Belly breathing may also lower blood pressure and heart rate and boost the immune system. 

4. Get a Move On

Any sort of movement increases the pressure in lymphatic vessels, which is needed to help manually move the fluid along, Dr. Rawls says. Walking, biking, yoga, tai chi, and qigong are some of his top choices.

Feet of sportsmen walking on a road after training outdoors, selectve focus

“If you’re walking, try moving your arms up and over your head and out to the sides,” Macri says. “Even if you’re at your desk, do some squats and move your arms up and down to get the flow going.”

As for yoga poses, sun salutations are an effective sequence, or try individual poses, she says. Poses that invert a part of your body are especially effective as they recruit gravity to help move fluid. Macri recommends the following:

Downward-Facing Dog or Dolphin:

  • To do down-dog, come onto the floor on your hands and knees, with your hands slightly in front of your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor to straighten your legs (without locking your knees). Lift your sitting bones toward the sky, and gently press your heels toward the floor so your body is in an inverted V shape. Dolphin is like downward dog, except instead of using your hands, you’re resting on your forearms, Macri says.
Legs Up the Wall:
  • This pose is exactly as the name implies. Lay on your back on the floor, with your back in a neutral position (no curve in the lumbar spine) and your bottom touching the base of the wall. Extend the backs of your legs straight up against the wall.
Cat and Cow:
  • Start on the floor on your hands and knees, with your hands shoulder-width apart and knees hip-distance apart. Keep your shoulders down as you inhale and tilt your head toward the sky, drop your belly toward the floor, and arch your back. Tuck your chin and round your back toward the sky as you exhale. Alternate back and forth for several breaths.

5. Bounce Around

Rebounding — jumping on a small, circular trampoline — uses gravity and movement to your lymph’s benefit. As a mild aerobic workout, it’s often touted as an effective way to get your heart pumping and your lymph fluid moving.

Jumping on an elastic trampoline.This exercise develops coordination.Legs get stronger.

“As you’re jumping, bring your arms up and over your head to create even more movement,” Macri says. 

6. Practice Daily Dry Brushing

Dry brushing has long been used for lymphatic drainage and to improve fluid flow. “The pressure on the skin pressurizes the tissues, which helps push fluid through the lymphatic system,” Dr. Rawls says.

Macri suggests using a natural bristle brush or loofah for the daily ritual, which is traditionally done first thing in the morning or before a shower. She says it also helps exfoliate the skin, stimulate sweat and oil glands, and boost circulation, all of which invigorate the body.

How Do You Dry Brush?

Start by brushing the sole of one foot using swift, upward, and circular strokes. Move up to your ankle, then the front and back of your lower leg. “You always want to brush up or in the direction of your heart or belly button,” Macri says. Move up to the front and back of your thigh and your hip, and then repeat on the other leg, starting again with the bottom of your foot.

Woman scrubbing her legs with a brush making skin peeling in the bathroom

Repeat this practice on each arm, starting at your wrists and moving up to your shoulders, neck, and chest. Then, proceed to your abdomen and continue to brush toward your heart. “It only takes three to five minutes, and you just feel nice and tingly all over afterward,” she says.

7. Lean on Enzymes and Herbs

Look to enzymes (like the ones in Vital Plan’s Active Enzymes) and herbs (like the ones in Vital Plan’s Daily Herbal) known to help break down, bind to, and dispose of proteins, bacteria, toxins, and other substances that can lead to dysfunctional lymphatic flow, 

Some incredible herbs and enzymes to consider using include:

cut pieces of burdock root

Burdock root:

A gentle herbal remedy, burdock root has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine to detoxify the blood and boost circulation. It also has a long history of use for clearing lymphatic congestion and enlarged lymph nodes.

white andrographis flower growing in greenery

Andrographis:

This well-known antimicrobial herb contains anti-inflammatory properties and is a bitter digestive tonic. Andrographis decreases inflammation and promotes bile flow, relieving stress on the lymphatic system and facilitating healthy detoxification.

close up of yellow dandelion flower

Dandelion root:

Like burdock root, dandelion root is known in herbalism as an alternative herb, which means it gently increases the elimination of metabolic wastes through all of the major organs of elimination, including the lymphatic system.

close up of pineapple skin

Bromelain, papain, and peptidase:

All are protein-digesting enzymes; having these in your system helps break down some of the proteins contributing to inflammation.

orange turmeric powder pile

Turmeric:

Responsible for the bright yellow color in curry, turmeric helps balance inflammatory responses. Additionally, the curcumin in turmeric has liver-protectant qualities and inhibits oxidative damage caused by solvents, alcohol, medications, or viruses.

close up of green sarsaparilla leaves and buds

Sarsaparilla:

Derived from the bark of a thorny vine found in South America, sarsaparilla binds to and helps dispose of endotoxins released from microbes during die-off.

close up of red root with white flowers

Red root:

This herb is another one that binds to toxins and flushes the system. A word of caution: red root is a coagulant and can mildly thicken the blood, so it’s best to avoid it if you have a history of cardiovascular disease.

In Conclusion - Find Wellness With Body Detoxification:

Detoxing your lymphatic system is a relatively easy and enjoyable way to maintain or restore overall health and wellness. Follow these lymphatic system best practices and simple steps, and it won’t be long before you experience a noticeable uptick in energy, focus, and mobility.

References
1. Choi, Inhu et. al. “The new era of lymphatic system: No llonger secondary to the blood vascular system.” Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine. 2012 Apr; 2(4): a006445.
2. Paul, Gina et. al. “A longitudinal study of students’ perception of using deep breathing meditation to reduce testing stresses.” Teaching and Learning in Medicine. 19:3, 287-292
3. Joseph, Chacko N. et. al. “Slow breathing improves arterial baroreflex sensitivity and decreases blood pressure in essential hypertension.” Hypertension. 2005;46:714-718
4. Bhasin, Manoj K. et. al “Relaxation response induces temporal transcriptome changes in energy metabolism, insulin secretion and inflammatory pathways.” PLOSone 2013 May 1;8(5):e62817
5. Ma, Xiao et. al. “The effect of diaphragmatic breathing on attention, negative affect and stress in healthy adults.” Frontiers in Psychology 2017; 8: 874

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