Why You Need Lymphatic Drainage
Jan 08, 2023
The lymphatic system is often overlooked, but there benefits of supporting lymphatic drainage through daily routines and habits that are unparalleled and easy to add into anyone's schedule. You might already be including habits without even realizing it.
But first, let's talk about what the lymphatic system does and why it matters!
What it does
- maintains fluid levels in your body
- absorbs fats from the digestive tract
- transports and removes waste products and abnormal cells from the lymph
- contains white blood cells called lymphocytes, which fight infection
Changes you will experience
- reduced puffiness or appearance of ‘extra weight’
- boosted immunity and less frequent illness
- increased energy and feeling lighter
- improved skin and muscle tone, and reduced appearance of cellulite
- improved detox pathways
The 3 main components
- lymph fluid
- lymph nodes
- lymph vessels
How it works The network of vessels are like a lymph highway that connect the lymph nodes that we have located all throughout our body. The lymph nodes are like stop signs that the lymph fluid passes through as it circulates in the body. The nodes function as filters that trap and destroy waste material. As the lymph fluid passes through lymph nodes it acts as a one-way drainage system. The nodes help remove waste matter, fight infection (facilitated by the lymphocytes/white blood cells) and move fluid back into circulation for liver detoxification.
If it is not working properly The lymphatic system can get backed up if it is over-burdened by needing to filter too much waste. This can include: viruses, bacteria, fungi, processed food, environmental toxics, toxic chemicals from tap water (that we ingest from drinking or inhaling in the shower) among so much else. Therefore, if we are not moving enough or eating nutrient rich foods this can also result in a backed up lymphatic system. This is why diet and lifestyle is so important for immune support and preventing sickness. Unfortunately, the lymphatic system is out of balance in many people due to nutrient deficiencies, high intake of processed foods, and lack of physical activity. The following health conditions may suggest that your lymphatic system requires a serious cleansing: arthritis, skin conditions, digestive disorders, frequent headaches, sinus infections, unexplained injuries, excess weight, chronic fatigue etc.
Why it matters The lymphatic system helps protect us from infection and disease. It is a key part of the body’s immune system and helps to protect us from infection and disease (such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi). When it is not functioning properly and our bodies are not able to effectively drain out all the waste products and stagnation can occur - this can appear physically as puffiness, but also internally it means decreased immune function. This is why when you see those before and afters of lymphatic drainage massage it often looks like the client is visible slimmer. Massage is not the only way to support lymphatic drainage though. There are many things you can do at home to circulate and drain lymph!
Things you can do daily
1. Exercise is key! Movement and muscle action create flow in the body and push out toxins. Walking is a great way to do this as it promotes lymph flow and blood flow. These systems work synergistically together and so it is a perfect way to support whole body health.
2. Hydrate with clean water! It is important to make sure your water isn’t adding any extra burden to your body’s waste removal pathways. By drinking pre-filtered water our body doesn't need to also take on this job, in addition to all the other things it is already doing. Drink up to half your bodyweight in ounces of water per day.
3. Breath deeply and set aside time for breathwork. We have ~3X more lymph fluid than blood yet we don’t have an organ that pumps it automatically (like the blood has the heart). However breathing deeply creates a pumping action that helps the lymphatic system transport toxins into the blood before they are detoxified by the liver.
4. Sleep regulates the lymphatic system and it is important to get 7-9 hours of a sleep a night. Since gravity disrupts lymphatic drainage when we’re sleeping lying down, this improves how effectively our bodies can drain lymphatic fluid. A note on the brain and sleep: the brain has it’s own ‘lymphatic’ system, called the ‘glymphatic’ system, and getting enough quality sleep is fundamental to it working properly. 5. Tongue scraping is a non-negotiable for removing toxins! Every morning upon waking scrape your tongue into the sink and dispose of all the gunk that has built up overnight. As we sleep our body’s detox pathways are hard at work removing waste material. It is important to get this out of the body asap and not re-ingest it with our first morning beverage or food.
6. Get things moving
- Dry brushing or self-massage to get things moving on a surface level. Use a copper body brush and brush towards your lymph nodes. Alternatively use an organic body oil and do the same with your hands.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitted clothing as it reduces circulation. Workout wear and undergarments are important to be mindful of as they can dramatically reduce circulation if worn for long periods of time.
- Legs-up-the-wall is a great habit to add into your routine at the end of your day to promote circulation to flow from the feet/ankles/legs back into the rest of the body. It feels REALLY good if you have been on your feet at all. Try doing this in bed before falling asleep. You can even read while doing it and then crawl under the covers and fall asleep right after.
- Hot and cold therapy. Showers are a great way to do this as the hot water dilates blood vessels and the cold water shrivels them creating a “pump” action that forces out toxic fluids. Sauna and ice baths are another great way to do this.
7. Nourish with food and beverages.
- By eating nutrient dense foods we are supporting intestinal activity, which is movement in the body and this of course supports moving the lymph. To double the benefits choose some foods that promote lymph flow. Great examples of these are leafy green vegetables, low sugar fruits like berries, ground flaxseed and psyllium, chia seeds, avocados, garlic, brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, cilantro, parsley, among others. Eating alkaline foods, like leafy greens, help with lymph filtration.
- Herbal teas and adaptogens that stimulate lymph flow are great to drink in a tea or tonic. Examples include: echinacea, astragalus, wild indigo root, goldenseal, poke root.
- Avoid foods that backup or create blockages in the lymphatic system. This includes: processed food, conventionally raised meat, sugar and artificial sweeteners, conventional dairy, table salt etc.
8. Bonus! Get a lymphatic drainage massage (LDM) for extra support. The more you focus on the other daily tips, the less you need to go for a LDM. This being said, they are a great way to supercharge your lymphatic support and are ESPECIALLY supportive (can even speed up recovery) if you are pregnant or postpartum.
About the author
Carys DegenhardtHolistic Nutritionist / gut health
I am a holistic nutritionist and coach that turns to food, nature-based therapies and mindset to create massive transformation. Through simple routines and lifestyle shifts we have the potential to be exactly how we authentically see ourselves. It would be my privilege to guide and coach you on this journey, acting as an accountability partner for your health goals. Being held accountable to goals we set for ourselves is so helpful in feeling supported and staying consistent. This is where change happens and how we can step into future versions of ourselves by becoming healthier and living a more optimal life.