The lymphatic system doesn’t receive a lot of attention, but it’s responsible for some important things happening in our body. It's high on the list with the liver when it comes to an important cleansing systems of the body. Sometimes less than ideal lifestyle choices or harmful foods can all cause a slow down of lymph.
What is Lymph?
Lymph is a clear, colorless fluid containing white blood cells that defend against germs. It goes throughout your body and is part of your cardiovascular system. Lymph affects all parts of the body and is affected by others, such as the digestive system.
What is the Lymphatic System?
The lymphatic system includes the lymph vessels, lymph nodes, tonsils, spleen, and thymus gland. There are 600 to 700 lymph nodes in the human body that filter the lymph before it returns to the circulatory system. It's a crucial part of the immune system.
Facts About the Lymphatic System
- The blood dumps waste toxins from the intestinal tract into the lymphatic system via the liver.
- The lymphatic system may become overworked and congested, and if this happens, its filtering and neutralizing functions dramatically decrease. This results in a build-up of toxins in the system, an increased risk of inflammation, and reduced immune response.
- When toxins are produced within the body faster than the body can process and release them, the body suspends those toxins in fat and interstitial spaces in an attempt to protect the organs.
- This toxic buildup results in soft and connective tissue inflammation and excessive buildup of lymph fluid which contributes to fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and a multitude of immune system disorders.
When Does the Lymphatic System Require Cleansing?
If you're someone who eats a lot of processed foods and doesn't exercise regularly, your lymphatic system is in need of a cleanse.
Here's a list of health conditions which could suggest that your lymphatic system requires a serious cleansing:
- Skin conditions
- Digestive disorders
- Frequent headaches
- Sinus infections
- Unexplained injuries
- Excess weight
- Chronic fatigue
Cleansing the Lymphatic System
Lymph doesn't have is own active pumpking system so it needs help draining. How? This includes eating beneficial foods, consuming water-rich drinks and regular physical activity. I also love doing facial and neck gua sha lymphatic drainage with a massage tool. Other alternative treatments include taking hot and cold showers, dry brushing, deep breathing, acupuncture and being upside down (such as handstands and downward dog in yoga class).
Foods to Promote Lymphatic Flow
1. Citrus fruits are great for the lyphatic system. Squeezing juice of a ½ fresh lemon into a cup of warm pure water and drinking it every morning is a great habit.
2. Berries, especially cranberries, are rich in detoxifying benefits that cleanse the system and also add hydration for healthy lymph flow.
3. Include fresh vegetables every day, especially leafy green vegetables.
4. Healthy fats from pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, olive oil, avocado, coconut, and ghee help to lubricate the body and promote lymph flow. The omega-3 fats are particularly excellent for lymph flow.
5. Drinks Lots and Lots of Water. — drink up to half your body weight in ounces of water per day. For example, if you are 160 lbs, drink 80 ounces of water. You should also drink a few glasses of lemon water as well.Avoid drinking from plastic. Choose stainless steel or glass containers instead.
6. Herbal tea adds hydration and specific herbs can be very helpful for the lymphatic system. The following herbs promote lymph health: echinacea, astragalus, wild indigo root, goldenseal, cilantro, poke root, and parsley.
Foods to Avoid That Block Lymphatic Flow
1. Food preservatives and additives. Neither are good for any part of our body, and with the lymphatic system, they cause swelling and fluid retention.
2. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG). MSG is an "excito-" and "neuro-toxin" identified by leading neuroscientists because of its degenerative and deadly effects on the brain and nervous system. Neurons are over-stimulated to the point of exhaustion and cell death.
Common terms for MSG: Anything Hydrolyzed or Autolyzed, Natural Flavor/Flavorings
Common ways MSG is added through food: Seasonings and Salts, Commercial Soups and Sauces, Bouillon/Broth/Stock, Canned Food, Processed Food. Examine ingredients on the nutrition label to avoid MSG.
3. Processed foods
4. Conventionally raised meat
5. Conventional dairy foods
6. Artificial sweeteners
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods