Love your lymphatic system and your skin will thank you
Do you experience acne, eczema or clogged pores and feel like you have tried everything to remedy it, without success? Possibly it is time to check in with your lymphatic system, which plays an integral role in eliminating the waste from your body.
If your lymphatic system is not functioning optimally, toxin build-up can occur, resulting in blemishes, rashes and itchy skin. Learn to recognise the symptoms of a congested lymphatic system and ways to help support it naturally.
The role of the lymphatic system
The lymphatic system is a part of your body’s immune system and consists of a powerful network of tissues, tiny vessels and organs that work together to help keep the body clean and in optimum health.
Lymph refers to the fluid that flows through the vessels and carries potentially harmful substances such as bacteria, viruses and cancer cells to the lymph nodes and glands where lymphocytes (white blood cells) attack and break them down. There are approximately 600 lymph nodes, which are located in the neck, armpits, groin, around the digestive system and between the lungs.
Classic symptoms of an underfunctioning lymphatic system
Waste-filled lymph can become stagnant, resulting in a number of signs and symptoms developing on your skin and around your body. When the lymphatic system is underfunctioning, lymph nodes can become swollen and inflamed. Around one third of the body’s lymph nodes are located in the neck, jaw and ear area. Stagnant lymph in this region can cause acne, clogged pores, eczema and itchy, dry skin.
Other signs of an overworked lymphatic system can include swelling in the hands or feet, cellulite, breast swelling, puffy eyes, bloating, enlarged or painful glands, stubborn weight gain, headaches, sinus infections, brain fog, chronic fatigue and mood imbalances.
Supporting your lymphatic system
Fortunately, there are several natural ways to help support the function and flow of your lymphatic system through your diet and lifestyle practices.
- Eat clean, real food. Pesticides accumulate in the body and add pressure to your detoxification pathways including the lymphatic system. You can reduce your chemical exposure by choosing to enjoy organic or spray-free food and eating less from a packet and more from the earth. To make it more cost-effective, shop seasonally and from the farmers’ markets or find a local vegetable box delivery service.
- Boost your immunity. As the lymphatic system is a part of the immune system it makes sense to increase immune-supporting foods. Enjoy garlic, ginger, turmeric, leafy green vegetables, brassica vegetables, apple-cider vinegar and seaweed as often as you can.
- Increase red foods. Ayurvedic medicine encourages us to eat red foods to support the health of the lymphatic system. Load your plate up with red capsicum, tomatoes, beetroots, strawberries, cherries, cranberries and pomegranates.
- Drink up. Keeping hydrated supports the flow of lymph through the vessels of the body. When you are dehydrated the lymph fluid is thicker, making it harder to pass through the tiny vessels and sweep toxins to the lymph nodes. Aim for at least two litres of filtered water per day and more if you are exercising. Reduce coffee, alcohol and sugar-filled soft drink consumption as these can lead to dehydration.
- Avoid exposure to toxic chemicals. Unfortunately, chemicals are all around us in the environment, and while it isn’t possible to avoid them all, you do have control over what you clean with and what you put on and in your body. Many mainstream cleaning products and beauty products have known chemicals in them, which compound in the body and make it harder for the lymphatic system to expel waste. Do your best and choose chemical-free cleaning products and organic beauty products.
- Move your body. When you exercise your muscles are contracting, which naturally stimulates the flow of lymph. Aim to move your body for 45 minutes four times a week. Yoga and trampolining are particularly good at getting your lymph moving and they’re also fun — win–win!
- Brush your body. Dry body brushing is an excellent way to help move lymph manually and support detoxification. It is an easy ritual to add in once or twice a week before your evening shower. Brush in a circular motion toward your heart, starting with your feet and working up to your neck.
- Treat yourself to a lymphatic massage. A lymphatic massage by an experienced practitioner can be particularly helpful for reducing swelling or inflammation caused by stagnant lymph.
- Try gua sha. Have you seen these traditional Chinese beauty tools? They are usually made out of jade or rose quartz and are used to gently massage the face, promoting circulation and the flow of lymph to rescue swelling and encourage a clear complexion.
- Enjoy ice baths and contrasting hydrotherapy. Immersing yourself in cold water causes lymph vessels to contract, which stimulates the lymphatic system to pump lymph fluid through your body, flushing waste with it. Moreover, alternating between cold and hot water or cold water and a sauna has been shown to support vascular health, improve blood flow and the function of the lymphatic system.