What do you know about your lymphatic system? Chances are you haven’t heard much about it outside of your doctor checking for swollen lymph nodes when you’re sick. But the fact is, the lymphatic system is the unsung hero of the body!
What’s so great about it?
The lymphatic system spans your entire body, and is composed of nodes and vessels. The purpose of this system is to transport toxins, biological waste, proteins and fats through the body – meaning it plays a vital role in your immune system.
When your body identifies a pathogen that doesn’t belong, it transports that pathogen to a lymph node where our fighter cells can destroy them. The resulting debris is then transported via the lymph system to where it can be eliminated from the body. So it’s not hard to see why it’s important to our health to keep our lymphatic system flowing easily.
Makes sense… What happens when it’s not flowing easily?
When your lymphatic system becomes imbalanced or clogged, it can cause symptoms like:
- Skin conditions
- Digestive disorders
- Frequent headaches
- Sinus infections
- Unexplained injuries
- Excess weight
- Chronic Fatigue
And when the lymph blockage gets bad enough, it can cause a condition called lymphedema, which results in:
- Swelling of part or all of the arm or leg, including fingers or toes
- Feeling of heaviness or tightness
- Restricted range of motion
- Recurring infections
- Hardening and thickening of the skin
Ouch. What can I do to prevent that?
The lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump system, meaning it doesn’t flow on its own. It does piggyback some on the circulatory system, but for the most part your lymphatic system relies on you to get it moving. Here are a few tips to keep things flowing:
- Exercise – muscular movements are one of the best ways to get your lymphatic system circulating well, so try to fit in some light to moderate exercise every day.
- Deep Breaths – Breathing is the third primary way that our lymph system circulates, and getting that cleansing oxygen into your bloodstream helps it to filter out the toxins for your lymphatic system to remove.
- Drink water – I know, I know, everyone says to drink water. But it does help your body to eliminate toxins, and since your lymph is a fluid, it requires plenty of water to keep flowing.
- Avoid tight clothing – Tight clothing can restrict the flow of, well, everything in your body.
Cool, but what if I’ve already got those symptoms you mentioned earlier?!?
Don’t worry – We’ve got you. If you’ve read any of our previous blogs, you know that Traditional Chinese Medicine is all about that flow. Like with any other consultation, we’d start with reviewing your symptoms. While you may be suffering from lymph stagnation, that stagnation could be secondary to an imbalance in your other detoxifying organs (kidney, liver, and intestines). Once we determine the source of your issues, we can determine the best course of treatment. Options include:
You knew this was coming, right? Acupuncture is incredible for moving and balancing the lymphatic system, it’s one of the only modalities that can focus directly on the Qi and blood of the Spleen, which is the largest lymphatic organ. We also believe that stress plays a huge part in that potential stagnating energy of the lymphatic system, so acupuncture can also address stress in the whole body and the Qi flow of the liver as well. Remember there is no pump in the lymphatic system, so the body needs free flowing energy of Qi to transport those toxins. Acupuncture is your answer!
Cupping is all about improving lymphatic flow! Remember earlier when I mentioned that your lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump? The suctioning action of cupping works wonders to help open up your lymphatic vessels and get that fluid moving! It also helps to break up the debris that can build up so that your system can remove it more easily.
There are several herbs that can help with lymphatic drainage. As always, the exact herbs that will work for you, and the dosage that will best depend on your body and your symptoms. Here are a few herbs that I might recommend, though:
- Echinacea – promotes the flow of lymph to address swollen lymphatic glands
- Astragalus – eases congestion and swelling, general health booster
- Wild Indigo Root – helps clean the lymphatic system, and improves the flow of lymph
- Goldenseal – anti-inflammatory, boosts the cleansing process of the lymphatic system
- Cilantro – promotes lymphatic drainage
- Poke Root – clears the lymphatic system and stimulates the immune system
- Parsley – treats water retention and congested lymph nodes
These herbal combinations come in pill form, so it is easy to take as directed.
Lymphatic stagnation can cause some pretty serious problems, but you don’t have to suffer! If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, give us a call to schedule your appointment!
Thanks to Danisha Bogue, L.Ac. – August 22, 2022 for this article