Your lymph system is one of two major circulatory systems in your body. Its primary role is to transport immune cells and dead cellular debris through the body to where they can be removed or reused. While the lion’s share of the modern science and the allopathic medical community have spent most of their time researching the vascular system or developing pharmaceutical drugs and antibiotics for the immunity, the health of the lymph system seems to be given far more attention by the holistic and ancestral medicine community.
Think of the lymph system like the drains in your home: when there is a clog in any of the pipes you experience odors and flooding over of sewage, along with the accumulation of particles such as hair and food that then become a breeding ground for bacteria. In the same way that you must be careful what goes down the drain and also maintain your pipes in order to avoid a congested clog, you must do the same for your lymph system.
A congested lymph system can lead to the accumulation of waste, debris, dead blood cells, pathogens, toxins, and cancer cells, along with inadequate flow of crucial compounds such as white blood cells and fat-soluble vitamins. Since the lymph system does not, unlike the cardiovascular system, have a heart to pump its fluids, the flow of lymph fluid instead depends on the motions of the muscle and joint pumps during physical activity, along with some of the other techniques you’ll find below. In addition to engaging in low-level physical activity throughout the day and occasional vigorous exercise sessions, there are nine additional ways you can ensure that your drains don’t get clogged, and I’m going to spell them all out for you in today’s article.
9 Quick Tips For Keeping Your Lymph Fluid Flowing During This Month’s Cold & Flu Season
1. Rebounding and vibration
While anyone visiting my house, including the guy who mows the lawn and the mail delivery woman, may think I’m a complete freak of nature, in the spring and summer, I sneak outside each morning and bounce up and down on my mini-trampoline for ten minutes. During the colder months, I perform a similar activity on a vibration platform called a “Power Plate.”
Dr. Stephen Cabral, the author of the book The Rain Barrel Effect and a former podcast guest of mine in the podcast episode: The Rain Barrel Effect: How a 6,000 Year Old Secret Holds the Answer to Getting Well, Losing Weight, and Feeling Alive Again. is the man who first introduced me to Panchakarma, an ancient Ayurvedic detoxification ritual. Panchakarma is a Sanskrit word that means “five actions” or “five treatments”. The protocols used in traditional Panchakarma are:
- Vamana (emesis – an induction of vomiting by drinking an herbal solution)
- Virechana (purgation – very similar to an herbal colonic)
- Niroohavasti (an enema using a decoction herbal solution)
- Nasya (infusion the of medicine through nostrils)
- Anuvasanavasti (an oil enema)
While the protocols above may sound like a trip to a medieval torture chamber, other gentler cleansing methods included in modern Panchakarma include:
- Shirodhara: a warm, gentle and methodic pouring of herbalized oil over the forehead.
- Garshana: dry skin brushing with either a wool or silk glove.
- Swedana: an herbalized steam bath, during which the head and the heart are kept cool while the body is heated.
- Udvartana: An herbal paste lymph massage.
- Shiro-Abhyanga-Nasya: combination of a deep head/neck/shoulder massage and facial lymph massage, followed by inhalation of therapeutic aromatic steam, and a nasal and sinus “nasya” cleanse with herbalized nose drops.
- Pinda Swedana: A massage treatment using rice cooked in milk and herbs.
There are many suggested benefits to Panchakarma, including enhanced detoxification, improved digestion, and better skin health, but increased immunity is one of the more studied effects. Go listen to my podcast with Stephen or read his book for more details about how to arrange an Ayurvedic practitioner to walk you through this process
3. Chiropractic Care
According to chiropractic medicine, the obstruction of any anatomical structure in the thoracic cavity or upper chest region can potentially prevent the transfer of toxins from the lymph system into blood circulation for cleansing. This actually makes sense, since the rib cage operates as a major lymph pump. Correcting rib displacement or anatomical abnormalities in the spine could help to promote pressure within the thoracic region which also assists to oxygenate cells.
As you learned in my last article on detoxification, perspiration is one of the primary mechanisms by which your body eliminates toxins. Although exercise can, of course, cause perspiration, infrared saunas are an excellent method, and one I use frequently, to circulate lymph flow via sweat. I also have a technique in which I wrap up my body like a burrito in my Biomat (click here to see a video of what I mean)
5. Dry Skin Brushing
Dry skin brushing involves using a coarse brush gently moved along the skin in the direction of the heart. This is a perfect activity to combine with infrared sauna, and I keep a simple, affordable brush I purchased from Amazon on the floor of my Clearlight sauna at all times. Click here for a full video walkthrough of how to dry skin brush.
In the same way that your blood needs water, your lymph fluid relies upon proper hydration as well. I personally make it a habit to consume at least my body weight in pounds divided by two for the number of ounces of water I drink per day (at least 85 ounces) – often purified and mineral-rich water, along with the occasional squeeze of a lemon or a shot of apple cider vinegar. Along with recommending you regularly drink the lymph decongesting decoction tea Dr. John Douillard describes in my last podcast with him.
Massage (and, similarly, foam rolling and deep tissue therapy) improves the flow and drainage of lymph. I often get my massage on top of my Biomat or a Pulsecenter PEMF mat to enhance the flow even more.
8. Loose clothing
Unlike the graduated compression gear detailed in my recovery article here, tight-fitting garments such as underwire bras can place unnecessary restriction on lymph vessels, since lymph nodes are highly concentrated around the chest region to drain fluid from breasts, arms, and the chest. This goes for men too: guys I highly respect such as wellness pioneer Paul Chek and Finnish health icon Veli-Jussi Jalkanen both wear very loose fitting clothing nearly reminiscent of Medieval tunics and cloaks or Scottish kilts. If anything, at least go boxers not briefs, fellas.
Alright, so here’s a summary of best practices for lymph flow:
-Engage in low-level physical activity throughout the day and occasional bouts of vigorous exercise
-Stay well hydrated with pure water
-Use a trampoline, vibration platform or whole body shaking every day
-Use a sauna (preferably infrared) 1-5 times per week, and dry skin brush for at least one of those sauna sessions
-Visit a chiropractic doctor 2-4 times a month
-Get a full body massage 2-4 times a month and/or regularly make love to your foam roller
-Consider a Panchakarma treatment once per year
Next week, I’m going to give you plenty more potent immune enhancing tips, but for today, I’m keeping things short and sweet. What about you? What do you do to keep the lymph fluid circulating?
Do you have questions, comments or feedback for me? Leave your thoughts below and one of us will reply!