Lately it seems as if every person wants to detox— and for good reason! While detoxing is great, it is much more complex than a quick fix, or the next best juice, or the next best diet. Some detoxes may very well be beneficial, but no detox is better that that of our lymphatic system, which is there to assist in ridding our body of toxins/waste. Toxins accumulate in us every day and if our lymphatic systems aren’t stimulated the way that they should be, toxins build up and cause disease and infection. Some common symptoms of toxin build up include all over sluggishness, constant skin conditions, chronic fatigue, unexplained injuries, digestive disorders, headaches, excess weight, and sinus infections.
The reason we may feel this way is because our lymphatic system may not be active enough. The lymphatic system has no “heart”, no pumping system to return lymph fluid to the cardiovascular system (which eventually eliminates these toxins by end organs). Not having an active pumping system means that we, ourselves, are the pumping system! Our lymphatic system relies on our body’s movement, breath, intestinal activity, and muscle action to create the flow necessary to rid our body of toxins. And if we aren’t moving, these toxins manifest into illness. The lymphatic system relies on self to get it working and flowing the way it needs to, and the only person it relies on to do that is YOU! Here are 10 ways to create flow in your lymphatic system and be on your way to having proper detoxification.
1. Deep breathing
How many times do we get caught up in our busy lives and forget to chill out and take a deep breath? And once we do, how much better do we feel? Breath is life! And this is no exception for the lymphatic system. Deep breathing, from your diaphragm, increases oxygen levels and naturally detoxes your body. Hopefully over time this breathing will become second nature and you can reap the many, many benefits of it on top of lymphatic drainage. The best part? You can practice deep breathing any time, any where, and it’s free! And while it’s on your mind, take a deep breath right now… do it!
The muscle contractions and body movement during exercise activates your lymph system. The best forms of exercise for lymphatic drainage is rebounding (jumping on a mini-trampoline) and skipping rope. In both instances, the up and down movement forces the lymphatic fluid to flush and drain away toxins. Maybe as kids we were onto something when we jumped on our beds! Next time you’re near a bouncy house, don’t hesitate to jump right in, that’s your sign to get rebounding. For an added detox, make sure to have fun and laugh (more on that below)… yes exercise can and should be fun!
3. Dry Brushing
Dry brushing is just what it sounds like— brushing your skin when it’s dry, (except with a natural bristle brush). Think of dry brushing as a loving wake up call to your lymph to start doing what it’s supposed to—ridding your body of toxins! Not only does it take only 5-15 minutes, dry brushing also has benefits such as reduced cellulite, stimulation of your liver, gut, kidneys, lungs, and nervous system (resulting in improved functioning of the body), and stress relief. You can listen to music or practice being mindful, giving yourself some much needed self-love. You can get a dry brush for less than 10 bucks on amazon here.
4. Hot + Cold Showers
Hot water helps dilate blood vessels and cold contracts them. This contraction creates an action similar to that of a pump, forcing lymph fluid to flow. Start with a few minutes of hot water, then 30 seconds of cold water… and stick with it! Repeat several times. When I turn the cold water on I have to remind myself : “this is only temporary!” You’ll get used to it. Or not. But don’t kick it until you’ve tried it a few times, and if you want to start small, just aim for 1 or 2x a week.
5. Drink purified water
Your body needs hydration to keep the fluids moving in your body, so it is important to get half of your body weight in ounces. For example if you are 200 pounds, drink 100 ounces a day. It might seem like a lot, but buy yourself a nice glass water bottle and put it to good use! Make sure you are drinking purified water, because our water supplies can be contaminated with chloride, fluorine, VOC’s, and many other types of toxins and chemicals depending on where we live. The point of water in this sense is to hydrate your body and allow for the removal of toxins, so you want fresh water to reduce that toxic load, instead of adding to it.
6. Avoid foods, personal care products, and environments that have high levels of toxins/chemicals
If your lymphatic system is clogged with toxins, and you’re trying to cleanse it with the methods in this article, it’s important to stay away from more toxins! Just like I had described with the water, you can’t expect your lymphatic system to cleanse if you continue to expose yourself to toxins. Let’s be clear, toxins are all around us— from the foods we eat, to the products we use, to the air we breathe, and everything in between. It’s important to look at your own life carefully to determine where toxins may be the biggest problem. After looking at my own life, my first change was switching out my yoga mat for an eco-friendly version, free of toxins. Examining the fact that I have at least 60 minute practices, almost daily, this change has allowed me to seriously reduce the amount of toxins I would have been breathing in every day.
Most often than not, it’s unrealistic for lifestyle changes to happen overnight. That’s okay! Do not be discouraged by the bigger picture. Every small thing you change to better your health will pay off. It takes time, it’s a process, but it is a very rewarding journey! Start by examining your life and evaluating toxins you may regularly be in contact with, understand which takes priority, and replace with alternative options. Eat a lot of fruits? Eliminate pesticides by going organic. Drink out of water bottles? Eliminate BPA exposure by investing in a glass water bottle. Additionally, eliminate sugar, artificial sweeteners, conventional dairy, conventionally raised meat, refined grains, processed foods, preservatives and additives (MSG, colours, etc), table salts, as these are all toxins!
7. Eat foods and take herbs that stimulate lymph flow
While you’re removing negative toxins, it’s important to add minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and herbs through a clean, nutrient rich diet. Herbs are great natural choices for promoting healthy flow of Lymphatic fluid, while a mostly raw diet is highly beneficial. Incorporate herbs into your diet, including Cilantro, Parsley, Echinacea, Astragalus, Goldenseal, Wild indigo root, and Red clover. Cleansing foods include dark leafy greens, low sugar fruits, garlic, ground flaxseed, chia, avocados, cranberries, walnuts, brazil nuts, and almonds.
8. Avoid Restrictive clothing
Clothing that is too tight can cut off proper circulation of lymph fluid, simple as that. Ladies, researcher David Moth found that even wearing the lightest bras place pressure on the lymphatic system! Which is one of the reasons I suggest avoiding wearing a bra as often as possible. This is an area of particular importance due to the axillary lymph node (arm pit). Another area of particular importance is the inguinal lymph node area (groin), where tight fitting clothing can cause problems without proper circulation. Honestly, I change into loose clothing the second I get home from being anywhere that requires me to wear tight fitting clothing. Be warned: this feeling of ‘freeness’ is addictive!
9. Alternative treatments
Infrared saunas, acupuncture, and lymphatic drainage massage are all awesome in releasing toxins from your lymphatic system. Saunas produce great amounts of sweat to excrete from your skin, which lessens the burden on your lymphatic system. Acupuncture opens up pathways of meridians where toxins actually begin to flow from being stimulated. Lymphatic drainage massage stimulates circulation and drains fat, fluids, toxins, and other waste products away from your cells for proper elimination. These treatments can be highly effective for eliminating toxins, as well as for allowing you to practice self-care. Just be sure to drink plenty of pure water!
and last but not least……10. Laugh!
Yes, laugh more… and make it count! When you have true, deep belly laughter, (you know where your diaphragm is moving up and down really fast), negative pressure is put on the largest lymphatic vessel, which is known as the thoracic duct. Under negative pressure, the lymphatic fluid seeks an area of lesser pressure, shooting out through lymphatic vessels, and increasing speed and flow up to 10-15 times its normal rate of flow! One more reason to remind yourself to let loose and live a little! Take a step back, have fun with life, be around people that bring out the best in you, watch funny videos (or make funny videos)… do whatever it is that you need to do to give your lymphatic system some love! Your whole being will benefit.