The gut contains up to 80% of our immune cells. They’re contained in GALT, or gut associated lymphatic tissue. From our tonsils and adenoids in the throat to our colon, the gut is the storehouse of the lymphatic system. Lymphocytes, or white blood cells that are part of the lymphatic system, are also stored and made in the thymus behind the heart, the spleen, appendix, bone marrow, and lymph nodes scattered throughout the body. See how important mouth to colon health is? Why would the body put nearly our entire immune system there if exposure to food wasn’t so vital?
What is the lymphatic system’s role?
It is the sewer system of the body. The body pumps 90% blood and returns it to the heart. The other 10% comprise what is known as lymph and has no pump to return it to lymphatic channels for disposal. All viruses, bacteria, toxins, cancer cells, and chemicals are passed through the lymph, where the body is alerted if a foreign particle needs to be removed.
Just think about it! Every cancer diagnosis comes with a lymph node biopsy. Why? The lymphatics are the leftover blood which covers every organ routinely on a daily basis. If it isn’t moving properly (like in most Western countries, due to the Standard American Diet), then toxins and cancer cells cannot be emptied into lymphatic ducts which eventually lead to the detoxification methods in the liver/kidneys. Waste is then permanently disposed of by the bowels. These toxins fester in the system and are not recognized by the immune system in the lymph, but are still slowly exposed to organs where they “seed” that organ and cause metastasis.
This is how cancer spreads. This is why every diagnosis comes with a lymph node biopsy and it’s BAD news if cancer is located there. It’s been carried all over the body and Western medicine now initiates poisonous chemotherapy due to systemic spread. Chemo does not have the capability to discriminate between healthy cells and carcinogenic cells, therefore, it creates apoptosis, or cell death, for every cell in its path. This explains why it is absolutely necessary to keep the lymph system moving and healthy so it can alert the immune cells if there’s a problem and swiftly move lymph to the liver for detoxification and to the colon for removal.
The lymphatic system is exposed to a myriad of toxins daily, including cigarette smoke, pollution, exhausts, prescription pill ingredients, food additives, chemicals, and pesticides. On top of that, most of us eat improperly, so we are lacking nutrients that serve as fuel. If we aren’t putting the proper essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals in our system, then at some point, the system will falter. Symptoms of a sluggish lymphatic system include but are not limited to:
- Swollen fingers or bloating
- AM Soreness/stiffness
- Discoloration of legs
- Breast swelling or soreness with each cycle
- Dry or itchy skin
- Brain fog
- Cold hands/feet/poor circulation
Here are some simple tips to get the lymph flowing again, incorporated from Ayurvedic science:
1. Exercise! What pumps lymph? Remember, the lymph system doesn’t have a heart. Movement of muscles stimulate valves in the veins which help to churn lymph upwards towards the heart. Anything that creates moments of zero gravity also helps move lymph (think trampolines or roller coasters)! Also called rebounding, creating zero gravity helps the lymph move upwards to the heart and axillary lymph channels. This usually requires muscular effort that is pushing against gravity. With even a few seconds of no gravity, the lymph has an easier time making its return.
2. Inversions also pull lymph towards the heart from the lower extremities. What do you get when you add exercise+inversions? YOGA. Yoga has been known to detoxify and rejuvenate many sluggish lymph systems. Hot yoga also helps speed up the process through perspiration. Sweat is a potent detoxifier!
3. Positive and negative pressure from deep, diaphragmatic breathing is a great way to move lymph towards lymphatic channels. Our bodies have far more lymph than blood so pranayama breathing in yoga as well as slow, deep breaths throughout the day help to filter lymph and move it properly. Again, yoga is quite beneficial.
4. Diet is imperative. Make sure you’re eliminating boxed or processed food. Avoid GMO or pesticides. Eat whole food and accentuate a plant based diet. Eat with the seasons, meaning warm food in the winter and cooling foods in summer. The lymph literally becomes thickened like gravy once the toxin load reaches its threshold. Eat raw fruit alone on an empty stomach. In Ayurveda, it’s known for its lymph-cleansing properties. Remember, it’s far easier to prevent disease than to cure it later.
5. Dry brush in the morning. Use a natural bristle brush and brush towards the heart where the lymphatic duct is located. Lymph drains in this direction. Brush upwards on the arms and legs towards the heart, using a circular motion.
6. Drink lots of lukewarm water. Ditch the sugary drinks and sweets! Water lubricates the lymph and lets it flow easier. Cold water can actually hinder digestion. Make sure you have a fluoride filter.
7. Massages, preferably gentle, stimulate the majority of stagnant lymph up to the heart. Stress can also play a role in poor lymph flow and massages can aid with this too. There are even lymph specific massages which are skillful at removing infections through manipulation of lymph. Remember the lymphatic system is mostly immune cells!
8. Low iodine has also been reported to be a sign of improper lymph flow. Lugol’s iodine helps to support toxin removal from lymph. Always be sure to contact your healthcare provider before starting a new medication.
9. Eat red foods like pomegranates, cherries, beets, and cranberries! All have lymph stimulating qualities and are used in Ayurveda to cleanse the system.
Treat your body with love. It is your temple, and a healthy physical body is one of the keys to mental and spiritual health.
1. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 16th Edition
The lymphatic system
2. The Fat Flush Plan by Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD
3. www.lifespa.com: The Miracle of Lymph-Dr John Douillard’s Lifespa