The body has seven basic ways of detoxifying itself: through the skin, lungs, liver, kidneys, colon, blood, and the lymph system. You can easily help the process with a little attention to your lymph system.

The lymphatic system plays a vital role in supporting both the cardiovascular and immune systems. Its main function is to cleanse toxins and protect against harmful invaders by transporting fluid throughout the body and ridding itself of metabolic waste.

Lymph comes from the word “water” in Latin.  It is constantly working to flush out toxins from “dead” foods, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, a toxic lifestyle, prescription or recreational drugs, and/or unbalanced hormonal activity. Unassisted, the body cannot keep up, and excess toxins build up in fatty tissues with limited blood flow. This is how cellulite is formed.  A stagnant lymphatic system leads to impaired immunity, and may be the root cause of conditions such as chronic sinusitis; swollen glands, ankles and eyes; eczema; throat problems; upper respiratory, sinus and ear infections; colds; as well as tonsillitis, bronchitis and pneumonia.

The lymphatic system is considered to be a circulatory system. Unlike the blood, however, lymph does not move on its own because it doesn’t have a “pump.” However, there are many ways to move and thus detoxify your lymphatic system.

Regular exercise is great for the lymph as the contraction and relaxation of muscles and joints pushes the fluid where it needs to go. Even fun activities like jumping on a trampoline for ten to thirty minutes have been proven to be effective in moving and draining the lymph.

Lemon water. Lymph is 95% water and a major cause of lymph congestion is dehydration. At the very least, one should consume half their body weight in ounces of pure water per day. Iced tea (even green) and sparkling water do not count.  Adding lemon assists in the process by alkalizing and mineralizing the body and lymph. (Use a straw to protect your teeth’s enamel from the lemon.)

Lymphatic drainage massage uses a specific amount of pressure and rhythmic circular movements to stimulate the lymph and has been shown in studies to push up to 78% of stagnant lymph back into circulation, encouraging its movement towards the heart for the drainage of fluid and waste. 

Dry skin brushing. Using a dry brush with coarse bristles and brushing the skin towards the heart helps shed the outer layer of dead skin, opens pores, stimulates sweat glands and circulation, and moves the lymph. I recommend clients do this right before a shower.

Lymphatic drainage body wraps use creams with specialized vitamins and minerals that promote capillary flushing and lymph circulation, which in turn create a cleansing effect of the congested tissues (cellulite).  I recommend and use a medical grade niacin cream applied to the skin which is then wrapped for an hour.  A niacin-based cream was originally developed by a UCLA biochemist for patients presenting with circulation and edema problems.

Properly functioning lymph influences every part of the body, and yet it is one of the most overlooked systems. Giving it the attention it deserves is imperative to maintaining health. A happy byproduct is smoother, cellulite free skin.

Kristi Bixby is a certified colon hydrotherapist and neurofeedback technician with Natural Medicine Group in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 345.7300.

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