The body is an amazing and complex machine. It is comprised of several systems that all have to run in sync to operate at peak capacity. It is something we don’t give much thought or credit to unless there is a malfunction or breakdown that causes pain or incapacitates us in some manner.

The lymphatic system is an unsung hero in our daily bodily function and an essential part of our immune system. It is our first responder to infection and is the primary reservoir of white blood cells. The lymphatic system works silently and consistently to maintain fluid balance while serving as the main pathway for eliminating toxins via our lymph nodes.

A compromised lymphatic system can result in chronic diseases and increased pain and swelling, which can negatively affect our quality of life and limit daily activity. When the congestion of lymph occurs, it can impair healthy circulation and nerve conduction. Lack of movement, surgeries, blockages, or damages to the lymph vessels and or nodes themselves can cause an increase in swelling referred to as lymphedema. 

Signals that our lymphatic system is in distress include:

  • swelling in the fingers or toes
  • cold hands and feet
  • brain fog 
  • depression
  • bloating and digestive issues
  • weakened immune system/increased colds and flu
  • enlarged lymph nodes
  • allergies
  • unexplained injury and illnesses, to name just a few

Simple steps to help get the lymph fluid flowing again include:

  • increase exercise and water intake
  • avoid sitting or standing for long periods
  • eat a cleaner diet incorporating raw foods like beets, cherries, cranberries, and pomegranates 
  • wear loose-fitting garments so as not to impinge the skin 
  • simply breathe deeply…and laugh more! 

Conversely, reducing the intake of toxins like nicotine, alcohol, caffeine and prescription and or recreational drugs will reduce the strain on the lymphatic system overall.

Lymphatic enhancement therapies can also help give a push to our lymph fluid movement. Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) by a trained therapist can effectively reduce edema throughout the body. The use of compression garments is a passive way to ensure the system keeps moving without fluid buildup. Dry brushing is also effective in stimulating fluid movement under the skin.

Why is it important to maintain a healthy lymphatic system? The benefits are many: immediate relief of “heavy” legs and arms, reduction of cellulite, prevention of varicose veins, improvement of immune function, improved bowel movements, reduction in muscle spasms, decrease in lymphedema and excess fluid retention, and acceleration in recovery from injury and surgery.

Remember, it is critical that the lymphatic system is stimulated, so the flow of lymph fluid can improve compromised areas, as well as the entire body.

Leah Wiltgen is a licensed massage therapist with certification from the
Dr. Vodder International Academy of Manual Lymph Drainage and can be reached at (760) 449.7855 or [email protected].

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