We all want strong immune systems. Most people have heard about taking vitamin C, or eating garlic, and if you’re up on your GAPS protocol knowledge you know about getting plenty of sunshine, eating fermented foods, and plenty of healthy fats. One often overlooked area of the immune system is the lymph system.
The lymph system is made up of special vessels, nodes and spaces all over your entire body from head to toe. It is filled with a special fluid, called lymph, that starts out as part of your blood, but slowly leaks out of the blood and takes with it anything dangerous or toxic. The lymph fluid holds onto these toxins until they can filter them through the nearest lymph node. The nodes isolate and neutralize the toxins by making special white blood cells. The neutralized toxin is released back into the lymph fluid and excreted with the rest of the body’s waste. Eventually the lymph fluid travels all around the body and ends up in a special area right behind the heart. It enters the heart through the thoracic duct and the fluid is returned to the circulation system where the whole cycle starts all over again. Your tonsils, bone marrow, thymus gland and spleen are also a part of the lymphatic system.
When you catch a cold or a sore throat one of the first things you notice, maybe even before you realize you are sick, is swollen lymph nodes. This is because your lymph system is already hard at work trying to fight off disease. It’s important to take care of your lymph system since it is one of our first lines of defense.
We all know our blood circulates on its own, quite rapidly, throughout the body making the trip from head to toe about once every minute or so. The fluid in the lymph system moves much more slowly. It makes the blood look like a Class V rapids in comparison! No, the lymph system is more like the lazy river – except that’s not exactly accurate since rivers flow on their own. The lymph system requires help to flow. You don’t want stagnant lymph, you want it to flow and circulate and clear away the toxins as efficiently as possible. So here are three things you can do every day to move your lymph along.
1. Exercise. Our lymphatic systems depend on the contraction of our muscles to move along and circulate. Sitting for too long causes the lymph fluid to stagnate. Sometimes this fluid builds up and causes swelling – sometimes in your ankles and lower legs – which is uncomfortable and not very safe either. Daily exercise helps activate the lymph circulation. Gentle movement like walking or tai chi can be as effective as more strenuous exercise when it comes to moving lymph.
2. Dry Brushing. Lymph only flows in one direction – toward the heart. So dry brushing done correctly is a great way to move that fluid along where it needs to go. Dry brushing also helps shed dead skin cells, a beauty bonus. To get started purchase a natural bristle brush with a long handle like this one. Before your daily bath or shower is a good time to do it. Start with the bottoms of your feet and cover your entire foot with firm, longish strokes moving evenly up from the foot to lower leg to thigh and hips. Do the same thing with hands moving up toward shoulders, and torso moving from hips and buttocks up toward the heart. Do both feet/legs and both hands/arms. Every stroke should move toward your heart. You can end with reaching the brush to mid back and stroking up over shoulders toward the heart. Then shower or bathe as usual. Dry brushing is most effective when done daily for at least three months.
3. Lemon water. The first thing you drink every morning should be something that benefits your health. So put the coffee or sodas, or even milk or juice, on hold while you have a glass of lemon water. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a 16oz mug and fill it with warm water. Drink the warm lemon water first thing to give your lymph system a boost as it dumps out all of the toxins it has accumulated from the day before and during the night.
Try these three ideas to nurture your lymph system now. This will help you get ready for all those back-to-school germs by helping to build and boost your immune system. Share this post with your friends by using the Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook links at the top of the page. We’d love to hear from you, please leave a comment!