The lymphatic system is central to our health, yet it is often overlooked in western medicine, both by practitioners and by health-conscious individuals. Working in concert with the blood circulatory system, lymphatic function in fact supports every other system in the body by providing nutrients, draining wastes, and coordinating immune system activity. White blood cells – the so-called “soldiers” of our immune system – are produced and transported throughout the body via the lymphatic system. As well, lymphatic channels perform a crucial function in draining away waste material from virtually every cell and organ in the body. Unlike our blood circulatory system, the lymphatic system has no pump. Lymph moves when we move. When we are sluggish, so is our lymph, and this is recognized as having a significant impact on our health. Sluggish lymphatic drainage can lead to nausea, fatigue, swelling and joint pain. Symptoms associated with lymph blockage include breast tenderness, fibrocystic breasts, worsened allergies & food sensitivities, sinusitis, more frequent colds and ‘flus, fatigue, and skin breakouts. Many practitioners associate cancer with lymph blockages. In general, if lymph function is compromised, detoxification and the immune system are compromised.
Attain & maintain optimal lymphatic health by incorporating some of the strategies below:
- Regular exercise: Start at the level you are at, do something you enjoy
- Deep breathing: Regularly (!) and via intentional breathing exercises such as Alternate Nostril Breathing
- Contrast Hydrotherapy: For instance, alternating hot (3 min) & cold (30 sec) water in the shower, always ending on cold
- Touch: Lymph drainage massage, self breast massage, dry skin brushing
- Topical: Regular use of creams or oil specially formulated with herbs and essential oils for lymph circulation, such as a customized herbal breast oil
- Saunas: To promote enhanced detoxification via the skin, and stimulate lymphatic circulation
- Detox Organs: Ensure that your organs of detoxification (skin, liver, kidneys, small and large intestines) are functioning optimally, in order to reduce the burden on your lymphatic system.
- Herbs: Consult a naturopathic doctor for specific combinations, forms and dosages appropriate for you
Dr Mahalia Freed ND is a naturopathic doctor in downtown Toronto, where her family practice includes special focus on women’s health and hormone balancing, gynecology, breast health & breast cancer, and LGBTTTIQ healthcare.