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What if your dull skin, and thinning hair, PMS, aching knees, mood swings, forgetfulness, food sensitivities, or those hard-to-lose last 10 pounds are the result of one simple issue? What if it is all caused by a sluggish lymphatic system? In Ayurvedic medicine, a medical system that is at least 5,000 years old, the lymphatic system is generally the first system treated, no matter the symptom. This may seem strange to those of us in the west where the lymph system is rarely even mentioned.
To understand why Ayurvedic medicine considers the lymph system so important to maintaining health and your youthful vibrance, and how to start paying some special attention to yours, see the lists below of the problems that can be caused when your lymphatic system isn’t flowing properly and how to help it get moving again.
A Sluggish lymphatic system can cause:
- Poor digestion: Your lymph system actually begins in your gut! So, it stands to reason that if it isn’t running properly, your digestion can be compromised.
- Food sensitivities and allergies: this is a direct result of what we talked about above. If your lymphatic system is running too slowly to filter out hard to digest proteins such as gluten and casein (dairy), you can develop “leaky gut” which will manifest as food intolerances and even allergies. Read “Eat Wheat” by Dr. Douillard to learn more. At the bottom of the page there is an affiliate link to his kindle book. It is an awesome read!
- Weight gain and cellulite: For the reasons outlined above, slow moving lymph can actually cause weight gain! Cellulite is a combination of fat, toxins, and wastes trapped under the skin. Ayurvedic medicine believes that cellulite is caused by a slow lymphatic system.
- Skin disorders and eruptions: when your body can’t filter out the toxins through your lymph, kidneys, and liver, it uses your skin. Also, food sensitivities can cause skin issues, so if you have food sensitivities due to slow lymph, it can be indirectly causing skin problems.
- Reduced detoxification: your lymph system actually is the first line of defense for filtering out unwanted toxins. If the lymph doesn’t do its job, then the kidneys and liver have too big of a job to do. When the kidneys and liver are overwhelmed, the next path out is your skin. If that doesn’t work, then your body has to hold on to the toxins and it usually stores them in your fatty tissues. No thanks!
- PMS symptoms: Menopause and Menstrual Cycle Symptoms: It May Not Be Hormonal is a great article from Dr. Douillard that explains how your PMS (or menopause symptoms) might not be related to hormone imbalance at all, but rather to sluggish lymph!
- Changes to your mental health and clarity: This article, Is Your Lymph Affecting Your Mental Health? from Dr. Douillard explains how a slow lymphatic system can effect your mental health and memory!
After reading that list, are you ready to start paying attention to your lymphatic system? Even if it doesn’t have all the answers to what ails you, it certainly can only help to start taking care of it! Here are some simple (and a couple of more intense) solutions to getting that lymph flowing freely.
Things to do to get your Lymphatic System moving:
- Drink warm lemon water first thing in the morning. This does more than just get your lymph moving. For more reasons to do this go to 7-amazing-health-benefits-of-lemon-water/ from Natural Green Mom!
- Eat with the seasons. Nature has a perfect schedule for cleansing our lymph in the spring. Being able to get wheat, dairy, and fruits year round isn’t the blessing that it seems to be. Our bodies were designed to have breaks from our favorite foods. Different species in your microbiome are to be fed and flourish at different times of the year to benefit your body. For a free list of foods by season, go here.
- Use a dry brush before your shower. Here is a post from DIY and Kawa on how and why to dry brush. If you have time, follow this with an application of body oil or lotion using an upward motion to move your lymph even more!
- Sip fennel tea. Fennel is a great lymph mover! You can, of course, use fennel in cooking as well.
- Do “hot sips“. Take sips of warm/hot water every 10-15 minutes for a few days. This tip comes from Dr. Douillard. Go to this post for more information on hot sips as rehydration therapy.
- Do yoga: as if you needed another excuse 🙂 All exercise moves lymph, but there are certain yoga poses that help to open specific lymph nodes. For a super easy, can-do-it-while-sick-or exhausted-lymph-moving yoga routine, go here. It only takes 15 minutes! You have 15 minutes for yourself, right?
- Use an essential oil blend to target your lymphatic system. Rocky Mountain Oils Lymphatic blend smells amazing. I use it often.
- Get your omega 3’s. Whether from fish oil, algae oil, seeds, etc, these healthy fats keep your lymph flowing. This article: Detox Your Brain & Gut With This Surprising Lymph Cleanser outlines the details and studies regarding using omega 3s to support lymph flow.
- Manage your stress. Stress is very hard on the lymphatic system (and every other body system you have). In most cases, you can’t change the external stressors, but you can change how you handle them. My favorites are yoga, mediation, hiking, and gardening, but find what works best for you. Rescue Your Lymph From Stress… Before It’s Too Late! is an article that explains the connection between stress and slow lymph more thoroughly.
- De-stress with holy basil tea or a turmeric “golden milk”. Here is a recipe for a Healing Vanilla Golden Milk from Naturally Free Life that has a great explanation of the additional benefits of drinking golden milk. According to Dr. Douillard, holy basil and turmeric address a very specific connection between stress and slow lymphatic flow.
- Avoid drinks with ice and/or cold drinks. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is believed that drinking cold beverages slows the lymph while drinking warm or hot beverages allows the lymph to flow more freely. See “hot sips” above. I don’t follow this particular one fully. I do drink my water either room temperature or warm, but I also enjoy a good smoothie. 🙂
- Alternate between hot and cold water in the shower. This one is uncomfortable (in my opinion), but it works really well. The hot and cold alternately contract and open the lymph for increased flow.
- Do a short targeted cleanse or temporary supplementation with herbs. (Cleanses are best in the spring and fall, but anytime is better than never!) I believe that daily changes add up and make a bigger difference than one extreme period of following a protocol, however, if you have been eating poorly for a long time, and/or not getting your body moving, and /or you have some health issues that you want to address sooner rather than later, Dr. Douillard has a few different cleansing options. You can do a short 4 day cleanse with his free e-book. Or, if you really have your big kid pants on, you can do his 2 week Colorado Cleanse. He offers kits to buy to make it simple, but you can also do it with ingredients from the grocery store. Here is his lymph cleansing kit. It is a kit with lymph cleansing herbs designed for temporary supplementation to cleanse your lymphatic system.
What do you think? Are you going to start paying more attention to your lymph? Do you do a lot of these things already? Are there any you plan on adding to your routine?