by Sarah Wells
The human body has 600 to 1000 lymph nodes and a complex network of vessels that transport lymphatic fluid to and from the lymph nodes. The lymphatic system picks up anything that the blood does not. This Lymph Obligatory Load, or LOL, is responsible for carrying away cell debris, pathogens, dust, certain chemicals, and maintaining homeostasis (fluid balance).
Think of the lymphatic system as a river. If there is not enough water, the river becomes very shallow while too much water results in flooding. If lymph nodes become overburdened, injured, or are genetically prone to lymphedema, fluid can build up causing certain types of edema.
Lesser known about the lymphatic system is its role in cellular nutrition, hydration, and oxygenation. The lymphatic system has a direct relationship to every system in the body including the nervous system, digestion, immune system, brain function, reproduction, circulation, musculoskeletal, and integumentary (skin).
In no particular order, the following eight tips/tools support the lymphatic system:
1) Yoga, especially coupled with mindful breathing. Gentle twisting, inversions, and sun salutations will gently decrease lymphatic stagnation.
2) Avoiding excessive amounts of sodium. Salt plays a huge role in fluid balance. While it is necessary in small amounts, too much sodium can create a tendency toward water retention.
3) Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables. Celery, lemon, berries, cherries, Swiss chard, zucchini, cucumbers, and sprouts are especially beneficial. Incorporate fresh herbs such as thyme, cilantro, and parsley. (See recipe for Herbed Kitcherie below.)
4) Receive Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) from a trained therapist. MLD is an advanced massage technique that focuses on moving lymphatic fluid throughout the body. Be sure your therapist has extensive training and can show you how to do basic MLD on yourself.
5) Lower your exposure to chemicals as much as possible. Avoid perfumes, scented candles, toxic cleaners, pesticides, and paint fumes. Toxic chemicals will increase the Lymph Obligatory Load.
6) Drink filtered or spring water, and eat organic foods. When consuming dairy, eggs, butter, and meat choose organic as much as possible. Due to a higher fat content, these foods carry a greater concentration of toxins than fruits and vegetables.
7) Wear organic cotton clothing. Conventionally grown cotton is one of the highest sprayed crops. Chemical residues can be found in clothing for up to two years after purchase despite regular washing.
8) Dry skin brushing or lymph brushing. Use a soft bristle brush, and gently brush skin in the direction of the lymphatic watersheds (toward the lymph nodes).
Recipe for Herbed Kitcherie
Kitcherie is a humble staple in Ayurvedic cooking and is considered a Satvic or yogic food. It incorporates many lymphatic supporting foods.
1 cup short grain brown rice
2/3 cup mung beans
1 stalk celery finely chopped
1 zucchini finely chopped
½ teaspoon mustard seeds
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon ginger powder
¼ teaspoon fenugreek
fresh lemon juice
pinch of Himalayan salt
fresh parsley and/or cilantro
Soak mung beans overnight then rinse. Place in a slow cooker and add rice, celery, zucchini, salt, mustard seeds, turmeric powder, ginger powder, and fenugreek. Add 3 cups of spring water and gently stir. Cook in slow cooker on high for about 4 hours or on low for 8 hours. Gently stir and add fresh lemon juice and chopped herbs.