What is the lymphatic system?
It is somehow a lesser known system in our bodies, but significant in how everything else functions. The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that is a part of the circulatory and immune systems; it works to rid the body of toxins and waste, and carries lymph fluid that contains white blood cells to help fight infection. The lymphatic system covers our entire bodies and works differently than the circulatory system, having a pump system with the heart. It requires muscular contractions to move the lymph fluid around the body. This fluid will filter through the lymph nodes around the body and eventually return back to the blood.
Why is proper lymph circulation important?
If the lymph fluid is not being moved around at an effective level, or is sluggish, swelling can occur and create a more difficult process to remove waste and toxins. It can lead to potential dysfunction in the immune, digestive, and nervous systems. With this in mind, it is noticeable that the lymphatic system depends on movement and fluid balance for proper waste management and detoxification in the body.
So, how do we help our body move lymph and circulate fluid properly?
First thing is first, lymphatic massage. For those with conditions such as lymphedema, it is important to see certified specialists in lymphatic drainage. For the rest of the population, you can perform some simple maneuvers at home to help move fluid in a helpful manner. There are many different areas of the body this can be performed on, but a great place to start is the neck. For a neck lymphatic massage, begin with a flat hand at the side of your neck up by your ear. Slowly and gently begin pushing in a downward motion toward the main collection ducts that sit in the hollow area right above your collarbone. But this is not the only way to improve lymph movement in the body. As mentioned, fluid balance is an important aspect of a functioning lymphatic system, so never underestimate the significance in proper hydration. Another big one is regular movement; and this does not necessarily mean getting in a regular workout each day and going back to your desk for the rest of that day. It means small, consistent bouts of movement throughout the entire day in order to allow circulation. My favorite methods are multiple small walks and 5 minute stretching/yoga periods to break up my time sitting at a desk on most days. Lastly, deep breathing and intentional breath work is another wonderful way to contract muscles throughout the body to move lymph fluid. I enjoy box breathing or the 4-7-8 method, but there are so many options out there that help the body function at its best.
Give some of these methods a try, and I think your body will thank you!