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Strengthen Your Lymphatic System

Illustration of the lymph system
June 24, 2014 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

The lymphatic system plays a huge role in your health, but conventional medicine tends to ignore it – until something goes wrong.

What a shame! Because the lymphatic system is truly amazing.

Faced with MRSA, MERS, West Nile, and, now, Heartland viruses – there’s one thing we all need – a fully powered immune system!

In an era when scientists say the next, long-overdue pandemic could come any day, no wonder more and more of my patients are asking how they can protect themselves.

That’s why I want to tell you about simple ways to rev up your immune to protect yourself against devastating health threats.

It all starts with the lymphatic system, an unsung hero of good health. The lymphatic system is part of your immune system. It’s a network of fluid (called lymph), glands (called nodes), vessels, and organs that serve as a drainage system, flushing waste material from your body.

A healthy lymph system attacks bacteria and viruses in your bloodstream, trapping them in the lymph nodes where special white blood cells destroy them.

The lymph system also cleanses your body of toxins, dead cells, and cancer cells. At the same time, the lymph delivers much-needed nutrients to healthy cells.

Unlike the circulatory system, which relies on heart contractions to pump blood through the body, the lymph system has no pump, so it uses your movements to move the fluid it contains all over the body.

Pretty remarkable considering that your body is home to four times more lymph than blood!

Your lymph system is constantly challenged. Everything from poor diet and stress to chemical-laden cleaning products and drugs can compromise the lymph system and reduce your immunity.

At a time when the next pandemic is on the horizon, the last thing you want is a weak immune system. There are two things you can do today to support your healthy lymphatic system.

Earlier I mentioned that the lymph in your lymphatic system moves through your body when you move. Obviously, exercise is one way to get your lymph flowing.

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A daily brisk walk is a good start. But don’t stop there! Several recent studies show the benefit of being active throughout the day.

Here’s how you can get started: Set a timer for 20 minutes. When it goes off, stand up! Stretch, walk in place, or lift a hand-weight for two to three minutes. Then sit down and set the timer for another twenty minutes. Doing this throughout the day keeps the lymph flowing – and you healthy.

Another way to get a lymph-pleasing workout is with a mini-trampoline or rebounder. These are great tools for anyone with joint issues, because you’re spared the constant pounding on hard surfaces that goes with jogging and other sports.

But if a mini-trampoline isn’t for you, any form of jumping – whether it’s jumping jacks, jumping rope, or just hopping in place – is a good alternative.

Although exercise is my favorite way to support strong, healthy lymphatic and immune systems, there is another option that provides similar benefits without working out.

A patient I’ll call Jill came to see me after a long bout with fibromyalgia left her weak and prone to infections.

Although Jill’s health was better than it had been, she was just not strong enough to exercise yet. So I recommended therapeutic, or medical, massage to stimulate her lymphatic system and get her ready to work out again.

Massage is often used to treat lymphedema, swelling in arms or legs when flow of lymph through the nodes is blocked for one reason or another. So it makes sense to use massage to stimulate lymphatic flow, even in patients without lymphedema.

After a few months of weekly massage sessions, a new, improved Jill returned to my clinic. Now that she was stronger and free of the nagging infections, Jill’s attitude had done a 180 and she was ready to hit the gym again. “I’m sticking with the massages, though,” she told me. “I feel so good for days afterward, and after being sick for so long, I don’t want to give that up.”

Understand that you don’t have to be sick or weak to benefit from therapeutic massage. And even if you do exercise, research shows that massage enhances the benefits.

Actually, there are thousands of studies showing that massage has a lot to offer, including stress and pain relief, as well as improved lymph circulation.

To find a reputable massage therapist, check with the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).

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