Our lymph passages run all throughout our bodies. They are responsible for moving lymph carrying internal and external toxins and pathogens to be excised. Environmental toxins, as well as bacteria, viruses and cellular waste, travels through these pathways to the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes are cleansing stations where lymph is filtered and purified. When lymph becomes stagnate, our cells can’t work efficiently, causing toxins to build up, and resulting in health issues like these.
- Edema (fluid retention)
- Chronic pain
- Unexplained injuries
- Excess weight, fatty deposits and cellulite
- Excessive sweating
- Chronic sinusitis
- Swollen glands, eyes, and ankles
- Eczema and other skin conditions
- Upper respiratory, including sinus and ear infections
- Chronic fatigue
- Digestive disorders
- Frequent colds
- Tonsillitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Cancer, including breast cancer
Now for the good news: increasing lymphatic drainage isn’t difficult or time-consuming. In fact, many of the suggestions I’m about to reveal are things that are just plain healthy for all of our bodily systems and our overall well-being!
Top 10 Ways to Increase Lymphatic Drainage
Drink more water
Staying hydrated is vital to keep lymph moving and draining properly. Lymph contains 95% water, which is the reason it’s so important to drink plenty of clean water throughout the day. Dehydration is the most common reason for lymph congestion and it’s easy to remedy. You should drink approximately half your body weight in ounces of water each day. One way to check you are getting enough water is to see if your urine is clear or straw colored. If it’s darker, you need to increase your water intake. If you struggle with drinking enough water, try infusing it with lemon slices, berries, and herbs, like mint and basil. Or, grab yourself a glass water bottle and add some therapeutic food grade essential oils.
Along with staying hydrated, daily workouts are the most important way to “pump” lymph through the body so it can be expelled. Daily exercise also increases your breathing rate, improves circulation, and encourages water intake—all ways to improve your lymphatic drainage. One of the best types of exercises is rebounding, which is usually done on a mini-trampoline or an exercise ball, though jogging and walking also have a rebound effect. Yoga is another great exercise for moving lymph. Stretching and twisting “squeezes” organs and tissue, naturally keeping lymph moving.
Practice dry brushing
The practice of dry brushing has been around for centuries and has recently regained popularity, perhaps because of the pitiful state of our culture’s lymphatic drainage. This technique originates from the Ayurveda medicine tradition to improve lymphatic flow and boost circulation. It’s easy to do—use a firm-bristle brush (don’t wet it) and brush your skin towards your heart. The movement encourages lymph and blood underneath the skin to move out of the organs and tissue so that it circulates.
Use an infrared sauna
If you read my blog, you know I love my infrared sauna fiercely. It’s so relaxing to sit in, but it also provides amazing health benefits. One of those is improving lymphatic drainage. As the body heats up, it improves circulation of blood but also of lymph. While you sit and sweat in an infrared sauna, you are in parasympathetic nervous system mode (you’re relaxed). Besides this, stress is one of the culprits of slowing down lymph drainage, so relaxing in an infrared sauna does double duty.
Use a standing desk
The “sitting disease” is real and one of the major contributors of poor lymphatic drainage. Sitting for extended periods of time cuts off lymph circulation, and since the lymphatic system doesn’t have its own pump, it needs assistance to get moving again. If you work at a desk most of the day, get a standing desk or make use of the ones available in your office. You don’t need to stand all day long to see an improvement; shifting back and forth between sitting and standing will be enough to see a remarkable improvement in lymph filtration.
Eat more raw vegetables
Raw fruits and vegetables contain enzymes and antioxidants that aid the body in breaking down toxins so they can be moved out of the body more proficiently. All fruits and veggies are great helpers, though leafy greens are especially important. They contain chlorophyll, which is a potent cleansing nutrient that cleanses both lymph and blood. Many of these foods are also high in water content so they help keep us hydrated.
Eat more seeds and nuts
Lymph drainage requires plenty of essential fatty acids, specifically omega 3 and omega 6. Adding more raw, unsalted seeds and nuts into your diet is a delicious way to ensure your body is getting enough of these nutrients. They are also important for reducing inflammation and removing fat-soluble waste from the body. Additionally, nuts and seeds are loaded with fiber, which is important for removing toxins from the body in its own right. Try adding more sunflower, chia, flaxseeds, pumpkin, and hemp seeds along with almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, macadamia, walnuts, and Brazil nuts to your diet. Try making some of my grain-free granola. Remember, it doesn’t count if they are roasted or covered in anything gooey and sweet.
Practice deep breathing
There are many reasons to practice deep breathing, but you may not have considered increased lymphatic drainage in the list. Spending 10-15 minutes daily focusing on breathing deeply from your diaphragm can greatly improve your lymphatic system as it creates a pressure pump to get the fluid moving. If you want, you can combine this practice while sitting in your infrared sauna to save time. By the time you emerge, you’ll be a new, relaxed woman!
Get a massage
Speaking of relaxing, I’m giving you permission to get regular massages. Yay! And don’t worry—if you prefer a lighter touch while on the massage table, you’ll still get the benefits. The lymphatic system is right below the surface of the skin, so a deep tissue massage isn’t required. A regular full body massage will get the lymph moving so that it can drain, but if you feel you need more assistance, you can seek out a lymphatic drainage massage practitioner in your area.
Burn your bra
A large cluster of lymph nodes is centered in our chest, arms, armpits, and breasts. When we restrict these areas with tight, ill-fitting bras or underwire, the lymph is unable to flow through those nodes as it should. This stagnation of lymph may contribute to swollen lymph nodes, fibrocystic breast tissue, and breast cancer. Breast cancer has reached epidemic status, and our culture’s insistence on wearing restrictive bras is part of the problem. Breast tissue is meant to bounce—it’s a natural rebounding for that delicate tissue. But when strapped into a tight, uncomfortable bra, that can’t happen. Unfortunately, our society isn’t ready for women to go bra-less, much to our chagrin. But I’ve recently found the ultimate solution — the Cami by Ruby Ribbon. It supports me without binding me up. I feel free for the first time in ages, and I no longer worry about constricting lymphatic drainage so that it stagnates.