By Bonnie Jenkins, Advanced Natural Medicine
Want vibrant health? Many practitioners recommend cleansing, an age-old practice used in holistic medicine. But when you mention cleansing, most people typically think of eliminating toxins from the liver and colon. Yet, as important as that is, there is another, much-overlooked system in the body that also benefits from the occasional detox—the lymphatic system.
Whether you’re suffering from aches and pains, swelling, inflammation, fatty deposits or bloating, cleansing the lymphatic system once or twice a year can often make the difference between good health and poor health.
The lymphatic system is a complex network of fluid-filled nodes, vessels, ducts and glands—including the spleen, thymus and tonsils—that bathe our cells and carries our body’s “sewage” away from the tissues. These elements work together to carry cellular waste to the bloodstream so it can be eliminated. The lymph system handles toxins that enter the body through external sources like foods or air pollution. It also deals with internally produced toxins (endotoxins) that are the result of normal metabolic processes in the body.
When The Lymphatic System Isn’t Working …
If the lymphatic system isn’t working efficiently, you may see fatty deposits or cellulite or experience aches and pains. One study found that 80 percent of overweight women have sluggish lymphatic systems and that getting this system flowing smoothly is the key to easy weight loss and improved feelings of well-being. Conversely, if you improve the cleansing ability of the lymph system, it will be able to “sweep” away the toxins that are linked to these problems, and possibly even some autoimmune disorders.
A healthy lymphatic system also helps purify the blood through the largest mass of lymph tissue in the body, the spleen. The spleen fights infection and destroys worn-out red blood cells in the body. By cleansing your lymphatic system, your spleen will be better able to handle the retired red blood cells.
How To Cleanse The Lymphatic System
So what’s the best way to cleanse your lymphatic system? You can start with your fork. Foods can either help or hinder the flow of lymph in the body. To cleanse the lymphatic system, avoid processed foods that contain artificial preservatives, flavors, colors and stabilizers—in other words, most prepared, packaged and fast foods. The further away from nature that a food has moved, the more likely it is to clog your lymphatic system.
Artificially sweetened foods and the white foods—white sugar, white rice, white bread, white pasta and any white-flour products—require enormous amounts of energy to handle the resulting rapid blood-sugar fluctuations. This energy is better served to cleanse your lymph system.
Drink Plenty Of Water
It’s also important to drink plenty of water. That means eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day—and even more if you are active. Without adequate water, lymph fluid cannot flow properly. If you drink inadequate amounts of water, your lymphatic system will slow down.
The enzymes and acids in raw fruit are powerful lymph cleansers, particularly when eaten on an empty stomach. Add more raw fruits, vegetables, salads and fresh juices to your diet and your lymph will have the tools it needs to do some serious deep cleansing. Eating plenty of green vegetables provides chlorophyll (the green color in plants) and loads of vitamins and minerals to assist in lymph cleansing.
Supplemental Herbs- Astragalus and Echinacea
Supplemental herbs can also play a critical role in lymphatic cleansing. Two of the best are astragalus and echinacea. The Chinese have been using astragalus, which they refer to as huang qi, for more than 2,000 years. Huang qi means “life-force strengthener.” In addition to strengthening the life force, astragalus is an excellent lymphatic system cleanser. Alongside echinacea, it alleviates congestion and swelling in the body. Take 500 mg. of a standardized astragalus supplement three to four times per day and 300 mg. of echinacea every day for two weeks.
Deep Breathing and Exercise
One last thing: There is three times more lymph fluid in the body than blood, yet the body has no organ like the heart to pump lymph. That means lymph relies on deep breathing and exercise to move. While cleansing the lymphatic system, be sure to increase aerobic exercise—try brisk walking, rebounding on a mini trampoline or jogging. Also, it’s important to take time to practice deep-breathing exercises to help pump the lymph with fresh oxygen.
Doing a lymphatic detox for just two weeks each year can boost the efficiency of this critical nutrient and waste management system. And if may even help you lose a few pounds. What a great way to welcome autumn!
Gallo Alvaro C, et al. Women with weight loss and abnormal mesenteric lymph nodes. Revista Clinica Española. 2009;209:245-246.
Pick M. The lymph system and your health. Available at www.womentowomen.com/ detoxification/lymphaticsystem.aspx
Siems W, et al. Anti-fibrosclerotic effects of shock wave therapy in lipedema and cellulite. Biofactors. 2005;24:275-282.