When it comes to immune health, your lymphatic system doesn’t get nearly enough credit. Learn more about this essential immune component plus 6 ways to promote a healthier lymphatic system.
What do massages, staying hydrated, and exercising all have in common? They help promote lymphatic circulation! If you’re not exactly sure what that means or why it’s important, you’re not alone. While the lymphatic system plays a pivotal role in your overall health and wellness, it’s not something you think about unless something is wrong. And you can definitely tell when something is wrong…
Sometimes it starts as swollen lymph nodes in your neck, then brain fog, stiffness, chronic fatigue, and more. Bottom line? Having a healthy lymphatic system helps ALL your other systems function better.
Read on and learn more about this essential system plus six ways to promote healthier lymphatic function today.
What is the Lymphatic System?
Your lymphatic system is a master at multitasking. It helps maintain body fluid levels, protects you from invaders, absorbs fats from your digestive tract, and it even removes cellular waste.
We’d love to give you some cute metaphor to help explain its purpose, but the lymphatic system wears too many hats to be confined to one title. Executive janitor? Professional clean-up crew? Custodian/water management? Technically, all of these are correct, but they’re hardly the full picture. However, these tasks are ALL pivotal and often overlooked.
Don’t believe us? When your lymphatic system isn’t functioning properly you may experience:
- Water retention
- Digestive issues
- Sinus infections
- Skin problems (dryness, acne, etc.)
- Soreness or aching upon waking
- Cold and flu-like symptoms
In extreme cases, lymphatic dysfunction can even lead to:
Parts of the Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system works using vessels, glands, and even a few organs. One of the most important tasks your lymphatic system accomplishes is the circulation of lymph fluid. This fluid is made up of water, white blood cells, proteins, salts, and fats. Lymphatic circulation might not sound all that important but trust us. It’s a pretty big deal.
Your lymph nodes, which are found throughout your body, filter out specific cells (damaged, cancerous, etc.) from lymph fluid while also storing and producing important immune cells. Lymphatic vessels are capillaries that help move lymphatic fluid towards lymphatic ducts. Once there, lymph fluid is returned to the bloodstream which helps maintain normal blood volume and pressure.
Additionally, several organs play an important role in lymphatic health. The spleen, for example, is the largest lymphatic organ and it helps both filter and store blood. On top of that, it produces white blood cells that your immune system needs to combat infections and diseases. Your tonsils and adenoids also assist lymphatic function by trapping pathogens from the air and even from food. Other lymphatic organs include your thymus, bone marrow, and even your appendix.
How Does the Lymphatic System Work?
The liquid portion of your blood, called plasma, is constantly flowing through your arteries, blood vessels, and capillaries. Once it’s finished delivering nutrients and collecting waste, most of it is returned to regular circulation via veins. However, some of it seeps into your body’s tissues. The Cleveland Clinic says, “The lymphatic system collects this excess fluid, now called lymph, from tissues in your body and moves it along until it’s ultimately returned to your bloodstream.”
In the most basic sense, your lymphatic system accomplishes MANY tasks simply by keeping lymph fluid circulating. When it’s running smoothly, all the other systems run smoothly as well. For example:
- Maintain fluid levels
When the lymphatic system collects lymph fluid and recirculates it, this helps maintain the fluid levels throughout your body. Without this process, lymph fluid can accumulate and cause problems (lymphedema).
- Absorb Fats
Lymph moves throughout your body, including through your intestines. As it moves through your intestines, it collects fats and proteins that then get moved back into the bloodstream by the lymphatic system.
- Protect Against Invaders
As part of your immune system, the lymphatic system both produces and releases immune cells that look for and destroy invaders like viruses, parasites, fungi, and bacteria.
- Transports and Removes Waste
Lymph collects and transports waste (cellular waste, abnormal cells, etc.). So, as your lymphatic system circulates lymph, it helps remove and eliminate this waste.
There’s one tricky part about maintaining a healthy lymphatic system…it doesn’t have a pump.
Unlike your circulatory system, in which the pumping of your heart promotes blood circulation, the lymphatic system has no such pump. Instead, when you breathe and move your body, this naturally promotes the movement of lymphatic fluid.
6 Ways to Promote a Healthy Lymphatic System
Since your lymphatic system doesn’t have a natural pump mechanism, there are several things to keep in mind if you want to promote healthy lymphatic circulation.
Stay Hydrated to Ease Lymph Movement
All of your organs and systems require water to function optimally, and your lymphatic system is no different. Plus, lymph contains water and will circulate more easily if you’re well hydrated.
Move Your Body to Promote Lymphatic Circulation
You don’t have to run a marathon, but regularly exercising helps your lymphatic system circulate properly. Remember, it doesn’t have a pump. So, something as simple as a daily walk, swimming, or even yoga can help. Stretching and strength training are also particularly helpful.
Eat a Balanced Diet with Healthy Fats
While a balanced diet might look different for everyone, it’s best to avoid pre-packaged and highly processed foods. These tend to include chemical additives and preservatives that can make it harder for your lymphatic system to fully filter out toxins.
Additionally, the types of fats you consume can have a major impact. In one study, a high-fat diet “…was associated with impaired collecting lymphatic vessel function…” However, essential fatty acids like Omega-3 help strengthen vascular tissue and reduce inflammation. That’s why eating a balanced diet with healthy fats is so important for lymphatic health.
Consider Massage to Promote Lymphatic Circulation
Getting a massage can help promote lymphatic circulation in much the same way that exercise does. While there are special lymph drainage massage practices, simply getting a monthly massage from a licensed massage therapist can help. If you already deal with lymphatic disorders, you should first consult your doctor and see if there’s a specialist they recommend for this procedure.
Facial massages are also particularly helpful for combatting puffy eyes and face bloating. Even a DIY facial massage may be beneficial because it encourages any lymph fluid in your face to move towards the lymph nodes under your ears. Other home practices, like dry brushing, can provide beneficial lymphatic drainage.
Avoid Restrictive Clothing That Could Inhibit Lymphatic Circulation
This one should go without saying, but avoid restrictive clothing. First, if your clothes feel tight, then it’s just plain bad for your blood circulation. Additionally, anything that inhibits blood circulation will inhibit lymphatic circulation as well. So, if you’re concerned about lymphatic health, opt for loose and comfortable clothing.
Maintain a Healthy Immune System
This one may be easier said than done, but a strong immune system means your lymphatic system won’t have to work as hard. Simple things like maintaining a regular sleep schedule, staying hydrated, and reducing stress can have a huge impact. If you want to do more for your immunity, we recommend taking a high-quality beta-glucan supplement to support healthy immune function and overall wellness.
A Strong Lymphatic System Means A Strong Immune System
We hope this information has given you a better understanding of your lymphatic system. With just a few simple lifestyle changes, your lymphatic system can run smoother and make life a lot easier for the rest of your bodily systems.
If you’re interested in learning more about health and wellness, be sure to join the Haka Life Tribe down below by subscribing to our weekly digest.
Every body may be different, but everybody deserves health and wellness.
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