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Moving Lymph for Immune Support

We all can likely benefit from extra attention to our immune system. The lymphatic system is often overlooked but highly linked to our immune function through lymphocytes, the body’s clean-up crew for infections.

What is the lymphatic system?

  • Lymph is the excess fluid between cells and consists of white blood cells (lymphocytes), small molecules, and proteins.
  • Similar to our circulatory system which moves blood, the lymphatic system has a flow of lymph throughout the body.
  • Lymph is approximately one third of our total body weight (compared to blood which is 1/13 of the body’s weight).
  • Lymph is considered an emunctory, an organ of elimination, like the skin, liver, kidneys, bowels, and lungs.
  • Our brain is connected to our immune system through lymphatic pathways. Read more.

Why is it important to move lymph?

  • Unlike the circulatory system, lymph doesn’t get pumped throughout the body, so it is up to us to encourage its movement.
  • Increasing circulation of lymph moves toxins and proteins throughout the body, improving the quality of the blood.
  • Ever notice sore, hard lymph nodes in your neck when sick? Lymphatic congestion shows up as swollen lymph nodes and edema (swelling of ankles, feet, hands).
Image credit: University of Virginia Health System

How to Move Your Lymph:

  • Dry Skin Brushing – Using a dry loofah or natural sponge, lightly brush skin using short strokes directed toward the heart. Begin at extremities and move inward toward the heart. Best done before bed or bathing.
  • Exercise – The action of muscles contracting and relaxing pumps lymphatic fluid throughout the body. Move your body daily in ways that are enjoyable and feel good.
  • Hydrotherapy – At the end of a shower, turn the water to as cold as can tolerate for 30 seconds. This also increases energy by drawing blood back into vital internal organs and therefore can be stimulating, so avoid doing if showering before bed.
  • Saunas are also excellent for moving lymph.

Fun Fact: The plant phytolacca, commonly called pokeweed, has an affinity for the lymphatic system and is used as a topical oil for relieving any type of lymphatic congestion.