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By Stephanie Bish

The Lymphatic System and Your Health

Though many people are unfamiliar with the lymphatic system, it is an essential part of your health and well-being.  The Lymphatic system is part of your circulatory system, working to move the clear fluid called ‘lymph’ through a network of lymph vessels toward the heart, carrying toxins as it goes.  It also plays an important role in your immune system, protecting you from illness-causing viruses and bacteria.


Eliminating Toxins

Each cell in your body operates as an independent ‘being’.  Each cell eats, digests, and eliminates toxins.  These toxins mostly reside in clear fluid between the cells, called ‘interstitial fluid’.  This fluid holds the toxins eliminated from your cells, and carries it away through the lymph vessels to the heart. There it enters the blood stream and is processed through the liver and kidneys.  The liver and kidneys filter out the toxins, which are then released through urine and feces. 

When you experience edema, or swelling in your tissues, it is often caused by a back-up in the lymphatic system.  This back-up can make you feel heavy, toxic, and achy.  Headaches and chronic pain are often related to the lymphatic system being sluggish.  

Many things can cause edema, including surgery, food sensitivities, eating too much salt in your diet, stress, and emotions.  The lymphatic system is part of your circulatory system, but it does not have a pump of its own like the heart which moves blood.  Instead it relies on gravity and the effects of exercise to move the fluid. 

This is one reason why exercise is proven to be helpful in so many research studies for such a variety of symptoms.  Exercise helps moves the lymph fluid and toxins out of your body.  When you have edema in a limb, elevate it above your heart, so that gravity can help move the lymph toward your heart.


Protecting You from Infections

Lymphatic organs, such as lymph nodes and tonsils, are found throughout the body.  Structures dedicated to the circulation and production of lymphocytes, which work to fight off infections, include the spleen, thymus, bone marrow and lymph tissue within the digestive system. 

When your body is attacked by a virus or bacteria, the lymphatic system is like a SWAT team, moving quickly and efficiently.  It deploys lymphocytes which attack and destroy the offenders.  Any toxic remains are cleaned up in the lymph nodes and the waste is carried on with the rest of the lymph to the heart and into the blood to be cleaned. 

Any strain on your lymph system, like overeating (especially salty foods), lack of exercise or a sedentary lifestyle, certain drugs, stress or negative emotions can weaken your immune system, making you vulnerable to illness.


Prevention and Self-care

  •  The very most helpful thing you can do to maintain a healthy lymphatic system is to move.  Exercise is the best way to keep the lymph moving, resulting in a cleaner, healthier body.  Make exercise part of your daily routine.  As little as 20 minutes of walking a day can make a real difference.  Little things add up: walk instead of using the car when possible; choose to park at the far end of the parking lot; meet a friend every day for a chat and walk; take a dog for a spin around the block; play with a child. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids, mainly clean water.
  •  Eat spring greens, natural cleansers.
  • Refrain from overeating, especially salty foods and foods that you are sensitive to (dairy and gluten are two common culprits).
  • Reduce stress in your life. 
  • Find a healthy outlet for your emotions.
  • Belly laugh frequently, the movement supports strong lymphatic system movement.
  • Lymph Drainage Massage works to move as much as 20 times the normal lymph, helping edema clear and relieving the symptoms of a sluggish lymphatic system. Light, rhythmic, and deeply relaxing, Lymph Drainage Massage is helpful in recovering from post-surgery edema, recovering from illness or depression, or as part of a seasonal cleansing.

Spring is an especially important time to pay attention to your lymphatic system.  Much like our Mother Earth, we are a bit sluggish and need a good cleansing after the long winter.  Getting the lymph moving and the toxins cleared helps all your organs function at a higher level, leading to better over-all health.  As always, prevention is much more effective than treatment, so take action today to create a healthy lymphatic system, and a healthier you.

About the author: Stephanie Bish owns 'Blissful Body by Stephanie’ in Ely, MN; also serving the Arrowhead Region.   Stephanie offers many types of massage and bodywork, including posture alignment, energy balancing, and Lymphatic Drainage Massage.  You can check out her website at www.elymassage.com.  Call 218-235-1732, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to set an appointment.

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