Feeling sluggish, bloated, have low energy, poor digestion, skin issues such as: dryness, acne, eczema? These can ALL be signs of lymphatic stagnation. Interesting, right?!
Before we get into too many of the symptoms, lets takes a moment and look at what the lymphatic system does, how it can become stagnated, and then how we can address it with movement and herbal medicine.
The Lymphatic System
Our mighty lymphatic system is the river that flows beneath our skin. It's one of the first systems formed in an embryo before a heart or even a spine is formed. Fascinating, right?Water is life and is our life force within us. Our living water. In eastern medicine like Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, its considered the watershed of the body, and we know how important watersheds are to the health of the land around them. In very simplified terms, the lymphatic system, delivers water, fats, proteins and nutrients like vitamins and minerals to the cells and takes waste away. Another major role of the lymphatic system is it is the delivery mechanism for the immune system. So, it is important for cell repair & growth, detoxification, and immunity.
The abdomen area holds 70% of our lymphatic tissue, making it a central part of digestion. In Ayurvedic Medicine, lymph is associated with rasa dhatu, which is the first layer of the new tissue generated through the digestion of food. Rasa is the source of nutrition for every cell and tissue layer of the body. When you see how widespread the lymphatic system reaches yet how subtle it is, ebbing and flowing with our movement and breath, it's not much of a leap to realize that it can get out of balance easily and a wide, varying range of symptoms can appear in the body when there is stagnation. Spending some time looking inwards and examining your lifestyle can give you insights into what is at the root of your stagnation. Common causes are stress and digestive imbalances and deficiencies.
When our lymphatic system isn't flowing very well, lymphatic fluid can become thick and heavy, kind of like in a slow moving river. Signs of poor moving lymph fluid in the body can include:
- low agni, including heavy, slow digestion
- swelling, especially in the fingers, wrists, ankles, and feet
- bloating, weight gain
- breast swelling and tenderness w/ menstruation
- skin irritation
- brain fog
- feeling stiff and sore in the joints upon waking in the morning
- rashes, eczema, itchy dry skin
- constipation, sluggish bowel movements
- trouble loosing stubborn weight
- swollen lymph nodes
Addressing Lymphatic Stagnation - How to your inner ocean ebbing and flowing again
The lymphatic fluid bathes our cells, washing across them like waves. Those internal waves washing over your cells are moved only by you doing something actively like deep breathing, movement, massaging or stimulating the skin with dry brushing or exfoliation. Our lymphatic system doesn't have a central pump like our heart. It is moved by our muscles and the biggest one involved in moving the lymph is the diaphragm. Those deep breaths flush the lymph system pulling fluids up from our extremities back to our core.
To re-cap, its important to move your lymph by moving your body every day several times a day such as:
- Deep diaphragmatic breathing
- Dry brushing/exfoliation
Other means to improve lymphatic flow that are among my favourites are:
- Staying hydrated. Aim to drink 1/2 your body weight in oz/day.
- Eating a plant-based diet (80/20 alkaline to acidic).
- Eating locally & seasonally.
- Avoiding or reducing red meat, wheat, and processed sugars
- Consuming more foods like: ginger, garlic, lemons, grapefruit, celery, watermelon, stone fruits, berries, red fruits and vegetables like beets, cranberries, cherries, pomegranate.
- Lymphatic herbal tinctures & teas.
- Using toxin-free, lymphatic friendly skincare and hygiene products. Toxins can overburdens our lymphatic system. Many of our lymph nodes are in our neck, mouth, armpits, groin and abdomen. Places where a lot of self-care & hygiene products are used.
- Meditating and pranayama techniques
It's important to listen to your body and get to the root cause of why your lymphatic system has become stagnated. Connect with your inner healer & find the support you need. As mentioned briefly earlier, stress, digestive imbalances, and deficiencies are common causes of lymphatic stagnation.
Douillard, J. (2014). The Miracle of Lymph. https://lifespa.com/the-miracle-of-lymph/
Ehrlich, C, Iker, E. et al (2016). The Lymphedema and Lipedema Nutrition Guide.
Frawley, D & Lad, V. (1993 ). The Yoga of Herbs. An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine.
Gainsley, L. & Organic Olivia. The Life Changing Lymphatic Episode. What the Juice Podcast (February 10, 2020).
Gainsley, L. The Lymphatic Message. https://www.thelymphaticmessage.com/
Wallace, E. (2000). Lymphatic Yoga. Our Ocean Within.