If you’ve heard anything about the lymphatic system, the word “de-puffing” was likely used in the same sentence. And we’ve all seen celebrities like Kendall Jenner and Hailey Bieber using their trusty ice rollers and under-eye patches that promise to eradicate the puffiness. But there’s so much more to the lymphatic system than just de-puffing and trendy tools. The lymphatic system plays a huge role in detoxifying the body, and ice-rolling is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what we can do to help support it.
Since I’m always eager to learn more about how we can achieve optimal health, I had to dive deeper into understanding this underrated system in the body. I spoke to experts to understand what the lymphatic system does, why we should care about it, and what we can use to support our lymphatic system daily. Read on for everything they spilled.
What is the lymphatic system?
In summary, the lymphatic system is our body’s “sewage system.” According to Viviane Lieberman, a lymphatic drainage educator with Gente Beauty, it is a part of both the circulatory and immune system and is responsible for keeping fluid levels balanced and preventing infections. She shared that the lymphatic system is connected to every system in the body and carries away harmful substances, heals the body, and rebuilds bodily functions. The system works to move a liquid substance called lymph back into your circulatory system. Lymph nodes throughout the system monitor and cleanse the lymph as it filters through them, filtering out the damaged cells, bacteria, or toxins. If we want the rest of our body to run efficiently and at its peak, it’s crucial that the lymphatic system be productive.
However, the lymphatic system doesn’t just “pump” on its own, like how the heart beats or lungs breath no matter what. Without squeezing the lymphatic vessels, the lymph sits still, and toxins and waste material can accumulate. The good news is a lot of what we already do regularly helps support our lymphatic systems, like exercise. However, if we don’t maintain our body’s lymphatic system to support the lymph movement, it can lead to symptoms such as brain fog, water retention, constipation, dehydration, digestion issues, fatigue, stress, allergies, and much more. Read on for ways to support your lymphatic system to make sure it’s working efficiently.
How to support your lymphatic system
Josie Rushing, celebrity massage therapist, lymphatic drainage expert, and Founder of Brazilicious Beauty Spa, said exercising regularly, eating an anti-inflammatory diet (avoiding high-sodium and high-fat foods), drinking lots of water, and performing anti-stress activities are all great ways to make sure your lymphatic system is running smoothly. Lieberman suggested yoga, walking, or rebounding on a trampoline (when muscles are being worked, they squeeze lymphatic vessels which helps move the lymph). In terms of diet, eating foods that promote lymph flow, such as dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and avocado, is also beneficial, and limited adding toxins through overly processed foods.
If you want to take it a step further, Lieberman shared other ways to increase lymphatic flow. First up: dry brushing, which involves brushing your full body with a natural fiber brush in upward movements toward the heart before showering. Another hack is practicing a form of deep belly breathing, such as holotropic breathwork, as well as taking hot and cold showers, which create contractions and expansion in the lymphatic vessels and allows for further circulation. And finally, the trendiest way to boost the lymphatic system as of late is through lymphatic drainage massage.
Is lymphatic drainage massage worth the hype?
While it has recently become popular in North America, lymphatic drainage has been around since the 1900s and has been a popular practice in Brazil for decades, according to Rushing. “We have a special way of performing it in Brazil that is finally being seen all over the world because aside from the internal benefits, there are also external benefits, such as contouring and eliminating the appearance of cellulite,” she said. Today you can get a lymphatic drainage massage done on any part of your body, from your face to your stomach or legs.
The premise of the massage is the manipulation of the lymphatic muscles to encourage the flow of lymphatic fluid. Rushing shared that the majority of the massage is done manually and it aids in natural detoxification, rejuvenating cellular function, minimizing excess fluid retention, relieving stress on the body, balancing the nervous system, and benefiting cell oxygenation. It is also recommended by many doctors and surgeons to help with recovery after injury or surgery.
Rushing recommended getting a lymphatic drainage massage weekly as maintaining your lymphatic system is key to optimal health. However, if getting a lymphatic massage every week is outside the realm of possibility for you, there are tools you can use to do your own version at home. You don’t need a pricey massage to help support your lymphatic system. For your face, opt for a gua sha tool or ice roller for an easy and affordable way to maintain lymphatic drainage. As for the other parts of your body, you can try dry brushing or the legs-up-the-wall pose. And don’t forget that a good old fashion walk helps to move the lymph too.
Just like we need a strong immune system to fight viruses, we need a well-functioning lymphatic system to promote detoxification and healthy blood flow. Bottom line: We don’t need to “detox” with diets and juice cleanses; the lymphatic system is one of the key systems in the body that’s meant to do that for us. After all, Lieberman referred to the lymphatic system as “the secret river of health.” Incorporating a few of the aforementioned tactics into your routine, making sure you’re consistently moving your body, and being aware of toxin exposure will help you support this critical system that affects every part of the body. So whether you’re looking to relieve stress or simply improve your overall health, the lymphatic system is a great place to start.