Our lymphatic drainage system is a complex series of pathways leading to the lymph nodes located in a high concentration near the armpits and pubic region. Filled with a clear fluid called simply, lymph; which is comprised of mostly plasma from the blood.
A good visual would be to consider the pathways a sewer systems (yes, gross I know), because they collect wastes from the cells, destroy and eliminate those wastes, and deliver white blood cells to the bones and even destroy cancerous cells with the added benefit of nurturing the cells with oxygen and more along the way. (way better than a sewage system).
As many of us now lead fairly sedentary lives, moving the lymph is more important than ever for optimal health. We must move the lymphatic system purposefully and physically because unlike the heart and the lung systems which also circulate blood - the lymphatic system has no pump of it's own. Lymphatic drainage technique (LDT) or self-imposed techniques are a way to move more blood to the lymph nodes to enhance the elimination of wastes and much more.
The lymphatic system is a key part of our immune system. Lymphocyte is a general term for white blood cell - which we all know help us eliminate invaders, i.e. viruses, bacterias etc. There are T-Cells ad B-Cells and NK cells (thank you Wikipedia.) When the lymphatic system isn't moving like it ought to, stagnation can hinder the production of these cells.
Lymph is a delivery system for our healthy fats via the thoracic duct, and directly dumped back into the blood. We all try so hard to get our EFA's - let's make sure our body can assimilate them properly. Healthy fats improve cognitive function, improve joint mobility, enhance digestion and SO much more - you gotta put oil in your car if you want it to run right!
Lastly - we have a 1 in 3 chance of getting cancer in this country and the lymph has a lot to do with whether we "search and destroy" cancer cells in the body - or if we spread it around the body making things worse. Lymph nodes better destroy cancerous cells when they are moving properly. So let's move the lymph and practice preventative self-care.
That leads me what you can do to improve the movement of your lymph at home.
Lymphatic Self-Squeegee Massage:
In the shower each morning, soap yourself up really nicely and squeegee the arms from the wrists towards the heart in long slow strokes. Do this 3-5 times per arm. Always move towards the heart. Then move to the breasts, massage breasts towards the armpits with a gentle squeegee motion. Do this 3- 5 times.
Next hit the abdomen. I always like to squeegee in a clockwise motion as this is the direction in which digestion propels wastes. Essentially you want to squeegee circularly from your right to the left hand side and in a downward motion towards the pubic region. Lastly, do the legs. This one is a little trickier as you want to squeegee upward towards the pubic region - again, towards the heart.
Jump on a Rebounder or Mini-Trampoline: If you have a mini-trampoline than you are in luck! This is one of the best ways to move the lymphatic system naturally. It doesn't hurt at all that it's totally fun and you get a nice little calf workout from it too. You will know the lymph is moving because you might feel a slight "itchy" sensation in the skin. This means it's working!
Lastly pick yourself up some of the medicinal herb known as "Cleavers". Cleavers is one of the best known herbs for the detoxification and movement of the lymph. Purchase it in liquid tincture form from a brand like Herb Pharm, available at a heath food store near you. Ingest 60-90 drops of liquid cleavers (2-3 droppers full) 1-2 times daily for 2-4 weeks in either the spring or the fall for best results. Cleavers is easy to find in the wild too. Find an herbalist who knows their stuff and they can point it out to you in a damp or shady spot. Always pick herbs away from agricultural areas or land that is sprayed. Fresh cleavers make a great addition to your morning green drink made in the blender. They actually taste a little like asparagus if you ask me - delicious!
I hope these suggestions help you to have healthier lymph and a healthier body!