Lymphatic Drainage - What is it?
In the world of wellness, lymphatic drainage has become a buzz worthy term. We’ve seen everything from at- home tools like, gua-sha stones, cold rollers, micro-current devices and dry brushes, to modalities such as compression therapy, far-infrared sauna sessions, and lymphatic drainage massages, all aimed at promoting lymphatic flow- and the myriad of benefits that follow. While many consider these products and services to fall under the umbrella of new age health, the practice and importance of moving lymph dates to ancient Eastern medicine. So, you may be wondering, what exactly is the lymphatic system, and why should you integrate lymphatic drainage into your daily health and beauty rituals?
The Importance of Proper Lymph Flow
In Chinese Medicine, the lymphatic system is kind of like our body’s sewage system. It’s responsible for the cellular transportation of water, fats, proteins and nutrients, while also moving waste and detoxifying the body. Moreover, the lymphatic system is vital to our immunity as it plays an essential role in providing immune responses to harmful micro-organisms and pathogens. Since our lymphatic system doesn't have a central pump like our heart, it is primarily moved through use of our muscles, chiefly, the diaphragm. Thus, lymph flows predominantly through breathing, movement, and stimulating the legs in order to draw fluids up from our extremities back to our core. A central issue in the proper functioning of our lymphatic system arises when lymph does not continuously move through the body. Aside from Lymphedema- a medical condition in which lymph fluid builds up in the body, causing severe swelling- milder stagnation can occur in anyone as a result of common factors. Issues such as stress, compromised sleep, lack of movement, poor diet/ digestion, dehydration, infection, environmental toxins and even emotional trauma all have the capacity to lower our body’s ability to move lymph.
Since the lymphatic system is so holistic, the symptoms of lymphatic stagnation are wide ranging. You may have slow or stagnant lymphatic flow if you experience one or more of the following issues:
- Water retention
- Food intolerances
- Brain fog
- Poor circulation
- Swelling of the legs and feet
- Chronic fatigue
- Skin irritations
- Poor Immunity
Managing & Alleviating Symptoms That Arise From Compromised Lymphatic Functioning
Fortunately, there are so many tools and therapies that can be easily integrated into our lives to alleviate the pesky symptoms that come as the result of compromised lymphatic function. The simple act of engaging in an inclined position, with the legs raised above the level of the heart can help to drain lymph and reduce inflammation in the body. The Eastern medicine practices of cupping, and gua sha are also designed to promote circulation and move excess fluids and toxins from the tissues. One of the most effortless ways, however, is to wear a compression sock on a regular basis. Compression applies force on the muscles, which then pushes lymph through the system and away from the lower legs. With regular use of compression socks, lymphatic flow toward the torso increases, and chronic issues start to become mitigated. The beauty of a compression sock is that it can be paired with other drainage methods to increase overall efficacy. As we know, movement and breath are essential for the free flow of lymph, so wearing compression socks when walking or exercising, for example, is a great way to provide an added boost of lymphatic support. Moreover, compression socks are a simple way to be proactive against stagnation when engaging in activities that are likely to cause inflammation and swelling such as flying and working long shifts on your feet.
So - the next time you’re feeling bloated, puffy, tired, or just not your best, consider how your lifestyle and daily practices are supporting your lymphatic system and get flowing!
Douillard, J. (2014). The Miracle of Lymph. https://lifespa.com/the-miracle-of-lymph/