The significance and impact of the lymphatic system on our overall state of health is often overlooked. Truth be told, many of us don’t know much about it at all, aside from it having something to do with the little nodes around our neck, armpits and groin which can swell when we’re not feeling well. But what exactly is the lymphatic system, and why might it need draining? 

What is the lymphatic system?
A simplified way to think of it is as the body’s natural detox system, removing waste and toxins from our bodies. It does this by transporting lymph, a fluid containing nutrients and oxygen through the body. As it travels, lymph collects toxins from our cells along the way. The fluid is then filtered through our lymph nodes by infection-fighting white blood cells, and what is left drains back into our bloodstream to be eliminated. This process of detoxification is what makes the lymphatic system so vital to our
overall immunity. After all, if your body is flushing out the bad stuff efficiently, the chances of you suffering from infections and viruses will be reduced.

It’s clear, then, that a poorly functioning lymphatic system can have noticeable implications on how we feel. Stiffness, fatigue, dry skin, bloating, water retention, brain fog, swollen glands, chronic sinusitis, sore throats, cold hands and feet…These all serve as indicators that our lymphatic systems are not up to scratch and working as efficiently as they could be. 

In order for waste products and fluids to not accumulate (often referred to as toxin buildup), lymph must flow freely throughout our bodies. However, sometimes it needs a little help, and that’s where lymphatic drainage treatments step in.

What is lymphatic drainage?
Lymphatic drainage massages have become increasingly popular here in the UK, but the dialogue surrounding these treatments places a strong focus on the aesthetic benefits such as reduced cellulite and glowing skin. While these are great side-effects, the internal benefits are even more impressive. A lymphatic drainage massage will help you feel more energised and improve your digestion, circulation and metabolic rate (so that you can burn calories more efficiently). It will also reduce bloating and water retention, alleviate constipation and help you sleep better too. 

A one-hour treatment will see a therapist manually manipulate the flow of lymph through the body, giving it a helping hand with long, sweeping, repetitive strokes focusing on the arms, armpits, stomach, back, and legs. These are always motioned towards the heart so that the fluid speedily enters the bloodstream before eventually being flushed out. Post-treatment, you’ll instantly feel lighter and very thirsty, so you’ll need to drink around 2 litres of water throughout the rest of the day to ensure your body continues to flush out all of the toxins through your urine. 

Can I boost my lymphatic system at home?
Of course, the best possible way to enhance your lymphatic system is lymphatic drainage massage either using technology or manual, but luckily there are ways to boost lymphatics at home. Body Sculptor Dr Galyna at Rita Rakusand shares her top tips for reaping some of the benefits of stimulating your lymphatic system at home.

1. Drink water. Not coffee, not tea (some mildly infused flavours are ok) but good quality, filtered water. Try and drink more than 1 litre a day and drink a good 2 glasses before you reach for your coffee in the morning. A slice of lemon in water or some lemon oil will help kick start your body.

2. Move. Cardio, weights, dynamic yoga or high intensity…anything that gets your body moving. Rebounding has recently taken on a new trend with Goldie Hawn pictured bouncing. It’s a fantastic low impact method of boosting your lymphatic system.

3. Dry Brushing is my top secret! ‘Body brushing is one of the most underrated beauty habits, yet it’s also an incredibly simple ritual that can provide huge benefits.’ says Kate Shapland, founder of leg-focussed health brand Legology. ‘Just a couple of minutes a day will promote your lymph, helping your body metabolise toxins more efficiently, discourage fluid retention and cellulite (which are related to each other), and soften and tone your skin. The benefits are immediate and lasting. The original Gymaholics stuck at home working out can also rejoice. While dry body brushing won’t completely rid your legs of cellulite, it helps to mobilise and contribute to the even distribution of fat deposits under the skin – and if you stick at it, it’s proven to give your limbs a much smoother, and firmer, look and feel. Gentle brushing brings nutrient-rich freshly oxygenated blood to the skin’s surface, which gives it a better tone and elasticity

4. Another simple tip is switching from hot to cold water when you are in the shower. It’s also great for waking you up in the morning! Lymphatic vessels contract when exposed to cold, and dilate in response to heat. A hot and cold shower is a type of hydrotherapy that uses the properties of water temperature and pressure to move stagnant lymphatic fluid, increase circulation, boost immune function and metabolism.

If you have any medical conditions, it’s best to talk to a doctor before trying a lymphatic massage.

words by Eva Ramirez

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