This Forgotten System is the Key to Weight Loss and Overall Health
I’m pretty sure most of you have not heard your physicians ask “how’s your lymphatic system doing lately?” or “I bet your weight problem might be due to an issue with sluggish lymphatics?”
Which is a shame, because oftentimes, it is our lymphatic system that is causing problems. It might be the most forgotten system in our entire body. Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman, who wrote the famous book, The Fat Flush Plan, estimates that nearly 80% of women have sluggish or slow lymphatic systems. 80%! This makes is terribly difficult to lose not only weight, but toxins too.
I have always struggled with a slow lymphatic system. Even though I’m a size 4, I have cellulite that made me extremely self conscious even in my teens. I used to try magic potions, lotions, and exercises to no avail. Even now, I struggle with cellulite and dimpled skin. So many women and even men have this issue, but mainstream medicine offers little to no sound advice other than plastic surgery, which has abysmal results. But you know, when you have your own struggle, you are better equipped than anyone to share your resolution in hopes that your tribulation can soften the painful journey for another. Today I now know how to improve dimpled or uneven skin, cellulite or fascia problems. Why? Because I’m doing it! The solution is in the lymphatic system. But lets start from the beginning.
3 years ago, when I first moved to Portland, Oregon, I saw an applied kinesiology. Little did I know that this first experience would kick off my journey with muscle testing. Now I believe in and practice applied kinesiology! Heres why. The body has an innate knowledge that the conscious mind is disconnected from-we don’t even know if we have cancer growing in our bodies or when insulin is being secreted after a meal. Amazingly, when my kinesiologist, Dr Ciprian tested me for self love I could not hold my arm up, against the smallest strength of his hand. He had asked me to repeat a battery of statements, including “I love others” or “I am happy.” I could hold my arm up against the pressure of his hand for all questions other than “I love myself.” It was as if my body already knew. As my arm fell to my side, I began to cry. But I really didn’t understand why. Dr Ciprian told me that self love, as well as over analyzing, worry and self deprecation were contained within the spleen, the biggest gland in the lymphatic system. He then gave me a homeopathic tincture that I was to take a few times a day. I’ll never forget it. My friend, who had gone with me, had been diagnosed with anger/frustration from a weak and toxic liver. Both of us had die off symptoms with the tinctures we were instructed to take. This was my first experience with any sort of relevance given to the spleen. In medical school, the spleen is basically ignored unless its enlarged.
Two years later, while in India, the Tibetan doctors told me I needed a liver cleanse and to cleanse my blood because there was toxicity there. After doing my own research, I realized they were right. My anger/frustration/yellow tongue/bounding pulse and irritability with low blood sugar were all directly pointing to my liver and biliary tree. What wasn’t apparent to me until later, was that my borderline liver function was caused by backup and slow transit of my lymphatic system! All those years of saddle bag thighs and cellulite was my body trying to warn me that a bigger issue was occurring. Just think about it. This makes sense. The lymph systems filters waste products left behind in the tissues. Plasma, due to oncotic pressure, leaks from the capillaries to surround and bathe the tissues. It then drains into the lymph system. This is what the Tibetan docs meant when they told me I needed blood cleansing. My blood had remaining toxins because my lymph system was sluggish. This meant it was not doing its job cleansing my blood. And geez, you could tell!
Sadly, us medical doctors are not taught that the whole body is intimately connected. We are taught about separate organ systems and then turned into specialists who only tend to our respective organ systems.
The Job of the Spleen
So what does the spleen have to do with the lymphatic system? The spleen is the biggest organ of the lymphatic system and it accompanies dozens of glands, lymph nodes, as well as the tonsils, adenoids, and thymus. It touches every part of our body and carries residual emotions felt throughout the system. Its job is to filter out toxins, protect against pathogens, and remove internal and external waste. This means the lymphatic system’s responsibility is to filter external pollutants like pesticides, heavy metals, fillers, preservatives, chemicals, cosmetics or cleaners AND internal waste such as nutrition, protein and bacterial breakdown. The lymphatic vascular system is also essential for tissue fluid homeostasis, immune surveillance and lipid uptake in the gastrointestinal organs. In fact, once the blood is filtered and reabsorbed into the bloodstream, the remaining interstitial fluid which contains our soldier cells, or white blood cells, IS THE LYMPH. The lymphatic system is an integral part of our immunity. Disruption of normal lymphatic vascular structure and function plays a crucial role in the pathogenesis of various disease conditions. Translation: the lymph system helps with cholesterol, trash pickup, pathogen recognition by putting immune cells on alert and fluid balance!
This makes sense. Think of the lymphatic system as a waterway that crosses the length of your body. Lymph nodes are the small ponds that are found along the waterway. If a dam is built in any area, the lymph will build up and cause swelling. Impairment of lymph function causes lymphedema (swelling of the ankles or legs) and ascites, or fluid in the abdominal cavity from liver failure or lymph disturbance. As mentioned above, one of the lymph system’s duties is to filter all the blood in the entire body. Whew thats a job huh?! Its no small task considering that the blood is our life force, carrying iron, oxygen and nutrients to every cell. It also absorbs everything we are exposed to, including what is absorbed from our food or from our skin.
As many recent studies have shown, the immune system, the brain with its neurotransmitters, and the gut all have a chemical language that allows them to communicate. This is why we get nauseated when we are nervous or sick when we are stressed. A large portion of the immune system is from the spleen and lymph. If the lymph is slow moving, this will not only affect your immunity, but also your thinking, your digestion, your hormones, etc. The body does not function in separate parts. All of theses systems are communicating!
What Causes Sluggish Lymph
From the perspective of Ayurveda or Chinese medicine, the lymph filters emotional stagnation. If we are overly empathetic about others or overly analytical/pensive about ourselves, this excessive worry and self loathing can interfere with the body’s self healing techniques-or the spleen. The spleen helps to carry our soldier cells that destroy invaders. It also helps make and regulate antibodies to vaccines, diseases, and toxins. If we our self analytical, worriers, or constantly down on ourselves, then this affects our autoimmunity. We are hating ourselves so our bodies follow suit. This is when immunity may suffer.
From a personal perspective, I can also say it makes your skin suffer as well! If toxins can’t be moved out of the lymph and into the bowels, then it will come out as eruptions on the skin.
I also mentioned these above, but never forget about the “fillers” throughout our toxic society. They range from:
GMO and processed foods
endocrine disruptors or xenoestrogens (BPA)
multitude of pathogens
All of these can slow the transit of the lymph. Remember, the lymphatic system does not have a pump, or heart, like the bloodstream. So for the lymph to be emptied and cleared, the system must be pumped manually. This means movement, massages, and exercise to move the lymph up the one way valves.
Cancer and The Lymph System
Lymph nodes are common in the lymph system and humans have anywhere from 500-700 nodes that are clustered under the arms, in the abdomen, groin, neck and chest.
This brings up a very good point about breast cancer. Remember this is the way cancer spreads. It moves through the blood, is filtered into lymph and then reabsorbed by the body. The cancer is found metastasized in lymph nodes because these are these are the hubs that can trap debris and stimulate the immune cells to fight. This is why we have lymph node enlargement during a sore throat. Our body’s immune system is responding by ramping up production of immune cells within the node, causing swelling. If they are not successful at destroying the rogue cancer cells or even the bacteria from a sore throat, then the nodes become sites of disease or cancer proliferation. If the lymph system is sluggish or blocked, this provides a breeding ground for pathogens. In fact, up to ten times as much pathogen may reside in a lymph node rather than the bloodstream.
Women can avoid many breast cancers by not only having their hormones checked and avoiding estrogen dominance, but also by being aware of the location of the axillary lymph nodes that run so very close to your armpit and outer breast tissue. Can you imagine what happens when we shave our armpits, then place toxic chemicals like aluminum or propylene glycol under our arms where microcuts may exist? This prevents us from sweating (how we eliminate toxins) and releases unnatural chemicals into our lymph nodes. We women then go on to put on Bombshell bras with tight underwires that further restrict any lymphatic drainage! Breast tissue is loose flesh without ligaments or muscles, hence it cannot drain well. Yikes.
The functioning of the entire immune system is stimulated through increased lymph flow! Increased flow carries more antigens to lymph nodes, increasing your body’s recognition tools so that it can makes antibodies and fight off any foreign invaders. It is my professional opinion then, that you WANT to stimulate lymph flow during cancer. This is the body’s way of recognizing cancer and destroying it. Your body has the tools if given the opportunity. Besides, not moving the lymph is detrimental. You are locking toxins in a node and hoping it does not move, however, this is the only chance the natural immunity has at recognizing a problem. Lymph that flows also helps eliminate toxins and move fat into the bowels. This is vital for any human. You can hopefully now see how important the lymphatic system is.
When Lymph Movement is Blocked, you are at risk for:
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
So now that we’ve identified the problem, what is the solution?
Getting the Lymph to Move Again/How to Heal
One of my favorite exercises and hobbies on the planet is yoga. Fortunately for me, it turns out that many of the postures were designed to twist, or wring the organs out and to move the lymph. Inversions, like head or handstands, are one the best ways to move lymph as well. But don’t get me wrong, even walking stimulates the lymph movement.
2. Ayurvedic Lymphatic Massage
This massage has been around for centuries to encourage and stimulate lymph nodes and the flow of lymph! It is very therapeutic and uses long, sweeping strokes and light pressure. It usually done in a warm room or on a heated table, as heat also stimulates movement of lymph. The massage therapist will use sweeping movements to move lymph towards the direction of the heart. In my own personal practice, I have witnessed a patient with a tooth abscess who went and had a lymphatic massage and two days later, the abscess was gone without any other intervention. The massage was clearly effective in draining the lymph and infection from the tooth!
CAUTION: do not go for continued deep rolfing or deep tissue massages as these can damage the non-return valves on the lymph nodes. Pressing too hard can also collapse the lymphatic vessels, impeding flow. This can worsen edema, cellulite and toxin buildup!
A clean diet free of heavy meats, processed oils, carbs and sugars will also drastically help move heavy lymph. Fresh, organic produce like fruit and drinking enough water are two vitals points that need to be addressed with any patient who has sluggish lymph. Avoid anything that is grown with hormones or antibiotics. Reduce your exposure to household cleaners, synthetic air fresheners, scented candles, pollution like car exhaust, and cosmetics.
My favorite herbs to aid in lymph movement are red clover, dandelion root, cleavers, sarsaparilla, yellow dock and calendula, or marigolds.
Heres a great recipe for my favorite red clover tea:
Place dried blossoms/flowers of red clover into a tea strainer or tea bag.
Place into boiling water for 10-15 min
Strain and add honey
Hint: there should be one cup of flower to 4 cups of hot water.
Believe it or not, all that fun we used to have as kids on a trampoline was not in vain! It actually has health benefits. When suspended in zero gravity (or hang time), this is when the lymph moves. I really like the small, personal trampolines for this. They are easy and convenient.
6. Fascia Blaster
I recently discovered this weapon against cellulite made by Ashley Black (you may have seen her advertisements on social media) called the Fascia Blaster. It runs around $80-90 and resembles a pole with claws. It is used by exerting some pressure and fast friction to the skin on the legs, abdomen, arms, etc. Redness and bruising may occur once blood flow is restored to the area of toxin accumulation better known as cellulite. I was completely bruised by this thing but it DOES works on cellulite, fascia and the lymph system. I couldn’t just not share my secret with you guys! Get it at https://www.fasciablaster.com
7. Dry Brushing
Perhaps one of the easiest and most ancient ways of moving the lymph system! Buy a natural bristled brush and begin to brush up the arms and down the shoulders towards the heart. Start at the ankles and brush upwards towards the heart. Move the brush in a circular motion. You don’t need to have too much pressure for this to work. Over time, you should notice the toxins and dimpled skin disappearing.
Remember you are what you eat. Sometimes, as long as we have been inadvertently poisoning ourselves with poor diet choices or lack of exercise, this may unfortunately be how long it takes to heal and rejuvenate the body. Be patient and you can heal. Learn to be your own best doctor.