What is Lymph?
Lymph is a clear-ish liquid in your tissues and bloodstream that has passed out of the blood and into the tissues. Lymph is composed of white blood cells and fluid from the intestines.
The Lymphatic System is the network of these tissues, vessels, ducts and organs that work together to keep the lymph moving— kind of like your body’s own drainage system.
Primary Functions of the Lymphatic System:
- Protects the body from foreign invaders.
- Regulates healthy fluid levels in the body— collecting excess fluids from the cells and tissues and bringing it back into the bloodstream.
- Absorbs fat and protein from the intestines and returns it to the bloodstream.
Lymph Nodes are soft, little round structures that appear all throughout the body, but also in more concentrated “clusters” in specific areas. These nodes create immune cells that attack invaders from damaging the body’s major organs— invaders like bacteria, foreign material and cancer cells that can cause destruction if allowed to spread.
When we are “under the weather,” areas where these clusters reside, the neck, armpit, breast area, and groin can become noticeably swollen as the body creates more immune cells to fight off the infection.
Ideally, lymph is then returned from the tissues, back into the bloodstream where it can continue to help fight off pathogens and help transport nutrients, hormones, toxins, supplements, etc.
Unlike the heart, the lymphatic system does not have a pump to filter it throughout the body so it relies on gravity, movement and touch.
When lymph fluid becomes stagnant, the immune system becomes compromised, skin can appear dull and congested and areas of the body can feel heavy, swollen and uncomfortably puffy.
People with auto-immune issues, pregnant women, those that are sedentary, or have undergone surgery need extra support, so manual lymphatic drainage therapies can be supportive.
Why Lymphatic Drainage?
Unlike a traditional massage… “Lymphatic Drainage manually moves the fluid in the lymphatic pathways by applying a very light touch to the surface of your skin and gently pushing the skin in the direction of the flow.”http://leslieforsyth.com
There are different types of Lymphatic Drainage therapies. Some techniques utilize a hand-held, vibrating device, applied directly to areas of the body to stimulate lymph by a therapist. During a more traditional and ancient technique, a licensed therapist will use their hands and fingers to manually move lymph to the nodes so it can be drained properly.
Exercise and eating a diet rich in whole, plant-based foods, naturally rich in water and fiber can help to stimulate lymph on an on-going basis. Walking, lightly bouncing on a trampoline, dry brushing and drinking enough clean water are also pertinent to maintaining a healthy Lymphatic System.