Article adapted from SC Sentinel 2006
The first encounter with our lymphatic system is often the feeling of swollen glands. On the onset of a cold or flu our swollen throat makes us aware that something is awry. The throat glands and tonsils are actually part of a mighty system that extends the whole torso whose job it is to rid the body of bacteria, viruses, dead cells and even inorganic substances such as dust and dyes. Acting as purifying stations the complex system, comprised of organs, nodes, ducts and vessels play one of the most essential roles in maintaining wellness, preventing disease, and supporting healing.
Physicians now recognize that proper lymph flow is crucial if one is to remain disease-free. Local lymphatic massage therapist Martine Mahoudeau explains “Obstructed or poor lymphatic drainage has been linked to two of the most common forms of cancer, breast and prostate, and plays a major role in the metastasis of various cancers throughout the body.”
Good lymphatic circulation invigorates the immune system promoting health, and vitality. The lymphatic system drains fluids, detoxifies and regenerates tissues, filters out toxins, and foreign substances, which help to maintain a healthy immune system. Mahoudeau recommends lymphatic draining “because it can have a dramatic impact on the health of people who have had cancer, undergone surgery, or have weakened immune systems.”
Dr. Bruno Chikly writes in Massage & Bodywork magazine that “the functioning of the immune system is stimulated through increased lymph flow… stimulating the lymph flow can help resolve choric inflammatory processes and autoimmune disease plus a host of other upper respiratory problems.”
In “Prostate Health in 90 Days,” author Larry Clapp describes his personal journey to prostate health recommending lymphatic stimulation as one vital part of his recovery. “Tight muscles make it more difficult for the lymph system to function, increasing the likelihood that it will become backed up,” he writes. He recommends cleansing diets along with manual lymph massage and exercise to reduce the amount of waste and toxins in the lymph system. Invigorating the lymphatic system manually by self -massage and professional massage is known to help rid the body of high level of heavy metals or other toxins.
For preventative care there are simple techniques, which include self-brushing with a loofa, bath glove, or body brush. This technique is recommended daily. Lightly brush from your feet up your body and in from the hands moving with light feathery strokes in every direction up and in towards the heart. Another self-help technique focuses on activating drainage around and under the clavicles, the armpits, chest, belly and groin areas. Using very light touch, gently move your fingers slowly in and out pumping about 6 times with your fingers in each area; move down to the groin and then back up ending with the clavicle area. As the lymph nodes are close to the skin pressure is not helpful. This self-help technique focuses on opening & emptying drainage points. Check out these approaches online or get specific directions from a lymphatic Massage therapist. NOTE: Be sure to check with your physician before starting any new self-help technique.
Long hours of sitting at work, in cars, and on airplanes are associated with congestion of the lymphatic system. The lymph has no circulatory system of its own so must rely on daily movement to stay healthy. Light bouncing movement up and down has been found to help stimulate lymph drainage. The use of bouncing is a well-known self-help technique. Known as a rebounder, the individual trampoline was first recommended by chemist C Samuel West. In 1976, West recognized that bouncing up and down activates the lymphatic system. He is quoted as saying, “Don’t just exercise, lymphasize!”
Tight clothes, especially undergarments such as bras, stifle the function of the lymph; wearing loose and breathable clothes is another important daily consideration. Soreness under the breasts is often an indication that the lymph nodes are congested. If you can press around your breasts and under your arms and feel sore than it is recommended to stop wearing under wire bras and start massaging and stimulating your lymph. Brian Jenner, a self-proclaimed lymphologist who recovered from cancer, considered the common notion that cancer spreads to the lymph wrong. He was a firm believer that all disease begins with congested lymph. Therefore lymphatic drainage is as important for preventive care as brushing your teeth.