It’s Integral To Your Health
You may have heard the term lymphatic drainage mentioned in the context of massages and body brushing, but there’s more to it than a day at the spa. The lymphatic system is a vital part of your immune system, made up of all sorts of vessels, including a fluid called lymph. Travelling under your skin, this fluid removes nasties – think bacteria, excess water and toxins – from the body. As GP Louise Wiseman explains, “The lymphatic system is a silent, un-thanked solider in our bodily systems. We only ever really think about it until it goes wrong, but we rely on it daily. The system is vital for maintaining fluid balance, fighting infection, removing waste products and abnormal cells, and absorbing fats and proteins from the intestines.”
It’s The Next Big Thing
“Lymphatic health is the next frontier in wellness,” says Jules Willcocks, co-founder of Body Ballancer, a compression therapy system designed to target the lymphatic system. “The fact that the lymphatic system is so tightly interconnected with both the digestive and immune systems means quite simply that any improvements in our lymphatic health will have a positive impact on our gut health and immune function, whilst the elimination of excess fluid and toxins and waste it contains will lead to healthier complexions, improved skin tone and a more toned appearance, both on the face and body,” she says.
Yours May Need Some TLC
Because the lymphatic system doesn’t have a central pump (the way your circulatory system has your heart), it relies on you to keep things moving. As Jules explains, “Lifestyle factors such as stress, poor diet, and a sedentary way of life are just some of the reasons why your lymphatic system can become blocked. Add to this exposure to pollutants and toxins and it’s easy to see why a system designed to manage mostly metabolic waste can easily be overburdened. When this happens, it can lead to a wide range of problems including swelling, cellulite, bloating, joint pain and fatigue. If the lymphatic system isn’t working properly, it can seriously affect your immune function, too.” Other signs your lymph could do with some TLC include stiffness in the joints, especially in the morning; itchy and dry skin; brain fog; cold hands and feet; and weight gain.
Diet Can Help
The first port of call when it comes to supercharging circulation of your lymph fluid is eating a diet packed with nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, according to Jules. “Plants, fruits and vegetables traditionally used to produce red dyes – think cherries, berries, pomegranates, beetroot and cranberries – are particularly beneficial. This is because the compounds responsible for their intense colour are potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. Deserving of particular attention are cranberries, which are great fat emulsifiers and will help break down excess fat for easier absorption through the lymphatic system, and beetroot, which thins bile, helping digest good fat and dispose of bad fat.”
Stress May Be Taking its Toll
Lymph congestion increases when you’re physically and/or emotionally stressed, so having an effective routine for coping with stress is key. As Jules says: “Stress is one of the major causes of poor lymphatic health. When we experience stress, the body increases production of the hormone cortisol, which under normal circumstances is extremely useful in regulating our metabolism by controlling blood pressure, sugar levels and our salt and water balance. However, too much can throw the blood’s chemical balance off-kilter, making it more acidic, which can cause a breakdown of lymphatic tissue and inhibit lymphatic flow.” Practices like yoga, which coordinate breath with movement, are worth a try for a healthier lymph. “Breathing helps move lymphatic fluid and increases the elimination of toxins,” Jules adds.
Being Active Is Important
If you suspect your lymphatic system needs a helping hand, the experts agree exercise is an effective way to get things moving. “Remember lymph fluids rely on the contractions of muscles to increase flow,” says Jules. “Exercise such as dancing, jogging, cycling and walking are great ways to keep your lymphatic system functioning well. Rigorous skipping or bouncing on a trampoline are also great. Studies also show stomach crunches are an effective exercise due to the high concentration of lymphatic vessels in the abdomen.” Foam rolling can help, too, as it oxygenates the blood and activates the lymphatic system, creating movement and flushing build-up.
It’s Linked To Your Complexion
There’s a reason products like the jade roller and treatments like gua-sha are soaring in popularity. In short, using lymphatic drainage on the face can banish excess fluid, getting rid of puffiness and a dull complexion. “Lymphatic drainage done on the face produces almost instantaneous results,” says Jules. “A jade roller is an excellent way to reduce puffiness, especially under the eye area, and improve skin elasticity, whilst the gua-sha sculpts and reduces facial tension.”
If In Doubt, Consider A Massage
Dry body brushing and lymphatic massage can also help support healthy lymph flow. In fact, studies suggest massage can increase the circulation of stagnant lymph fluid by up to 78% in people who have sedentary lifestyles. Once restrictions are eased, consider booking an appointment with Flavia Morellato, one of London’s top lymphatic drainage experts, or book in for a session with Body Ballancer, proven to reduce water retention and puffiness and improve the appearance of cellulite. Body brushing is also a time-tested way to get your lymph moving. “Dry skin brushing is best done first thing in the morning before showering. Begin with the soles of the feet and brush with upward strokes as you move up the legs, towards the heart. The routine should take no more than five to ten minutes – repeat three to five times per week,” Jules recommends.
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