What is the lymphatic system?
“The lymphatic system is often an unsung hero that plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health in our body,” says Waterhouse Young aesthetic doctor You-Jin Chang. “It acts as a drainage system, collecting excess fluid and waste products from tissues and returning them to the bloodstream, ensuring optimal fluid balance for our wellbeing.” In its role as central defender, the lymphatic system is essential for a healthy immune system, protecting the body against harmful pathogens and infections. It’s also important in the transportation of nutrients around the body. “The lymphatic system facilitates the absorption of dietary fats and fat-soluble vitamins from the small intestine, allowing them to be distributed throughout the body via the bloodstream,” adds You-Jin.
How does the lymphatic system work?
“The lymphatic system is a network of vessels, nodes and organs that transport lymph throughout the body,” explains You-Jin. Lymph itself is a clear fluid comprising white blood cells that helps the body fight viruses, bacteria and toxins. To move around the body, lymph is transported by a network of vessels which lead into lymph nodes, of which there are 600-700 throughout the body. These nodes are mostly found in the neck, armpits, groin and around the heart, lungs and intestines. As the lymph passes through a node, toxins are filtered from it and immune cells called lymphocytes are added to it.
How can you tell if your lymphatic system is struggling?
“If you suffer from dull, congested skin, puffy eyes and water retention, it may be as a result of a sluggish lymph flow,” says advanced facialist Mariam Abbas. Given its key role in reducing fluid build-up, signs of fluid retentions such as puffiness and swelling – particularly in the arms, legs, ankles or feet – can be a clue that it’s not working as it should. If you’re struggling with fatigue and low energy, it could be a sign that your body is failing to remove waste products effectively, likewise if you find yourself saddled with recurring infections. Finally, enlarged or tender lymph nodes can signal possible infection or inflammation in your body, says You-Jin.
How can lifestyle choices support the lymphatic system?
The lymphatic system is integral to overall health, so many of the same things you do to support your health in general will also work to maintain the lymphatic system. Keeping yourself adequately hydrated is vital as it helps your body maintain optimal fluid balance, while eating a varied diet that’s low in processed foods means that essential nutrients can be used by the body as needed. As well as eliminating junk food, reduce what you can from your external environment. “Minimise toxins,” advises You-Jin. “Reduce exposure to environmental toxins and pollutants to prevent over burdening the lymphatic system. Chronic stress can also impede lymphatic function. Incorporating stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga and exercise can help to maintain a healthy lymphatic system.” Slow and steady diaphragmatic breathing is another excellent option and, if you’re not already in the habit of daily body brushing, now’s the time to start in earnest. An easy and affordable way to stimulate the flow of lymph, keeping your brush hooked on to your shower door or somewhere you can’t fail to see it every morning will encourage diligent use.
Can exercise support the lymphatic system?
“The lymphatic system relies on muscle contractions and movement to circulate lymph fluid throughout the body,” says You-Jin. “Engaging in activities that stimulate these contractions and enhance circulation can help support lymphatic function.” Unlike blood, lymph isn’t pumped around the body by the heart, and it tends to flow upwards towards your neck, which means getting your heart rate up is key. Brisk walking, cycling, jogging and swimming are all good options as they increase blood circulation and encourage plenty of muscle contractions.
How does lymphatic drainage work?
Lymphatic drainage is a great way of supporting the body’s natural processes. If channels become blocked, preventing lymph from flowing freely, then manual lymphatic drainage can help release the build-up and get things back on track. Although there are different methods of lymphatic drainage, the most practised types use firm, rhythmic constant with a sustained pressure.
For a manual treatment that concentrates mainly on the body, Flavia Morellato is one of the best there is. Her personal technique is based on Brazilian lymphatic drainage methods and helps with everything from postpartum recovery to hormonal imbalances.
Another in demand therapist to try is Rebecca Trevalinet, who works on clients between Paris and London, using Renata Franca technique which combines firm pressure and fast rhythmic strokes.
If you’re looking for tech appeal, Endermologie for the face and body uses mechanical massage at varying pressures to stimulate the lymphatic system. This is said to penetrate the muscle tissues at a deeper level to manual massage. The motorised technique has varying intensity settings, so you can tailor your treatment as required depending on the results you’re after.
Based on the fundamental technique of lymphatic drainage, which uses pressure to increase lymphatic flow, Pressotherapy is another great option. Utilising inflatable garments to apply gentle pressure to the limbs and abdomen, it enhances lymphatic circulation as well as helping to reduce leg swelling and alleviate muscle aches and pain.
Waterhouse Young’s latest offering, the HydraPressoElixir treatment, goes further by incorporating Pressotherapy with micro needling, LED therapy and HydraFacial for a top-to-toe glow.
How can facial treatments support the lymphatic system?
“As we age, our lymphatic flow slows down and needs a boost to help the fluid flow,” explains Mariam. “Lymphatic drainage is the perfect addition to any facial as it helps achieve a healthier and glowing complexion by draining lymphatic fluid build-up to reduce puffiness and boost hydration.”
For a turbocharged cleanse and deep exfoliation, try the HydraFacial Platinum treatment. By beginning with lymphatic drainage, it pushes waste away from the face, brightens the skin and reduces puffiness before the nitty gritty of the facial has even started.
For a more intensive experience, the soon-to-launch LYMA LIFT facial uses highly specialised hand massage techniques to restore facial muscle memory, boost collagen production, increase blood flow and optimise lymphatic drainage. The addition of the LYMA Laser supercharges the massage for firmer, lifted, more refined facial contours. While you wait to book in, try the LYMA Skin System which uses laser and skincare for equally sculpted results.