As a triathlete and mother of three kids, I've always been fit and what I considered healthy—after all, I bought low-fat cream cheese and fit five servings of fruits and vegetables into our family meals. It wasn't until my children had severe health problems (see my story here) that I started learning more about what "healthy" actually means. I realized that the diet I was eating and feeding my family was actually lymph-clogging. As such, it was Mucus Central around our house with colds, coughs, and congestion—we all kept getting sick.
Lymph? What's that? I didn't know either. But I did notice that my face would swell when I ate certain foods. And that, although I was fit and slim from the triathlon training, I'd have pockets of saggy skin over my kneecaps or just below my bra strap. What was that? Lymph, it turns out. And mine was clogged.
The lymphatic system gets less attention than the circulatory system, but its function is just as critical. While the circulatory system brings nutrients to our organs and tissues, the lymphatic system helps rid your body of toxins and waste. Think of what your house would smell like if you never took out the trash? Gross, I know, but it's analogous to what can happen when you don't let your lymph flow. The lymph is also full of white blood cells to help fight infection, and it's critical for strong immunity.
If you take the time to have a clean lymphatic system, you'll notice that you lose weight, that your skin clears up, that you have way more energy and—most importantly—that you will be a lot healthier overall. Your body will have the space to remove toxins and fight infections better.
Here are nine ways to help boost a healthy lymph flow. You'll see the difference within days: clearer skin, less swelling, less bloating, and more energy.
1. Exercise and move.
Unlike the circulatory system, which depends on the heart, the lymphatic system doesn't have a pump. You'll notice that your legs are more swollen if you sit all the time—that's lymph. Get up, move, and stretch. A little goes a long way. Even simple yoga moves can break up lymph and get nodes to drain.
2. Try breathwork.
A great way to move your lymph is deep, slow breathing. The lymph collectors are sitting right under the sternum—so do some breathing exercises every day. These breathing exercises are a great start and fabulous for lowering anxiety and boosting well-being, too.
Mucus-forming foods clog the lymph. Sounds gross, I know, but they're all too common. Think animal protein (meat, cheese, eggs), as well as soy and gluten. Beans and lentils are also mucus-forming and should be eaten in moderation. And it goes without saying that processed foods produce mucus (whatever comes in a box or can). Going on an elimination diet in which you focus on gluten-free grains (quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame), and fresh organic vegetables and fruits will help you detox and clean out your lymphatic system in just two to three months.
4. Catch some rays.
Get more sun. We tend to be afraid of the sun but the result is that we deprive ourselves of some of its key benefits—including helping our lymph flow. Take your computer outside, make your calls on walks, play outside with your kids, or go to the beach. Even in the winter, that sunlight not only replenishes vitamin D but helps your lymph flow.
5. Go green in your beauty and home routines.
Some chemicals are unavoidable (stores get sprayed with insecticides, pesticides get released in the air, etc.) so make clean and green choices when it comes to your cosmetics; the lotions, sunscreens, creams, and toothpastes you use; your shampoo; and home cleaning products. Here's a green resource on choosing the right cleaning products and a website for choosing the right cosmetics.
6. Eat good fats.
Oils found in processed food, chips, and packed goods can clog the lymph. For cooking, try refined organic sesame oil or organic avocado oil. Bake foods without oil in the oven. Onions also have natural oils in their skin. Gently brown them and then toss other veggies in.
7. Take hot baths.
Fill a steaming bathtub with two cups of Epsom salt (make sure there are no added ingredients like artificial fragrances, flavors, or colors) and a half-cup of baking soda—this is very detoxifying and supplies your body with magnesium—hello, deep sleep! It also assists the lymph with clearing out toxins and rejuvenating cells.
8. Use these seven essential oils.
Essential oils are great to use in the bath or massage on the legs and arms mixed with organic and if possible 100 percent pure calendula oil or St. John's wort oil. Calendula is great for breaking up lymph stagnation—the massage oil or drinking the tea. It's important to combine essential oils with a "carrier" oil so they can penetrate the skin. Make sure you use quality brands to ensure their purity. The brand I use for our family is Primavera, and it's great to vary essential oils since their properties vary. Use one type in the morning, another at night, or vary each day of the week. Here are some great essential oils for lymph cleansing in particular—blend a few drops with a carrier oil like jojoba oil and rub in the inner and outer thigh, around the knees, near the armpits, and on the abdomen in a clockwise motion:
- Carrot seed
- Black pepper
- Immortelle (Helichrysum)
- Melissa (lemon balm)
- Bay leaf
- Lemon grass
9. Try dry brushing.
Dry brushing your body before you go in the shower! Sounds odd I know, but it gets your circulation going and removes dead skin cells with toxins that clog the lymph. It will leave your skin soft, renewed, and invigorated. You could always do that in the shower or before your shower.
Try these tips for two to three months for a full lymph clearing and a whole new level of health, energy, and radiance.