Itchy skin? Rashes, boils or spots? Generally feeling sluggish? Prone to lumps and cysts? Or snotty, congested sinuses? Chances are, your lymph is overloaded. So let’s take a look at what that means, and how you can give it some love.
What is your lymph, and what does it do?
Your lymph is like flowing river water.
You have trillions of cells containing and surrounded by fluid. This fluid is continually moving, and one of its jobs is to flush out excess materials and toxins. These then seep into your lymphatic system.
Your lymphatic system is a network of tubes similar to your blood veins and arteries. The lymph fluid they contain is very similar to your blood, just without the red blood cells. Both your lymph and blood carry the waste and toxins to your liver, filtering out as much as they can on the way. Your liver has detoxification processes to deal with the rest. Then the debris from that process (ideally) gets sent eventually into your stools, via another liquid that your liver makes called bile.
The whole system is like a network of rivers, streams and babbling brooks, filtering the water as it runs through stones and rocks.
What are your lymph nodes?
Your lymph contains plenty of white blood cells to help protect you from certain kinds of threat to your health. Every now and then, they pass through clusters of lymph nodes, with even more white blood cells. These are concentrated in your armpits, neck and groin, and you might also know them as your glands. They help filter and clean your lymph, and might get swollen if you have an infection that makes them work extra hard.
How does this affect your health?
If your lymph gets overloaded, then you sometimes can feel quite sluggish and toxic. Your body will try and find a quick way to lighten its load.
One way to do this is to produce mucous, and that’s what happens when you get a cold. It’s one of the ways your immune system tries to get rid of pathogens and the debris created by trying to deal with them. If you feel continually snotty, sinusy, chesty and congested, or find it hard to shake off a cold or virus, then your lymph may need some support.
Your skin can sometimes get involved, as it can help you sweat out toxins. If this is happening a lot and you don’t quite have the energy to sweat it all out, then your skin might feel itchy or congested, or you might get a rash. Alternatively, your lymph might feed into lumps, boils or cysts, either at your skin’s surface or deeper into your tissue.
How can you help lighten your lymph’s load?
- Look after your liver. I’m not a fan of the classic “liver cleanse”, I think there are better ways that you can do this. One way would be to make sure you are including all the nutrients you need for your liver’s detoxification enzymes, including vitamin C, zinc, manganese and various amino acids. You might also benefit from including regular bitter flavours that stimulate bile production. My favourite for this is dandelion coffee. You could also look into castor oil packing your liver area – this is essentially a warm castor oil compress.
- Hydrate. The key word throughout has been “fluid.”If you are dehydrated, then your lymph may well struggle to flow. You also need electrolytes to keep water flowing, including magnesium and potassium – plus magnesium helps to relax any tension that may be restricting blood and lymph flow.For a similar reason, you may also need to address how you’re dealing with stress factors.
- Move! Your lymph doesn’t have its own heart to pump it around, it relies on movement. Walking, breathing freely, stretching, yoga, qi gong, cycling and swimming will all help. Body brushing can also be helpful: use a back brush to massage your lymph from your feet/hands/neck towards your heart, where it drip feeds into your blood. Also check out our Inspiration for a Winter Movement Practice blog.