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Lymphatic System and Bodywork

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The Lymphatic system is our front line of defense in fighting bodily infections, detoxifying the body and transporting metabolic wastes, excess water, bacteria and toxins out of the body.

The Lymph glands (at neck, armpits, groin, etc.) are connected by a broad network of vessels, which transplant the fluid. Muscular movement is required to move it, as there is no ‘Heart’ to pump it.  Lymphatic Drainage, a gentle whole body treatment relaxes the nervous system and aids the body’s immune system. It is highly recommended for those prone to and recovering from sore throats, colds, infections, ongoing tiredness, excess fluids, low immunity, swollen node and also for the physically inactive.  Bowen style Lymphatic Drainage has also been known to help to remove the visible signs of cellulite, in conjunction with “homework” by the client.


The lymphatic system is vital to our health and very life. Part of our immune system, it provides defense against disease-causing organisms. When the lymphatic system becomes sluggish our tissues become congested, organ function is impaired and our health suffers. It is essential to deal with the lymph system in all chronic or viral illness, cancer and many other diseases.

What is the lymphatic system?

At the cellular level, the lymphatic system is a pathway through which fluid flows from the intercellular spaces into the blood. The lymphatic system includes lymph, lymphocytes, lymph vessels, lymph nodules, lymph nodes, tonsils, spleen and thymus gland. Part of the body’s defense system, the lymph nodes filter lymph and the spleen filters blood, removing microorganisms and other foreign substances. The lymph nodes act as a filtration system that  keeps particulate matter such as bacteria from entering the bloodstream. They produce both lymphocytes and monocytes. Lymph tissue contains lymphocytes and other cells that can destroy microorganisms and foreign substances.

The lymphatic system helps maintain fluid balance in the tissues. It also helps in clearance of proteins and large particles which are too large to be absorbed into the blood capillaries, but can be carried through the lymphatics. Removal of proteins from the intercellular spaces is so important, that if were not done, we would die within about twenty-four hours.

Lymphatic fluid is derived from intercellular fluid that flows into the lymphatics. About two-thirds of lymph is normally derived from the liver and intestines. Small lymph capillaries originate in the tissue and carry fluid away from the tissues. These lymph capillaries, which are in almost all tissues of the body, except the bones, superficial skin, deeper portion of peripheral nerves, the central nervous system, endomysium of muscles. But even these are able to drain through minute prelymphatic channels, whose fluid then flows into the lymphatic vessels. The brain is unique in that the prelymphatic channels drain into the cerebrospinal fluid and from there directly into the venous system. Lymph capillaries turn into lymph vessels which pass through lymph nodes, empty into the lymphatic ducts and then into the venous system

If the lymphatic system becomes congested, blocked, damaged or severed, fluids can build up in the connective tissue leading to edema. After a time, cell pathology may begin. If there is damage in the connective tissue due to burns, chronic inflammation, ulceration, or other factors, the lymph system transports damaged cells, inflammatory products and toxins away from the area. The more quickly this can happen, the faster recovery will be.


Fortunately, there are many simple, effective self-care steps we can take to ensure healthy lymph!

  • Skin brushing

Skin brushing has been found to stimulate circulation to the skin and also to help stimulate lymph flow.

  • Exercise

Exercise increases lymph flow ten to thirty fold. This is phenomenal and the good news is this means we can do a lot to help our lymph flow. Liver circulation is aided by exercise, particularly by movement of the abdominal muscles and diaphragm. As the diaphragm expands the chest, it compresses the abdominal cavity. The gentle compression of the liver with each breath aids circulation of the blood and lymph through the liver. Exercise such as walking, jumping on a rebounder 5 to 20 minutes per day, gentle running or other aerobic exercise and yogic or special breathing exercises help the liver and will also assist the lymph circulation. Swimming is an excellent exercise because it uses all the muscles and combines rhythmic breathing and movement.

If you are bedridden, experiment with what body movements you can make in bed. Wiggle your toes, move your wrists, arms, feet, legs, torso.

  • Conscious Breathing

Even if you cannot walk or jump on a rebounder right now, you can sit in a chair outside or by a window and do some simple breathing exercises. I don’t recommend the more vigorous yogic breathing exercises, which you should learn from a qualified instructor, unless you are very familiar with the exercises and their contraindications.

  • Diet and Lymph

A balanced diet, high in fresh, organic vegetables with a balance of protein, fats, complex carbohydrates and some fruit daily will keep the lymphatic system very healthy. Daily consumption of sufficient fresh, clean water is also essential.

  • Quality Oils Essential for Healthy Lymph

The lymphatic system is a major route for absorption of fats from the small intestine in the process of digestion. Thus, the quality and quantity of oils in our diet will affect the health of our lymphatic system. Oils are an important part of our diet as they provide important precursors to many biochemical pathways affecting the immune system, hormonal balance, cell health and repair, brain function and appropriate inflammatory response. A diet too low in oils will potentially cause many health problems.

The main issue with oils in our diet actually has more to do with the quality of oil rather than quantity of oil.

  • Herbs

Herbs help the lymph in a variety of ways.  Some herbs directly affect the lymph, other herbs would be used to address the underlying causes leading to or effects of lymph stagnation. According to Western herbal medicine, some herbs that specifically help move the lymph include Ceonothus, Phytolacca or Scrophularia.


Excerpts from: Lymphatic System  – Vital to Healing & Good Health
copyright 2006   Suzanne E. Sky, L.Ac., MTOM

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