What do puffy eyes, swollen ankles, and a stuffed-up head have in common?
If you thought “sounds like lymphatic drainage problems in need of a lymph detox,” you're right!
All of these symptoms indicate the presence of stagnant lymph. Instead of dynamic lymph on the move flushing out the bad stuff, it just sits.
In other words, toxins and waste products are clogging up their only exit ways from your body. They're stuck. Ugh.
Stagnation breeds sickness.
Q: So what's the solution to the puffiness, swelling, and congestion known as lymphedema?
A: A natural lymphatic detox to de-clog your lymphatic system and get your lymph flowing again flushing out all the lousy gunk. Enhancing the drainage recovery process outlined below, with 7 potent lymph-draining natural biologics as lymphatic support, will reset your body for optimum health.
Here's the scoop on what causes lymph blocks and what you can do naturally to de-stagnate your lymphatic system.
Best part? It's easy, fast and relatively inexpensive.
But first a bit on the lymphatic system.
The Unsung Hero of Optimal Health: Your Lymphatic System
Why Lymph's Important
When was the last time you had a lymph test?
Probably never because such a test doesn't exist! If you don't believe me do an internet search on “lymph test.”
You'll see lots about lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system). And there will be tons on blood tests measuring lymphocytes (immune cells that the lymphatic system makes).
But that wasn't the question.
Here's a challenge: Next time you see your healthcare professional, request “a lymph test.” I bet you'll prove me right.
Anyway, the fact that there is no direct test of your lymphatic system does not mean it's not important.
And it in no way means your lymph system doesn't exist.
To the contrary! Without a properly functioning (although largely invisible) lymphatic system, you'd drown in your own waste products! Worst case scenario if lymph remains put? You could develop chronically bloated extremities bursting with lymph leading to other serious health complications.
What Is Lymph?
Lymph is analogous to blood in that they're both liquids circulating in your body.
But the similarity stops there.
Unlike red blood's circular, pumped (by the heart) movement, clear-to-white lymph moves just one way: out. To make matters worse, lymph has no organ pump. (1)
So it's up to you to eliminate it yourself through moving and deep breathing! (Another reason why a sedentary lifestyle can take years off your life.)
You definitely need to be pro-active when it comes to lymph management.
And you see where I'm going with this...more on this coming up.
Also unlike blood, lymph is mostly water (95%) with the fancy name of interstitial fluid. This is the water all around and between your cells filled with some immune cells, protein, fats and other big, sultry-sounding (and looking) substances.
Lymph also contains water from blood plasma.
And again you might be able to guess where I'm going with that...stay tuned!
But it's the remaining 5% that I want to focus on right now.
Lymph is your body's liquid trash can, to put it mildly. It picks up waste products formed from all the chemical reactions needed to keep you alive, ushering them out of your body.
There's also a toxic load of environmental chemicals like heavy metals that need to exit your body before they start wreaking biological havoc in you. (2)
Granted you're stacked with lymph hardware like:
- Lymph vessels weaved throughout almost all of your tissues and organs
- Lymph nodes that serve as checkpoints for mostly dead or dying immune cells that have already done their job fighting infection or are in the heat of doing so
- Lymph organs like the tonsils, thymus, and spleen that serve as immune cell factories. (3)
Given that about 80% of the immune system resides in the gut, it should come as no surprise that the gastrointestinal (GI) tract also contains some lymphatic tissue making it part of the lymphatic system, too. (4)
As lymph makes its way to the collection centers (nodes) the vessels carrying it merge. Then they become part of a more extensive, denser network of vessels that eventually morph into lymphatic ducts. Just like small streams emptying into larger ones and finally winding up in a river.
Then the ducts deposit lymph into veins for its last hurrah until its final exit through your bladder, bowel, and sweat.
Functions of the Lymphatic System
Ignored and under-rated by medicine and science for far too long, your lymphatic system is now known to have several critically essential roles to play in keeping you healthy. (5)
Researchers exploring this “white blood” (as Hippocrates once described it), discovered that it:
Detoxifies against microbes and other toxic substances.
Returns some excess protein molecules and fluid back to circulation.
Absorbs lipids (fatty substances) and fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D and E) from your GI tract and sends them off on their merry way into your bloodstream and beyond (to your cells).
Given how vital these functions are, it makes sense to keep lymph flowing so that you live toxin-free. But sometimes things don't go as planned.
What Causes Blockages in the Lymphatic System?
When they signal lymph blockages, one or more of these culprits could be responsible:
- Microbial infection
- Parasitic infection
- Cellulitis (inflammation of cells)
- Removal of a lymph node
- Radiation therapy
You may have experienced one or more of these in your life resulting in lymphatic blockages. (Many of the examples could indicate a health problem unrelated to your lymphatic system so always check with your healthcare provider.)
Besides the swollen ankles, puffy eyes and congested head (mentioned at the start of this blog post) that signal lymphatic dysfunction, there are more signs and symptoms of lymph blockages that may not be as obvious as fluid buildup but can be severe lymph-related issues just the same:
- Cellulite (lumpy fat deposits)
- Painful and hard swellings (especially in neck, armpits, groin area)
- Mucus and phlegm production
- Bloated stomach or extremities
- Stiff or painful joints
- Excessive sweating
- Chronic sinus infections
- Brain fog
- Chronic headaches
Key Takeaway: If you have one or more of these signs of lymphatic blockage, you can’t eliminate toxins. It’s really as simple as that.
Here are the natural consequences when one or more parts of your lymphatic system are clogged up:
Toxic byproducts of normal cell growth and reproduction remained trapped in cells.
Old & used immune cells fester in your lymph.
Foreign bodies like bacteria, viruses, parasites, and mold remain engulfed by immune cells with nowhere to go.
Environmental chemical residues and heavy metals that entered your body (probably from food, water, air or consumer products) are trapped with no escape plan in sight.
No time to waste! You need to remedy the situation fast and get the lymph flowing again, so it'll carry the toxins right out of your body.
If not, permanent swelling could be in your future.
Worse, secondary complications like chronic wounds or ulcers, and, in rare cases, cancer, may rear their ugly heads. (6)
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take now and every day to keep your lymph draining well and prevent lymph clogs head on.
The best thing about these steps? They're all natural.
How Can You Improve Your Lymphatic System Naturally?
Two words answer the question above: Lymph Detox.
For starters, you can bet money on these two natural ways to support your lymph's work (based on hints above – you know them already). They form the basis of your body's natural ability to detox your lymph:
Exercise. Studies show how big a difference movement makes in lymphatic function. (7) You don't have to be a marathon runner or triathlete either. Walking and stretching are great ways to get the lymph moving from muscle contraction. Tidying up your home or yard counts, too.
Don't underestimate the power of breathing to get the lymph de-blocked! Deep breathing, of the sort practiced during mindfulness meditations, gets your entire rib cage in on it so you're not just removing gaseous carbon dioxide waste products from your lungs. You're also squeezing the lymph from even the tiniest interstitial spaces and pushing it toward its exit ducts.
Drink plenty of clean water. Lymph is mostly water. All of life's chemistry happens in water. Dehydration makes it very hard for your cells to function. Recommended is half your body weight in ounces per day. Spread it out during the day to keep your metabolic machinery humming smoothly and consistently.
Bonus: Add a squirt of lemon juice + rind to the water as an all-around lymph detoxer. Sip on it throughout the day. It'll get the bile moving, too!
Speaking of fruit...
Here are the best foods for lymphatic drainage.
Best Foods for Lymph Drain
Anti-inflammatory foods that won't put your body into attack mode = fewer immune cells to flush away in lymph.
Here are some that should be at the top of your shopping list every time:
- Leafy greens (like kale, collards)
- Healthy fats (in nuts, seeds, olive oil)
- Wild caught salmon (for omega-3s)
High-fiber foods add bulk that keeps waste products and toxins bound and flowing in lymph as well as in the large intestines. No surprise: leafy greens are winners here, too!
Lower-sugar (especially low-to-no fructose) foods keep inflammation (which leads to swelling) in check. Avocados and berries are fruits that won't disappoint your lymph. Avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that's basically in all processed food. (8)
Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) bypass the lymph because they're small enough and don't need bile for transport. (9) People with an already challenged lymph system can give it a break by consuming MCTs in coconut oil (which, for the record, also contain some long-chain fatty acids that'll need some extra processing in the lymph for transport).
For additional lymphatic support, here are 7 powerful natural fixes to complement your body's own natural lymph detoxification.
7 Natural Remedies for Lymphatic Support
Everybody needs a little help now and then. Your lymphatic system is no exception.
Because of the vital work, your lymphatic system performs 24/7, it's worth exploring all avenues of lymph support. This is true even if you're:
- pumping up (that is, exercising) regularly to squeeze and push toxin-laden lymph out of your body
- drinking plenty of water every day to provide the liquid swoosh needed for your natural lymph detox to happen
One place to look for lymph support is the treasure trove of medicinal plant-based wisdom from ancient civilizations.
If something's been working for literally thousands of years, why not take advantage of it? It could be the missing element in your daily lymph routine (you mean you don't have one yet?) that'll take your health to a higher level of robustness.
First up is turkey rhubarb (which, incidentally, is not derived from turkeys, nor from the rhubarb you may (ahem...) indulge in as pie).
1. Turkey Rhubarb
Used in Ancient China for thousands of years primarily as a laxative, extensive scientific research in the last fifteen years reveals that turkey rhubarb has several amazing properties:
At the heart of its herbal powers are chemicals called anthraquinones usually associated with bright-colored textile dyes. (10) But there's much more to anthraquinones than what's pleasing to the eye. :)
Anthraquinones are the key movers in popular aloe vera, which you probably use in a body lotion or face cream for its superior antioxidant properties. (11)
It goes without saying any more that turkey rhubarb is a prime mover (in more ways than one!) of your lymphatics.
2. Sheep Sorrel
Is it a herb? Is it a leafy green? It's sheep sorrel!
It's both, depending on which characteristic you're talking about. (12)
Without a doubt, the broad, fresh leaves add tangy tartness to soups, sauces, and stews making sorrel a prized culinary ingredient in many world cultures.
When dried and added to teas or taken as a supplement, the tannins in sheep sorrel do their magic.
Tannins are chemicals that have many lymph-supporting characteristics including:
The astringent property of tannins to dry up liquids makes sheep sorrel perfect for treating a large number of lymph-related issues you might be experiencing. (13)
For example, if you're suffering from a sinus infection (sinusitis) producing copious amounts of mucus, sheep sorrel will dry it up in no time...naturally.
Would you believe that research shows that sinusitis is often due to a fungal infection? (14) And with it comes loads of mucus as part of your immune system's response to it. Tannins in sheep sorrel will not only dry up the mucus, but they've also been shown to have anti-fungal properties, too. (15)
3. Burdock Root
If you're into root veggies like carrots or turnips, you'll love burdock root.
A staple of many Asian kitchens for thousands of years, burdock root, is also chockful of medicinal qualities especially ones for lymph detox. It's a great detoxifier that, as a diuretic, flushes toxins out of your body (16)
Besides being a superb antioxidant and antibacterial, burdock root traditionally has been known to offer therapeutic benefits in the case of:
- High blood pressure
- Hepatitis and other liver diseases
For your lymph detox, include burdock root to relieve any spleen and tonsil swelling or infection. In other words, burdock root recharges your lymph organs.
4. Astragalus Root
Used medicinally in Ancient China for thousands of years, astragalus is a great lymph detox booster.
Although the Chinese may not have known about all the complexities of the lymphatic system, they definitely knew astragalus would remedy lymphatic drainage issues when they used it as an expectorant (to facilitate mucus and phlegm elimination) and as a diuretic (to flush out lymph buildup through the kidneys). (17)
Astragalus is also used to help diarrhea and upper respiratory infections, both of which may signal lymph drainage problems. (18)
As an added plus, this root contains saponins which play an essential role in its expectorant function, but that's not all. (19) Saponins are also known to be:
- Protective of blood vessels
5. Slippery Elm Bark
Slippery elm bark hails from a native North American tree, the slippery (or red) elm. (20)
The inner bark contains astringent, antifungal tannins as does sheep sorrel. So slippery elm bark can assist with lymph detox in many of the same ways that sheep sorrel does.
People with respiratory issues such as sinusitis or lung congestion may especially benefit.
Slippery elm bark also provides a soft fiber called mucilage. When combined with water already present in your body, it soothes inflamed tissues or mucous membranes by forming a jelly-like protective coating. In this manner, slippery elm bark soothes sore throats. Similarly, it could alleviate the discomfort caused by ulcers.
What is there not to praise about graviola as a natural remedy?
Also known as soursop or pawpaw, among many other names, the tropical rainforest tree graviola is a staple in the go-to natural medicine chest in many cultures including those in Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America.
It has held its star position for thousands of years because it reliably and safely performs in so many health-promoting ways. (21)
Here are just a few of the lymph-supporting qualities of graviola:
All of the graviola tree – leaves, fruit, bark, roots, and seeds – are used for one or more of these reasons.
And I haven't even mentioned the anti-cancer powers that are the subject of much recent scientific scrutiny. (22) This is due to a large class of chemicals called acetogenins in this tree species.
Several studies report that some acetogenins are thousands of times better at killing cancer cells than some pharmaceutical drugs. Better yet, they specifically target cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone to do their thing.
[Hint on pronunciation: It’s like the choo-choo train.]
The large chuchuhuasi canopy tree calls the deepest recesses of the South American Amazon basin it's home. Indigenous peoples have depended on the therapeutic qualities of this tree's bark, including antioxidant, antimicrobial and antitumor properties, for thousands of years (23)
Chuchuhuasi is a Peruvian word for “trembling back” referring to the tree bark's use to soothe back pain and arthritis.
As a lymph drainage support, chuchuhuasi is used to help ease the effects of
- Gastrointestinal problems including ulcers
- Sore throat
There are many tree “cousins” to chuchuhuasi which also have similar anti-inflammatory properties. They help alleviate a wide variety of stomach and skin problems. (24)
Tingenone is the chemical believed to be responsible for many of the beneficial health effects of chuchuhuasi bark.
Lymph Detox 101
Once you understand what your lymphatic system is doing for you, it's easy to see how lymphatic drainage is essential. When your pipes get clogged, it's vital to deblock the plumbing as quickly as possible.
Nutrition, exercise, and lots of water are critical to success. They're all part of a natural lymph detox. You can improve your chances of keeping your lymph flowing all the time flushing out harmful toxins by supplementing with 7 natural remedies.