We hear a lot about detox, especially in the pre and post-Christmas period. The media and health gurus would have us believe‘detox’ is a solution to the health issues of the modern world. But what is the detoxification process and what exactly are we trying to do when we ‘detox’ our bodies?
In this article, we’ll focus on a very important network in our bodies, the lymphatic system, a prime mover in the detoxification process. Learn how to improve your health by helping your lymph system function at its best.
What is Detoxification and Why Should You Care?
Essentially, detoxification of the body is the removal of toxins and waste from our systems. There are several ways of detoxifying the body, each with its own benefits and ease of implementing. Our liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, and skin are constantly striving to remove toxins but sometimes these organs work too hard.
Rich food, alcohol, stress, and bad lifestyle choices force our systems to work harder. When they can’t cope, we must either contend with the negative effects of a toxic system or we can try to combat the effects through a detox program.
In Ireland, at Christmas and New Year many of us go a little overboard with the celebrations and we suffer the consequences in January. Now we’re not advocating a reduction in festivities. But we want to help you recover quickly so here are some tips for optimising your health at this time of year.
The advice in this article is relevant at any time of year, of course. Whenever you need a pick-me-up or you’re feeling lethargic it might be time to cleanse your body.
What Happens When our Lymph Circulation is not Optimal?
Water retention – Swollen legs, arms and other body parts can be caused by a buildup of water, often as a result of poor lymph function.
Tissue swelling – When the lymphatic system is blocked our tissues can become swollen with lymphatic fluid, a condition known as lymphedema.
Other signs of possible blockages are poor skin condition, chronic fatigue, weight gain, colds and flu, and arthritis.
How to Detox the Lymphatic System
The lymph system is a very important network in our bodies used to fight infections and remove waste.
Maintaining a healthy lymph system should be a year-round task. It’s not overly complicated but during the holidays our immune systems come under a lot of pressure. High-sugar, fatty foods, alcohol, lack of sleep, and holiday stress play havoc with our bodies natural waste-elimination systems. The result is an increase in colds & flu, acne, dull-looking skin, tiredness and irritability.
Here’s how to maintain a healthy lymph system:
1. Book a Lymphatic Drainage Massage.
One of the easiest and most passive ways for you to improve your body’s lymph function is to have a professional massage therapist work on the lymph node areas of the body.
When the lymph node system in your body is not working properly (it can sometimes be sluggish and inefficient due to toxic overload) a massage therapist can help stimulate the nodes into action. Therapists use their hands to gently compress areas of the body where lymph nodes are found. This helps push lymph around the body and the result is the elimination of toxins, an increase in immune function, and a reduction in swelling, puffiness, and water retention.
The difference between lymphatic drainage massages and other forms of massage, such as sports, deep tissue, and Swedish is primarily the focus areas but also the pressure. This form of massage uses light pressure on specific areas of the body with the intention of stimulating the lymph nodes. There should be no discomfort. You may experience tiredness or even mild flu-like symptoms directly after the treatment. This is due to the flushing of toxins from the body. It’s a case of feeling slightly worse before experiencing the positive results of a good manual lymphatic drainage treatment.
If you haven’t tried a lymphatic massage yet we recommend you book a session to experience what a detox massage can do for you. It’s one of the best ways to clean your system and start fresh.
2. Use Herbs for Lymphatic System Benefits
We love natural remedies for everything related to the body (and we include massage in this). Nature has given us herbs that heal, cleanse, and promote good health. Why not use them? Science has shown us that many of the most common herbs can really help with detox and immune system boosting. These are the best herbs for the job:
- Pot Marigold
- Devil’s Claw
3. Try Spices for Cleansing the Body
Try ginger and turmeric tea with a spoonful of natural honey. It’s a great detox drink that’s easy to make and contains no caffeine. Herbal teas are a great way to add some of these foods to your diet.
If you’d like to know more about nutrition for health, why not book a session with a nutritional therapist? Small improvements in diet can make a huge difference to your energy levels, skin, and overall health.
4. Eat Natural
Good nutrition is one of the pillars of health. No matter how much you exercise, rest, sleep, and take care of your body, if you don’t eat right for your body, you will always be fighting against toxic overload.
Despite the news about Chocolate’s health benefits, bingeing on the black gold at Christmas won’t really flood our bodies with antioxidants. You really need the dark (80% and above) stuff and that’s not what most treats are made of.
Make sure to include some herbs and spices from item 3 in this list. The following foods will also help cleanse the lymph system:
- Brazil nuts
- Flaxseed (oil and seed form)
- Leafy green vegetables
Foods to avoid:
Refined foods of any type (refined grains, packet foods, soft drinks, candy/sweets). White bread, pasta, and rice are all refined foods so consider reducing or eliminating some of these from your diet and monitor the effects.
For more information on nutrition for health try a nutritional therapy session with a qualified practitioner.
5. Perform Exercises for Lymphatic Drainage
Yes, we know you’re probably getting bombarded with ads for new gym memberships and weight-loss programs for post-Christmas spare-tyre reduction. But exercise is not all about losing weight (you knew that though). As humans, we need to exercise to maintain the health of the systems in our bodies. We were designed to move and when we don’t, things start to get a bit sluggish. Our body’s lymphatic system is prone to sluggish responsiveness when we don’t exercise enough. It’s easy to understand why.
We need to move lymph around the body to maintain optimal health. Muscles help move lymph around the body. Whether through breathing, intestinal movements, or muscle action, lymph pushes around the body helping to remove toxins.
Even simply moving will do some good. Sitting at a desk all day or on a couch after work will certainly make things worse.
The body eliminates toxins from the body via various channels and breathing is one of the main ways in which we can improve the waste elimination. Breathing deeply works better than the shallow breathing most of us perform at our sedentary jobs. Any exercise that increases our heart rate will help us breathe more deeply and encourage the body to expel toxins.
But to get the best results try the following exercises:
Lying on your back on the floor, elevate your legs slightly (you can use towels if it’s too difficult to maintain the legs elevated), and make circles with your feet. Try to use the ankles to make large circles. Repeat ten times and reverse direction. Next, flex and extend your ankles by curling your toes followed by pulling your toes towards your shins. Repeat 10 times.
This is another one for the ankles but it also works the core, hip and glutes. Lying on your back again, place your feet flat on the ground with bent knees. Raise up your hips so that the knees, waist and shoulders are all in the same line. Next, press on your toes like a ballerina so that your lower leg is a straight line from toes to knees. Relax and repeat up to 20 times.
Knees to Chest
Remaining in the supine position (face up), pull your knees towards your chest, squeeze slightly, hold for a couple of seconds and return. Repeat 10 times.
This is a traditional Yoga pose (Yoga is a great exercise regime to help with circulation, flexibility, and overall health) which is great for full-body circulation.
From a standing position place your hands on the ground in front of you at a distance of about 2-3 feet. Move the hands forward until the legs and arms are both straight. Your body will resemble an upside-down V. Hold the position maintaining a tight core and straight limbs. The only crease should be at the hips.
This exercise works the arms, shoulders, legs, glutes and back.
A couple of things to remember when performing these exercises to make them more effective.
- Try to elevate the target limb above the heart.
- Breathe deeply and from the diaphragm to help oxygenate the blood.
- Optional: Wear compression clothing such as compression socks to help squeeze lymph around the body.
6. Hit the Sauna, Hot Tub, or Steam Room
Not just for relaxation purposes, saunas and steam rooms can really help with the detoxification process.
Sweating is one way the body eliminates toxins from the body. But saunas, steam rooms and other forms of heat therapy help our lymphatic systems in ht following ways:
- Reduces stress
- Cleanses the skin
- Flushes toxins
- Relaxes and soothes muscles
If you follow most of the advice in this article you should be able to make significant changes in your lymph node function. Consult a medical professional before making drastic changes to diet and exercise. If you’re already healthy and have no issues with exercise, then making some immediate changes should see immediate results.
Want the quickest ways to improve the health of your lymphatic system? Drink lots of water, walk 30 minutes a day, breathe deeply, and get a lymphatic massage once a week. With just these changes you should see a difference.