The lymphatic system plays a vital role in detoxifying our bodies. Every 24 hours, the heart receives about 3 liters of lymph, rich in white blood cells, to fight viruses, bacteria, infection and cancer. This system, powered by the squeezing action of our muscles and the action of breathing, consists of a network of tubes and cleansing stations that move body fluids and debris away from the spaces between cells, and then returns the fluid to the bloodstream. During exercise, the flow of lymph into the circulation can increase as much as ten to fifteen times. The fluid is cleansed by different types of white blood cells housed in lymph nodes, before being returned to the bloodstream to be recycled. Lymphatic flow can be obstructed by tight bras, poor posture, lack of exercise, shallow breathing, and tight neck, shoulder or other muscles. The health of our lymphatic systems is intimately connected to the power of our immune systems.
Six practices that will improve lymphatic circulation are dry brush massage, contrast showers, rebounding, exercise, going braless, and breast self-massage. Herbs can also assist lymphatic cleansing. Dry brush massage stimulates the lymphatic system to expel toxins through the skin. Blood circulation is increased to the internal organs, which promotes oxygenation and healing. 1) Use a long handled, natural bristle brush, with a brush pad about the size of your own hand or use a loofah mitt. 2) Start with the soles of your feet. Brush in a circular motion as you move up your body, feet to legs, hands to arms, back to abdomen, and chest to neck. This follows the direction of flow of the lymph. The massage is best performed when you rise in the morning and before you go to bed at night. 3) Increase the cleansing qualities of a dry brush massage by following it with an alternating hot-cold shower (hot for one to three minutes, cold for 30 seconds), repeating the hot-cold pattern three times. This improves blood circulation, increases cellular oxidation, enhances immunity, strengthens the nervous system, and flushes cellular toxins into the blood. 4) Wash your brush every two weeks with soap and water, and then dry it in a warm place.
Movement of the arms, armpits and chest assists lymphatic cleansing of the breasts. For good health, exercise at least 40 minutes each day. A rebounder is the equivalent of a small trampoline. Benefits of rebounding include gentle massage of the liver and colon; increased oxygenation on a cellular level; improved muscle tone; improved digestion, elimination and body detoxification; easier weight management through calorie expenditure; increased energy; improvement in cardiovascular health; stress reduction and release; and an increase in strength, stamina, balance, and agility. Rebounding for 10 minutes has the aerobic effect equivalent to playing tennis for 40 minutes or jogging for 30 minutes.
Many types of bra restrict the movement of the breasts and impede lymphatic circulation. Red marks on the skin from a tight-fitting bra indicate restricted lymphatic circulation. If you have large breasts and need to wear a bra, take it off when you get home. Breast self-massage is another way to stimulate the flow of the lymph to help remove toxins from our breasts. 1) Place your hands on either side of your neck and gently move the skin back and down towards your collarbone. Do this 15 times. 2) Place the palm of your hand under your underarm and gently pump your armpit. The movement is slightly up toward your shoulder and in towards your body. Do this 15 times. 3) With soft hands, use the flat surface of three or four fingers to make small semi circles around the outer part of your breasts working inward until you reach the areola. Apply as much pressure as you would to stroke a young kitten. 4) With your hands cupped around your breast, gently pull your breast away from the chest wall and move your breasts in a circular or up and down movement. 5) If you do find a lump, have it checked out. Eighty percent of all breast lumps are benign, but it is important to bring any lump to your health care professionals attention.
Herbs which assist in cleansing the lymph include red clover, burdock root, Echinacea, goldenseal, marigold, cleavers, European mistletoe, poke root and wild indigo. Additional herbs that strengthen immunity include astragalus, codonopsis, white atractylodes, ganoderma, schizandra, pau darco and green tea. Many of these are available in blends, such as FlorEssence, the Hoxsey formula and Essiac. Consult an herbalist or naturopathic doctor for the best herbal formula and dosage for your specific condition.
Sat Dharam Kaur N.D. is author of The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Breast Cancer (Robert Rose; 2003; $18.95). She teaches breast health at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, presents at conferences worldwide. For more info on her book, products and workshops, please visit: www.healthybreastprogram.on.ca, call 1-519-372-9212 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For order info, contact: Firefly Books 1 800-387-5085.