Many of our patients are asking what they can do to stay healthy as they try to get through the imposed COVID-19 isolation. Our advice - strengthen your immune system. And one of the best ways to do that is to strengthen your lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted material. The system is made up of lymphatic vessels, which are similar to the veins and capillaries of the circulatory system. The vessels are connected to lymph nodes, where the lymph is filtered.
Lymphatic vessels have three primary roles in normal human biology. One of the three is to facilitate the host's immune defenses. Lymphatic vessels function as channels through which antigens and immune cells are transported to their draining lymph nodes for immune protection. When infectious microorganisms invade, lymphatic vessels transport the pathogens or the antigen to the lymph nodes. This initiates adaptive immunity that leads to the production of cells and antibodies that will clear the pathogen and generate memory against it. There are hundreds of lymph nodes in the human body, deep inside the body, such as around the lungs and heart, or closer to the surface, such as under the arm or groin.
Supporting your lymphatic system is important to your overall health especially during the current COVID-19 threat. Ignoring the health of your lymphatic system means your immunity is going to suffer and this could but you at risk.
Here are a few benchmarked practices that can support your lymphatic system
Limit fast food carry out and try to maintain a high quality diet. Digestive imbalances and foods that put stress on the digestive system such as refined vegetable oils and processed foods can have a negative effect on the lymphatic system.
Engage in some type of active movement to keep lymph fluid flowing. Practices like yoga (which twists the body and helps fluid drain), cardio exercise and simple stretching are thought to be beneficial. A 2017 sports medicine study on Cardiovascular Responses to Skeletal Muscle Stretching: "Stretching" the Truth or a New Exercise Paradigm for Cardiovascular Medicine? reports that stretching increases blood flow to tissues and organs in the body and supports cardiovascular health. Any activity that keep your muscles moving and improves lymph flow is beneficial.
Boost a sluggish lymphatic system with self-massage or dry brushing to stimulate the skin and improve blood circulation to help the lymphatic system release toxins, aiding its role in fighting infections and improving the immune system.
We are encouraging our patients to incorporate massaging of the lower extremities as a passive form of exercise to improve peripheral circulation and get blood moving to the feet and toes to prevent the accumulation of fluid and keep oxygen and nutrients flowing to the extremities. If you are healthy (non-diabetic) and have no circulatory problems, inflamed skin or skin sensitivities or skin disorders (i.e.eczema, psoriasis), infections or ulcerations you can use a technique to support the lymphatic system known as dry brushing using a soft, firm brush specifically designed for this. Most experts recommend dry-brushing in the morning. Alternatively you can use a natural exfoliating skin cloth in the shower with a mild bar of exfoliating body soap.
Either way long strokes of medium pressure are the best. Start at your feet with brush or cloth move upward toward the heart. Similarly, when you start on your arms, begin at the hands and work upward. Use firm, small strokes upward, or work in a circular motion. For the stomach, work in a clockwise direction. The process should be done for at about 3-5 minutes. The skin should never be scratched or damaged. If you feel it is discontinue.
Effective and rapid containment of COVID-19 together with self-care will go a long way in protecting ourselves and our communities against the virus. Learning about personal health behavior modifications is an actionable response to COVID-19 that we can all do. Caring for your lymphatic system assists in the proper functioning of your immune system, an essential weapon our body has to fight infection.