One of the most important actions you can do for your health is to support lymphatic drainage. You can do this in just a few minutes each day by practicing dry brushing for lymphatic drainage.
While there are no studies supporting the notion that dry brushing helps lymphatic drainage, I am inclined to support this technique. It certainly can’t hurt – it will make your skin soft, helps with exfoliating dead skin cells and increases circulation in general – and if it does support the movement of lymph that’s a win.
The lymphatic system is a network of lymph glands (nodes) and nodules (non-encapsulated lymphatic tissue) that are connected by ducts and smaller vessels.
The purpose of the lymphatic system is to move the interstitial fluid, cached from metabolic processes, along to the circulatory system so that it does not accumulate in the tissues and other spaces.
These ducts are much like veins, in that they do not generate their own pumping action.
They have values that only allow the fluid to move one way. The fluid is moved along by the pressure of skeletal muscles in the limbs and the diaphragm in the body. The pressure from the diaphragm moving in and out during breathing increases abdominal pressure and this pushes the lymph along.
Similarly, the lymphatic vessels rely on the structures around them to help pump the lymph fluid through the vessel system up to the main thoracic duct which lies in the chest, on the left side of the body. On the right side is the right thoracic duct (also known as the right lymphatic duct).
Both of these main lymphatic ducts drain into the venous system.
Lymphatic drainage naturally occurs as outlined above, by the automatic activity of the lymphatic system. However, some people may have a sluggish lymphatic system.
When there is stagnation in the lymphatic system, the toxins and dead cellular material build up and may cause symptoms. Some symptoms of a sluggish lymphatic system are:
You might be interested in learning about why getting the emunctories (organs of drainage) working effectively before detoxification is so important.
The lymphatic system is closely intertwined with the digestive system. This is obvious when you take into account the gut associated lymphatic tissues (GALT), which is the largest collection of lymphatic vessels in the body.
The intestinal lymphatic system (GALT) creates another barrier which keeps out pathogens and toxins, while helping to maintain balance in the gut microbiome.
The lymphatic system is reliant on the digestive system, particularly the bile system. Bile helps to emulsify fats and aids in digestion. When bile is congested, it cannot do its job and this affects both digestion and the flow of the lymph.
When bile gets clogged, it cannot neutralize the stomach acid and so the body (in order to retain homeostasis) makes less stomach acid.
Most people with GERD and reflux actually have low stomach acid – possibly due to blockage of the bile flow. This is how the digestive system becomes altered.
It is dangerous to have low stomach acid because stomach acid is one of the first defenses against pathogens entering the body via the mouth, along with food.
When bile is congested, the GALT is congested and this is a root cause of poor lymph drainage, poor detoxification, digestive issues and altered immunity (hypersensitive or not strong enough).
Brain lymphatics – also known as the glymphatics – dump into the systemic lymph system.
Read more about the recently identified lymphatic system in the brain.
We need brain drainage and this is dependent upon the lymph drainage, which is dependent on the bile drainage.
Symptoms come from blockages in any of these systems. Malfunction of the glymphatics may be part of the root cause in many neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, MS, dementia and Alzheimers.
Interestingly, this study discusses the role of osteopathic manipulation and its potential to address glymphatic drainage. Chiropractic cervical spine adjustments can also address this, so if you have been getting your neck adjusted, you have been addressing your brain lymphatics!
Use a handheld natural bristle brush of medium firmness (like this one).
Make sure your body is dry. Dry brushing can be done right before, or right after a shower.
Sit down and start at your feet and brush each side 8 – 10 times with quick firm strokes (like whisking) taking care not to press too hard. The lymphatics are stimulated without the need for deep pressure – use soft strokes.
Brush up the legs and then the thighs, front, back and sides.
Spend a little extra time brushing behind the knees, because there are lymph nodes that reside there.
Brush the hands and forearms and then the upper arms, towards the heart. Spend extra time under the arms, because there are lots of lymph nodes under the arms.
Brush the arms always stroking towards the heart. As indicated above, the thoracic vessels empty into the large thoracic ducts at the center of the chest, right under the sternal knotch (the dip between the two collar bones, in the neck).
Brush from the neck down, very gently – or better yet, get a small, softer brush for your neck and face. Brush across the dip in the collar bones, right and left – always towards the center of the sternum.
Brush over the belly, towards the heart. Brush your back, as much as you can reach.
The whole thing should take 5 – 6 minutes and it makes your skin feel very good.
What do you think? Have you tried dry brushing? How has it worked for you? Leave a comment and let me know!