Health & Beauty: An Inside Job
“We strike at the source of life and death when we go to the lymphatics”
~ Dr. A.T. Still, founder of Osteopathy
The lymphatic system is a network of organs, tissues, vessels and nodes regulated by the autonomic nervous system, which maintains, assesses, and preserves tissue health. It has three main functions in the body:
Fluid Homeostasis: Maintaining the balance of fluid between the blood and tissues.
Immune system surveillance: It forms part of the body’s immune system and is the first line of defence against pathogens.
Digestion: It facilitates absorption of fats and fat-soluble nutrients in the digestive system through small vessels called lacteals.
Since the lymphatic system is a component of our immune system, it also assists the removal of toxins and waste and effectively circulates lymph throughout the body. The lymphatic system is part of the Adaptive Immune Response which is what provides us with permnant immunity once a pathogen has been identified. Edema, water retention, occurs when the lymphatic system is unable to adequately drain fluids from surrounding tissue. As can be seen above, the systemic network is vast and comprehensive!
If your lymphatic system is compromised in some way, which can be from an injury or trauma such as a collision, or post surgery such as mastectomy, it can contribute to reduced immunity, digestion and proper metabolism of fats, pain, edema, and even that much sought after beautiful complexion. It stands to reason that any reduced blood vessel and lymphatic function can lead to inflammation and a reduction of essential nutrients, all of which are a root cause of any measure of aging, which also applies to the skin.
“Illness is mainly due to stagnation of body fluids and that
if you can stimulate blood flow and other fluid motion,
including cerebro-spinal fluid and lymphatic drainage,
then the body will recover.”
~ Dr. A. T. Still
This makes lymphatic drainage and Osteopathy so much more than a beauty bloggers trend. It's a viable and therapeutic means to reduce pain and swelling, reduce inflammation, enhance circulation, and also enhance immunity while also reaping these benefits externally.
How Can Osteopathy Support My Lymphatic System?
Lymphatic Drainage is, and has been, a key component of Osteopathy since the late 1800's and has been used as a treatment modality since the early 19th century.
The right thoracic duct, as seen above, drains the right upper thoracic region and extremity, the right broncho-mediastinal trunk, and the right side of the head while the left thoracic duct drains the remainder of the body.
Osteopath Dr. William Sutherland stated:
“When you tap the waters of the brain by compressing the fourth ventricle, see what happens in the lymphatic system. Visualise the lymph node that is holding some poison that has gathered there, changing the constituency before the lymph is moved along into the venous system”.
In this way, Osteopathy can support both the Lymphatic and the associated intracranial Glymphatic System, a brain-wide paravascular system which is showing promise as a nonpharmacologic, noninvasive management of neurologic disorders. Lymphatic Drainage has been shown to assist with post mastectomy lymphedema, and reducing post operative swelling, and even reduction of cellulite.
While the official jury is still out on how effective lymphatic drainage is as a direct beauty treatment a collaborative study with Shiseido and Professor Nobuyuki Takakura of the Research Institute for Microbial Diseases, Osaka University found that "The increase in skin blood flow after applying the massage roller (for lymphatic drainage) persisted much longer than we had expected". This same study also noted that:
Fatty acids, which are present abundantly in lymph, cause the destabilization of lymphatic vessels, leaking from the vessels, and
Leaked fatty acids directly promote the differentiation of adipocytes.
What Can Lymphatic Drainage Help With? **
Swelling or edema
Skin disorders, including acne
Migraines and Headaches
Natural Ways To Keep Your Lymphatic System Well Functioning
There are so many simple daily ways to help and support your own immune system! The following is a list you can easily do at home and abroad:
Detox with a safe Cleanse: I am very fond of this particular Cleanse by Dr. Alejandro Junger.
Proper Hydration: We all know this, but don't always do it, and it should be the first go to when feeling sluggish. Filtered and/or alkaline water is the best, but any clean, non-carbonated water, keeps the blood and lymph viscous and flowing smoothly.
Nutritious Low Carbohydrate Food: We all love carbs, but they are hygroscopic and can contribute to edema. By consuming a varied but lower carb diet with a focus on clean proteins and fats, you stay satisfied, support collagen building, and ensure that you have all the building blocks for a strong and vital body.
Interact and "be" in Nature daily.
Along with your diet, health, and lifestyle, consider cleaning up your beauty routine, including skin care. Toxic products add an extra burden to the liver and the lymphatic system.
Daily Exercise: Walking is one of the best ways to get circulation moving well, but strength training is also key for maintaining musculoskeletal integrity as we age. Getting out in the fresh air and sun will also help with daily Vitamin D, which also enhances immunity. Other benefits: Improved sleep, weight management, and reduced risk of metabolic disorders.
Stress Management: Stress may be one of the biggest factors in reduced immunity and overall systemic functioning. Exercise of any variety is perhaps the number one way to reduce stress, but mindfulness techniques such as meditation, gardening (great for grounding!), or any hobby can help tame the stress - inflammation cycle.
Facial Gua Sha: This is a Traditional Chinese Medicine technique to revitalize and improve circulation as well as stimulate certain acupuncture points. Apply a facial serum or argan oil, and using light short strokes, follow the arrows in the diagram with your Gua Sha tool, and then enjoy your glowing skin!
Dry Brushing: An invigorating Ayervedic Medicine technique which uses a natural brush with soft bristles along dry skin, following the path of the lymph towards the heart by brushing in the same direction. It's best to do this before showering or bathing to rinse off the skin that has been exfoliated, and it's an easy adaptation to normal bathing habits. The below video is an excellent resource for how to dry brush.
We Get By With A Little Help From Our Friends
Consider Supplementing with Adaptogens*** for immunity and Collagen for skin, muscle and fascia. My favourite adaptogens are:
Reishi - Perhaps my favourite adaptogen! It is known in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as the Immortality Mushroom. It promotes restful sleep and meditation, reduces stress, enhances immunity, decrease inflammation, and is helpful with chronic cough due to asthma.
Asian and American Ginseng - Mood, energy, health immune support
Astragalus - healthy immune response, diueretic, anti-inflammatory
Holy Basil - stress, sleep)
Rhodiola - promotes positive mood, energy, and a healthy immune response
Manual Osteopathic Therapy
If there is a history of trauma, injury, surgery, or even repetitive strain, it can be difficult to achieve a desired goal on our own, despite our best efforts and practices. And, to be fair, some things are just not possible to attain on our own.
Manual hands on therapy can be comforting as well as therapeutic, and is an ideal way to help move a sluggish lymphatic system as well as balancing the entire body and system. Touch and connection are also such powerful healing tools, the benefit of treatment is two fold!
Coco Chanel said that, “Elegance is when the inside is as beautiful as the outside.”
But I truly believe that true beauty arises from the inside and radiates out.
Beauty and health truly are an inside job.
** People should not have a lymphatic drainage if they have congestive heart failure, blood clots, kidney problems, infections, or circulation problems. If a person has any medical conditions, or any questions regarding the suitability of lymphatic drainage for their health, they should consult their doctor before trying lymphatic drainage or any techniques mentioned in this article.
*** The supplementation suggestions in this article are meant for reference only and a physician should be consulted prior to their usage.