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WHAT your lymphatic system does and 10 WAYS to activate & support it!



Your lymphatic system is critical to upkeep and maintain normal functioning of your body. It’s composed of a complex system of extensive network of vessels, lymph nodes and organs. On average, a person has about 700 lymph nodes throughout their body which about 1/3 are located in the abdominal region. Your lymphatic fluid is composed of 3 essential items: water, protein rich fluid, and fats.


It plays a pretty cool role in:

  1. Protection from Infection & disease. I feel this is one of the most common understandings of the lymphatic system - It plays a huge role in your immune response! To knock out the germy intruders, the lymph system produces & contain particular white blood cells, lymphocytes. When a foreign particle is detected in your system the lymphocytes trigger an immune response to break down the bacteria or virus to protect the body from infection.

  2. Maintain body fluid levels the lymphatic and vascular systems work very closely with one another. The systems are permeable so as your blood which is filled with nutrients moves through your vessels some fluid and cells leave the circulatory system to provide tissues with oxygen, nutrients and immune factors. The lymphatic systems role is to collect this fluid (clean it) and return it back to the circulatory system, to fulfill the role of maintaining body fluid levels. If the lymphatic system is unable to fulfill this role (ie. a compromised lymph structure due to malformation or from trauma such as surgery or radiation) by not properly draining, then accumulation of fluid occurs in the tissues. Swelling in the tissues then occurs and you would have a feeling of tightness and heaviness. If left untreated the fluid accumulation will continue to increase and the affected area will place you at risk for chronic swelling know as Lymphedema.

  3. Remove waste and toxins during the stage where the lymph system is returning the fluid back to the circulatory system, it gets cleansed of toxins and waste as it flows through each lymph node. Like a filter it traps and removes harmful cellular waste, toxins and unhealthy cells. Did you know that you have lymph nodes throughout your body ranging anywhere from 600-800!

  4. Absorb fats while your blood capillaries in the small intestine absorbs most nutrients, your lymphatic system absorbs fat and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) which are then delivered to your blood stream.

Signs of Lymphatic Congestion

As you just read, one of many roles the lymphatic system is cellular waste removal. When cells become overwhelmed by the waste build up, the system then becomes congested (does not flow well) and cannot eliminate cellular waste.


Symptoms of lymphatic congestion can include the following:

  • Swelling - i.e. lymphedema, phlebolymphedema, lipolymphedema

  • Inflammation

  • Fatigue

  • Infection (i.e. frequent colds & skin infections such as cellulitis)

  • Obesity

  • Constipation

  • Congestion

  • Brain fog

  • Weight gain

  • Skin issues

So how can one take care of their lymphatic system you may ask?


Here are 10 techniques to help support your lymphatic system:

  1. Stay hydrated inside and out. This means make sure you consume enough water but to also make sure your skin is well hydrated with a safe lotion, sunscreen and insect repellent. Check out EWG skin deep website to see how clean your products are!

  2. Perform Lymphatic Massage - If you have no significant medical history, you can gently massage your skin, consider learning from a reliable resource. If you have significant medical history, it is recommended for you to consult with your provider & certified lymphedema therapist. If considering getting a massage at a spa - ALWAYS inquire that they are certified lymphedema therapist - if they are NOT certified I would find someone who is certified as they have additional medical training to perform safe lymphatic massage. If they are not certified, they could potentially move fluid in the wrong direction and create potential health issues.

  3. Diaphragmatic Breathing - While laying down, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. When doing this place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Focus on breathing in and making your stomach rise, when you breath out through your mouth pull your belly button in towards your spine. Only the hand on your stomach should be moving up and down. Try doing this in the morning, 2 sets of 5 breaths.

  4. Dry Brushing We all know manual lymphatic decongestion is the best way to move your lymphatic fluid but incorporating dry brushing can be a great complimentary technique for your lymphatic flow promotion and skin care.

  5. Compression Circular knit, flat knit, velcro compression and more. Your certified lymphedema therapist will best the best person to determine the right compression for your needs.

  6. Exercise From walking to lifting weights safely will help keep that lymph fluid pumping! IF you have a history of cancer, wearing compression WHILE exercising can reduce your changes of lymphedema by 70%! Work with your certified lymphedema therapist to learn the just right exercises and intensity for you. Summer heat getting to you - now is the BEST time to take a dip in the pool. The water is cool and provides compression on your body, just grab your shades and some EWG approved sunscreen.

  7. Rebounding In the1980s NASA was coming out with studies that showed rebounding was gentler and more beneficial on the body then running on a treadmill. The lymph system doesn’t pump on its own, it needs physical movement to pump the fluid. Rebounding is one way of doing this since the up and down allows gravity to help with the circulation of lymphatic fluid. Additionally, studies show that the increased G-force of rebounding helps increase lymphocyte activity, which helps the immune system.

  8. Vibration Therapy Vibration therapy is when you stand on an oscillating plate that produces low-level vibrations. These vibrations activate multiple systems in the body including the circulatory, nervous, lymphatic, and muscle systems. This form of wave therapy can assist lymphatic system with increased flow which helps detox the body. These are found in gyms, at Magothy Therapy & Wellness and are even available for home use!

  9. Nutritional Strategies A few foods that can support your lymphatic system include Pineapple & papaya, mushrooms, garlic & onions, leafy greens, omega-3s, citrus, vitamin B6 & zinc, plant-based foods and digestive enzymes.

  10. Essential Oils There are many research articles published that show certain essential oils are antibacterial and antioxidant which may help the lymphatic system function.

Some of the essential oils best for lymph drainage are:

  • Citrus oils: grapefruit, lemon, and orange

  • Bay laurel

  • Tea Tree

  • Angelica

  • Cypress

  • Ho Wood (powerful immune system stimulant and relaxant)

  • Clove

  • Cedarwood

  • Capaiba

  • Peppermint

  • Rosemary

Note: Please choose a quality brand and don’t use essential oils undiluted or on children unless they are kid-safe. To use essential oils for the lymph system dilute 2 to 4 drops of essential oil in .5 oz of carrier oil (i.e. Calendula, joba joba, fractionated coconut oil, Gota Kola, and Passion flower) and use as a massage oil on the body. Two benefits in one!


Well, there you have it, the nitty gritty of what your lymphatic system does, signs of congestion and how you can best support it to boost your immunity! How much are you supporting your lymphatic system today? Need any assistance to support your lymphatic system, check out the national lymphedema network to locate a certified lymphedema therapist near you!

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