Visit L.A., and along with seeing the sites, you get traffic. Lots of it. It doesn’t seem to matter what time of day it is or what direction you’re headed. There are simply too many cars in too little space. The City of Angels has the distinction of being #1 for having the worst traffic in the U.S.
Keep that image of congestion in your mind when you think about today’s topic: your lymph system.
If you have certain types of cancer – and certain other conditions, too – one of your main detoxification pathways can look terrifyingly similar to an L.A. freeway at rush hour.
Fortunately, there’s a ‘free flow’ solution available for your body that’s better than anything urban planners have so far dreamed up for Los Angeles.
What’s more, the solution is relaxing. Read on for the details…
The most overlooked circulatory function
Your lymphatic system is a vital, but often forgotten component of your immune, detoxification, and circulatory systems.
It includes your spleen, thymus, and 400 to 700 lymph nodes. The primary function of your lymph nodes is to filter and purify your lymph.
They do this by producing lymphocytes – a type of white blood cell – that recognize invaders and wage war on them. Lymphocytes collect, remove, or destroy dead cells, waste products, bacteria, viruses, inorganic substances, water, and fats.
As you can guess from that list, they play a crucial role in your immune system.
Your lymph nodes also direct your immune cells, especially white blood cells, to the sites where they’re most needed, via the communication pathways of your lymph vessels.
From two to three liters of lymph filters through your lymphatic system on any given day.
It’s a highly critical process, as it removes proteins and toxins that are too large to move through the capillary wall and would otherwise get stuck. And here’s a key fact about the lymphatic system: It doesn’t have a pump to keep things moving. In your circulatory system, the heart pumps the blood throughout the body.
There’s no such thing when it comes to lymph fluids. You have to do something to move them along.
Are the toxins inside your body stuck?
In essence, your lymphatic system is a one-way street designed to remove toxins. But the fluid in your lymphatic system can suffer from gridlock that’s as bad as an L.A. freeway. If so, you’ll want to unlock it as soon as you can.
One classic example of congested lymph is in breast cancer patients who’ve had lymph nodes removed by surgery. The remaining portions of the lymphatic system become overwhelmed, causing a backup of toxic substances.
In fact, fluid can get so backed up that the patient’s arms swell up, a condition known as lymphedema.
But you can get lymphedema even without having lymph nodes removed.
It can be triggered by a large tumor, infection, inflammation, liver disease, diabetes, or other ailments. Even sports injuries or long-haul flights can cause it.
Relax as you get congested lymph ‘traffic’ moving again
Lymphatic drainage massage or lymphatic drainage therapy is a specialized type of massage… consisting of a series of gentle, light, and rhythmic strokes flowing along the skin’s surface. I was surprised to learn from my excellent massage therapist that other forms of massage don’t really do much to move the lymph.
One difference is that lymphatic massage is performed bone dry, with no massage oil.
During this type of massage, a specially trained therapist uses gliding, compressing, stretching, and cupping motions to stimulate the lymphatic system without compressing the vessels.
This stimulates the lymph to move freely through the tissues and lymph nodes.
It originated in France in the 1930s, and is still extremely popular there. Since then, Dr. Bruno Chikly, a French physician, has increased our understanding of how this type of massage works.
According to Dr. Chikly, lymph drainage therapy offers major benefits:1
- Activates circulation of lymph, capillaries, veins, interstitial fluid, spinal fluid, and synovial fluid
- Removes toxins
- Drains proteins, which in turn reduces risk of edema
- Improves nervous system function
- Stimulates the immune system
The improvement in immune function due to improved lymphocyte production is its overriding benefit, especially for cancer patients. It aids the healing process immensely.
What to expect from your session
Lymphatic drainage therapy is relaxing, similar to other forms of massage… although the pressure is lighter.
Originally, massage therapists used just their hands to perform this therapy. It was effective, but labor-intensive.
A newer development is a specialized device that stimulates the lymph nodes with sound and light. It’s called electro-lymphatic therapy, and reportedly is more effective than traditional lymphatic massage.
Can lymphatic drainage spread cancer?
When lymphatic drainage therapy was new, people feared it might provoke cancer metastasis.
Studies are now available that compare cancer patients receiving lymph drainage to untreated control groups. Results showed no increase in metastasis in the drainage group.
To date, no credible scientific study suggests that lymph drainage spreads cancer or increases its severity.2
However, you should follow your doctor’s guidance on this issue.
Those who should (and should NOT) use lymph drainage
This therapy will benefit many. But despite the claims of some, it’s not appropriate for everyone. So please read the next bit before you proceed.
First, the good news: Many people incorporate this therapy into their skin care and wellness routine, due to its detoxification and beauty benefits. Proponents also cite its benefits for pain relief, digestive problems, hormonal imbalances, skin conditions (acne, scars, rosacea…), cellulite, allergies, and more.
It’s also used for general detoxification, treatment of jet lag and post-flight edema, stress reduction, and even anti-aging skin rejuvenation.
Studies even note the benefits of lymphatic drainage for those suffering from sports injuries, once the acute inflammatory stage has passed.
Of course, these are all in addition to the benefits for those with serious conditions, like cancer-related edema.
However, certain people should not use lymph drainage. Are you one of them?
Yes, if you have:
- An acute infection or fever
- Thrombosis or phlebitis – these pose risks related to free-floating blood clots
- Major heart disease (congestive heart failure, acute angina, heart attack), because this therapy increases cardiac load
- A pacemaker – if so, you cannot receive electro-lymphatic therapy
- A hemorrhage (bleeding) – make sure bleeding is absolutely stopped before lymphatic massage is performed
- Malignancies – proceed only if/when your doctor recommends it
- Undiagnosed lumps – should always be diagnosed before proceeding
Lymph drainage may be a great blessing for your health, as it can unclog congestion and let your lymphatic system do its job. Just don’t blindly chase it if any of the above conditions apply to you.
In our last issue I published an update on one of the most important tools for defeating cancer. If you missed the article, you can catch it again below.