May 28, 2020
Dry Brushing – An Ancient Ritual for Today
By Julie Gregory, Chief Health Liaison for Apollo Health.
Want to boost your immune system, detoxify, and improve the appearance of your skin? There is a regimen that can do all that and more in just 3 to 5 minutes a day. As we settle into our “new normal,” many of us have subsequently become more sedentary, which can profoundly downregulate our body’s defenses, harm our ability to detoxify, and even cause our skin to look sallow and dull. This decreased ability to detoxify may be particularly detrimental for those of us with type 3 (toxic) contributors. Consider turning things around by using a centuries-old practice, with healing roots from many cultures, called dry brushing.
Dry bushing upregulates the lymphatic system, which is a part of both the immune and circulatory systems. Unlike the circulatory system, which uses the heart as a pump for flow, the lymphatic system relies on either movement or manual touch for activation. When stimulated, lymphocytes (specialized white blood cells) travel from lymph node to lymph node throughout the lymphatic system, which is also comprised of other organs, including the thymus, spleen, and other tissues spread throughout our bodies. These lymphocytes are our main immune cells that defend our bodies and fight off any invaders such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins.
One way to activate the lymphatic system is through lymphatic massage, also known as lymphatic drainage or manual lymphatic drainage. This specialized massage uses a gentle technique to manually move lymph (fluid containing lymphocytes) through the lymphatic system, effectively treating lymphedema — swelling due to a lack of lymph movement. Dry brushing harnesses a similar mechanism and is easy to practice at home.
Dry Brushing (101)
Benefits: In addition to activating the lymphatic system, dry brushing also exfoliates your skin, allowing toxins to be released more easily, increases blood circulation, and may restore firmness and improve the texture of your skin. When you consider the fact that our skin is a barrier that represents the first defense of the immune system, it’s easy to see how caring for this immunological organ with dry brushing can be a helpful part of your protocol.
Equipment: All you need a set of brushes. I prefer natural fiber brushes that are easy to clean gently with baby shampoo about once a week. This is my favorite kit because it’s inexpensive, has a dedicated face brush, and two body brushes with different firmness with the ability to switch handles so that you can reach all parts of your body.
When: Many people dry brush right before showering, but I suggest doing it before you exercise or sauna. Sweating promotes the release of toxins and, exfoliating before you plan to sweat allows them to be more easily released. Be sure to shower following your workout or sauna and cleanse the toxins away with instructions found below.
How: Brush firmly but gently (never so hard as to break the skin) moving purposefully toward your heart, going over each section two or three times.
1. Start at your feet and move up your body. I use my firmest brush for the bottom of my soles.
2. Move up each leg, all sides, use long sweeping movements towards your heart. I use a less firm brush for this more sensitive skin.
3. When you reach your torso, you may want to attach a longer handle to reach your backside. Use long strokes, always moving towards the heart.
4. Especially if you have GI issues, spend extra time on your lower abdomen, moving in a clockwise fashion, before ultimately moving towards the heart.
5. After all sides of the torso, move onto the arms. Starting with your hands, brush up each arm, still moving towards your heart. Don’t forget your armpits. I sometimes do clockwise motions here also before brushing towards my heart.
6. For your neck, use the softer facial brush and from the chin down, brush towards your heart.
7. Your skin will be slightly pink following a treatment. This resolves fairly quickly, but a radiant glow, from increased circulation, persists for hours. Many people report feeling energized after the dry brushing ritual.
8. Follow with exercise, then a cool shower using a gentle, non-toxic soap like Castile. At the end of your shower, try to work up to several minutes of cold water to further upregulate your immune system and mitochondrial energetics. Finish with a natural moisturizer like shea butter, coconut, or olive oil, with optional added essential oil for scent. A small pilot study recently found that moisturizing reduces cytokines, which could reduce the risk for many chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s.
Frequency: This is up for debate and may depend upon the sensitivity of your skin. Some experts recommend several times a week, while others recommend daily dry brushing. Experiment to see what works for you.
Caution: If you have any broken skin from an injury or chronic skin condition, consult with your physician before starting a dry brushing routine. Always avoid brushing any irritated skin. After dry brushing, consider rebounding — jumping on a mini-trampoline — to supercharge your lymphatic system. This is another strategy that stimulates the immune system. Rebounding is also an excellent workout, with multiple benefits, to use while social distancing. Consider moving your rebounder out to your patio or deck to reap the benefits of spending time in nature. Turn on your favorite energizing music and enjoy. Our subscribers can learn much more about rebounding in EXERCISE: “Just Do It.”