By Julie Gregory, Chief Health Liaison for Apollo Health

There’s no better way to welcome spring than to jump-start your detoxification ritual. The world is becoming increasingly toxic, underscoring the importance of upregulating our body’s ability to detoxify. One of the most important ways that we can do this is by stimulating our lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system is a sophisticated network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste, and other unwanted materials. This is especially important for those dealing with type 3 (toxic) Alzheimer’s. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body. A subset of white blood cells are specialized cells called lymphocytes, and they 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. Lymphocytes are our main immune cells that defend our bodies and fight off invaders such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins. Unlike your circulatory system, which uses the heart as a pump, your lymphatic system is dependent upon either physical activity or manual stimulation to promote activation. Proper hydration, deep breathing, yoga stretches, hot/cold exposure and deep sleep (which allows the brain’s lymphatic system called the glymphatic system to be optimized) are other ways of supporting the lymphatic system. Below are three strategies to increase lymphatic flow.

Rebounding  This therapeutic form of exercise simply involves jumping up and down on a mini-trampoline. If you don’t have access to a rebounder, you can jump rope, run up and down the stairs, or simply jump in place. All are surprisingly easy and quite fun. By repeatedly jumping up and down, you’re stimulating your lymphatic system, helping to eliminate unwanted toxins, and upregulating your immune system. Thanks to NASA, rebounding has been studied extensively as a means of helping astronauts to preserve bone and muscle mass without gravity, and what they’ve uncovered is pretty impressive. Rebounding not only stimulates lymphatic flow it also offers a host of other benefits.

• It’s an excellent aerobic workout; 68% more effective than running and yet requires less effort.
• Rebounding improves maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max).
• It strengthens muscles and increases bone density.
• Rebounding is low impact, and gentle on the joints.
• It improves digestion and helps to stimulate bowel movements for those who experience constipation.
• Rebounding also improves balance; vital as we age.

If you have concerns about your steadiness on the rebounder, be sure to buy a unit that comes with a balance bar. If you have bladder control issues, empty your bladder before a workout and take frequent breaks if you feel the urge. (Consider wearing protection for an uninterrupted workout.) Unless you are already acclimated to barefoot running, it’s a good idea to wear running shoes on your rebounder. Start with a health bounce, maintaining a connection with the trampoline floor. As you feel ready, begin jumping up, keeping your feet within several inches of the surface. At your own pace, work your way up to 15 minutes of steady jumping. As your proficiency increases, you can add variety with jumping jacks, high knees, waist twists, and running in place. I keep a rebounder in my office and regularly enjoy 10 to 15-minute jumping breaks. Turn on the music and enjoy!

Dry Brushing  This is a centuries-old practice with healing roots from many cultures that’s easy to incorporate into your daily routine and takes just 3 to 5 minutes a day. Dry brushing provides a manual means of moving lymph throughout your body, helping to stimulate your lymphatic system, encouraging detoxification. Dry brushing also exfoliates your skin, allowing toxins to be released more easily. It 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.

The only equipment you need is 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. 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. Detailed instructions for how to dry brush can be found in Dry Brushing — An Ancient Ritual for Today.

The optimal frequency is up for debate and may depend upon the sensitivity of your skin. Some experts recommend dry brushing several times a week, while others recommend a daily practice. Experiment to see what works for you.  If you have any broken skin from an injury or chronic condition, consult with your physician before starting a dry brushing routine. Always avoid brushing any skin that is irritated. 

Lymphatic Massage  A final 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 move lymph through the lymphatic system manually. While there are several different types of lymphatic massage, each of the techniques are based on the same principle — using gentle movements to stretch the skin in the direction of the lymphatic flow, starting at the part of the limb closest to the torso and moving outward. Lymphatic massage is different from other forms of massage in that the touch is very light and involves gentle to moderate stretching of the skin as opposed to deep tissue massage that focuses on the musculoskeletal system.

Because there are several health conditions that may make lymphatic massage dangerous (including congestive heart failure, emphysema, and skin infections), it’s probably best performed by a trained professional, which might include a massage therapist, physical therapist, physician, or nurse. Estheticians or spa therapists are less likely to have the proper formal training. A typical session lasts from 45 minutes to an hour. Arrive at your session hydrated with clean filtered water and prepared to undress to your level of comfort (you’ll always be covered) or wearing loose clothing that allows the therapist to access your neck and collar bone. Any tight clothing will impede lymphatic flow. Because toxins collect in your bloodstream following a lymphatic massage, plan to follow your session with 10 to 15 minutes of movement such as a walk or gentle yoga to promote detoxification further.

Use spring as a fresh start and opportunity to jump-start your detoxification plan. Consider adding rebounding and dry brushing into your routine with occasional lymphatic massage sessions for a therapeutic splurge. By regularly upregulating your lymphatic system, you’re not only helping your body to detoxify, but you’re also upregulating your immune system and creating resiliency.      

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