The Lymphatic System - Another Reason to Exercise

by Lorelei Buckley, Ph.D.
Naturopathic Doctor and Certified Applied Lymphologist

Most of us have heard, to some degree, of the lymphatic system. If you are fully aware of this amazing system, then you already know its significance to sound health, but if you are just getting acquainted, then take a moment to better introduce yourself to this vital process - you'll get informed and maybe even inspired to exercise.

The lymphatic system is a very busy network of vessels and nodes (over 600) that course the entire body. It is responsible for regulating fluids, distributing proteins and filtering out foreign substances (toxins) from the interstitial fluid (the fluid between the cells). But its obligation doesn't stop there, the tonsils, thymus and spleen are all part of the lymphatic system as well as the immune system and we know how important strong immunity is.

While the lymphatic system extends internally from head to toe, there are areas where lymph nodes are concentrated, these regions are termed "collection sites". They are located in the subclavian (collarbone), the axillary (under the arms, 'armpits') and in the inguinal (the crease where your thighs meet your abdomen) regions.

After lymph flushes through the system, seizing all of the pollutants, it passes through these zones to proper channels for cleansing (liver) or excretion (kidneys). When the lymph is not overloaded, then a natural order is maintained and health is reinforced with natures own purifying design. But if the lymph is running sluggish and/or there is an abundance of "waste", a blockage in the lymphatic system occurs, similar to a river that has picked up too much debris and developed a dam. When this happens, we can experience problems like water retention (edema), infections and in general, illness.

Now that the value of an unobstructed lymphatic system has been established we can discuss ways to motivate motion and prevent those "dams" from developing.

As brilliant as the lymphatic system is, there is a catch! Unlike the circulatory system that comes equipped with a pump (the heart), the lymphatic system does not. It is inspired by muscle expansion and contraction, this means, it only moves as much as you do. Time to hit the gym! Not necessarily, here are some budget friendly suggestions to help stir up your lymph.

Walking, bicycle rides, stairs (try stepping up onto every other stair) and even rocking chairs (great for our seniors) are wonderful ways to prevent stagnation of the inguinal nodes. Light weights, playing catch and swimming get the axillary moving. But what about our subclavian, how would one move that section? A very simple solution is to tap. With the tips of the fingers gently tap just above and just below the collarbone for 15 minutes each day, do some neck rotations and voila - you have awakened your sleepy nodes.

Other ways to influence lymph movement include jumping on a mini-trampolene (this creates a gravitational pull, acts "pump-like"), dry skin brushing (brushes sold in health food stores), or working with those that specialize in lymphatic decongestion, for instance a lymphologist and some massage therapists.

The point is, the more you move your body, the more your body moves your lymph - and detoxifying poisons is definitely a requirement in supporting wellness.

Also, remember to drink plenty of fresh, clean water (at least half your body weight in ounces); this will keep you hydrated and help your kidneys flush out toxins.

The benefits of exercise have forever been comprised of losing weight, building muscle and strengthening the cardiovascular system. While these objectives are incentive enough, there is yet another reason, the extremely essential lymphatic system.

Lorelei Buckley PhD, ND, HHP, Reiki Master & Light Energy Facilitator is a Board Certified Traditional Naturopathic Doctor, Certified Holistic Health Practitioner, Certified in Applied Lymphology and progressive in Energy Therapeutics. Visit her website at

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