Detox Your Lymphatic System with These 20 Tricks

Problems with the lymphatic system cause problems all through the body. They cause flare-ups of pain disorders like fibromyalgia and arthritis, skin conditions, chronic fatigue and… Samantha Davis - April 14, 2022

Problems with the lymphatic system cause problems all through the body. They cause flare-ups of pain disorders like fibromyalgia and arthritis, skin conditions, chronic fatigue and headaches, sinus infections, and digestive disorders. Poor drainage also causes excess weight gain and cellulite, cold hands and feet, unexplained injuries, enlarged lymph nodes, and even cancer. With so many possible health problems, it’s evident that keeping your lymph system working is important to your overall health.

The lymphatic system works like a drain for your body, pulling toxins, fats, and fluids from the cells and tissues and emptying them into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the body eliminates these by filtering them through the organs and kidneys. When the body doesn’t filter these toxins, they clog the lymph system, impair the immune system, and ultimately make you sick. Below, we’ll take a look at how you can detox your lymphatic system with these 20 tricks.

Staying hydrated keeps fluid moving through the lymphatic system and is critical to detoxifying the body.

1. Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough water is critical to the lymph system’s health. It relies on your body being well-hydrated to pass toxins through the cell wall and into the bloodstream. Once toxins have been filtered through organs like the liver, spleen, and kidneys, water also carries these toxins out of the body as waste. By staying hydrated, you ensure your body has enough energy to carry out this and many other tasks. After all, the body is made up of 50-70% water and fluid composes about 97% of the lymphatic system.

One of the most important times to drink water is as soon as you wake up in the morning. While you sleep, your body is hard at work healing itself and eliminating toxins. Drinking water helps the lymph system eliminate the waste from the night before. On average, men should drink 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) and women should drink 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of water. You may need to adjust this based on factors like your activity level and where you live, too. Drinking lemon water first in the morning also has benefits.

Exercising helps muscles contract and relax, which is essential to get fluid moving through the lymphatic vessels.

2. Exercise

Exercise is important for the lymph system because it relies on muscle movement like contractions and relaxing to move fluids through the tissues and into the blood stream. It also pumps the cells full of oxygen, helping them release toxins and get them where they need to go. While any kind of exercise is beneficial, the lymph system benefits most from movements that produce strong muscle contractions. Exercise under water is also beneficial because of the increased pressure around the body.

There are many stretches you can do to benefit the lymphatic system. Running, squats, and yoga are all recommended, but there are plenty of other exercises that benefit the lymphs. Jumping on a mini trampoline (rebounding), dancing, or anything that gets your blood pumping is also beneficial to the lymphatic system. As an added benefit, exercising helps you maintain a healthy weight so they lymphatic system doesn’t have to work as hard to push fluids and toxins through the body.

Avoiding clothing that is too tight is one way to ensure your lymphatic system has room to flow.

3. Choose Loose Fitting Clothes

The clothing you wear affects more than just how you look to the people around you. As you choose clothes, you should also be considering how they impact your health. Many of your lymphatic vessels are located just under the skin. When you wear tight-fitting clothing, it squeezes these vessels and makes it harder for them to do their job. Since the lymphatic system spreads through your entire body, avoid tight-fitting clothes from hats all the way down to socks.

It’s also important that you sleep in loose-fitting clothing. The body detoxifies itself most between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., so being able to flow freely is important. Since many of the lymphs are located around the neck and chest, it’s also important for women that they avoid wearing undergarments that are too tight. A tight bra constricts the chest, arms, and breasts. This stops the lymphatic system from functioning at its best and it may even affect how much oxygen you’re getting.

Young woman on a massage session – cartoon people character isolated illustration on white background. An image of a cute girl enjoying the procedure and a young blonde massagist. Healthcare concept

4. Full-Body Massage

Massage therapy is known for having a wide range of benefits for the body. It helps relax the body and muscles, while stimulating blood flow. All of these things are incredibly beneficial for your lymphatic system. As you relax during your massage, the pressure applied by the masseuse helps keep move things along in the body. This makes it easier for the lymph system to send fats, fluids, and toxins to the organs so they can be filtered and removed from the body.

Research shows that a full-body massage helps stimulate the lymphatic system and improves flow by as much as 20% to increase its effectiveness at removing toxins. Some other health benefits of regular massage include increased flexibility in the muscles and joints, better mental wellness and relaxation, pain relief, and improved circulation, to name a few. Massage is something that feels like pampering, but that is a real investment in your own health as well.

Leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and spices like turmeric are all great foods that fight inflammation so the lymphatic system functions effectively.

5. Add These Foods to Your Diet

There’s been a lot of research connecting your diet and gut health to the health of the rest of your body. It’s no surprise, therefore, that there are various foods you can add to your diet to promote the health of your lymphatic system. A good first step is eliminating unhealthy, heavily processed foods. You should also avoid food with pesticides, artificial ingredients, and preservatives. In addition to cutting out the bad stuff, there are many foods that support the lymphatic system.

Anti-inflammatory foods are among the best for the lymphatic system because they target inflammation that makes it hard for the body to eliminate toxins. In addition to drinking water, cranberry juice is beneficial because it is high in antioxidants and promotes the health of microbes in your digestive tract. Foods like seaweed, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, and citrus are also beneficial. Additionally, adding spices like turmeric, garlic, and other adaptogenic herbs help reduce inflammation and promote lymphatic system health.

Manual lymphatic drainage helps detoxify the body.

6. Manual Lymphatic Drainage Techniques

Sometimes, the lymphatic system needs a little help to get things flowing again. Manual lymphatic drainage is incredibly effective at removing toxins from the body. This takes things a step further than traditional massage, using pressure in certain areas and small, circular motions that stimulate the flow of lymph fluids through the body. Unlike traditional massage that relies on pushing on the muscles, this is a gentler technique that promotes flow through the lymphs by pulling skin, rather than impeding it by pressing down too hard.

If going to a professional isn’t an option, you can do manual lymphatic drainage yourself. Start by familiarizing yourself with where the lymphs are. To massage them, you are going to make gentle circles and press outwards, away from the lymph nodes. This helps push toxins out of the lymphs, so they can drain from the body and the lymphatic system can pull more toxins from the cells. Some of the most important lymph nodes are located near the armpits, in the groin area, and in the head and neck.

Yoga stimulates lymphatic flow by twisting and squeezing the muscles. Positions involving twisting or being inverted are most beneficial.

7. Yoga

Yoga is another activity that helps improve circulation and encourages movement in the lymphatic system. Yoga that involves twisting and bending is most helpful to the lymphatic system. As you bend and twist, it almost “squeezes” the lymphs the way that twisting a towel squeezes water out. Some yoga positions that benefit the lymphatic system include child’s pose, downward facing dog, standing forward bend, and the cat and cow pose. A type of yoga called yin yoga also uses many downward-facing positions that really help with lymphatic system drainage.

As an added benefit, yoga promotes deep breathing and relaxation. Making time to relax benefits the lymphatic system because it helps relieve stress. A stressful lifestyle is one contributing factors of a lymphatic system that doesn’t work as well as it should. Stress causes your body to pump high levels of hormones, especially cortisol, through your body. These hormones trigger the fight-or-flight response. Since the body is focused on survival, other important bodily processes are stopped. This blocks the lymphatic system and stops the immune system from functioning effectively.

Dry brushing opens the pores, promotes blood flow, and stimulates lymph flow.

8. Dry Brushing

Dry brushing is a great way to stimulate the lymphatic system. All you need for this is a brush with soft-to-medium hardness bristles. Ideally, you’ll want a brush with a long handle so you can easily reach your whole body. It’s also important that you dry brush in the right direction, so you stimulate flow of the lymphatic system. You’ll start with short, circular strokes. While you should brush hard enough that you feel it, dry brushing should not hurt. Additionally, you can be gentler in more sensitive areas.

Dry brushing should start at the ankles, as you brush up toward your knees. As you work toward the different areas of your body, the goal is to brush “toward your heart“. Next, brush the fronts and backs of your thighs, then your stomach. You’ll do the back next, but you’ll move with long strokes from the neck down to the base of the spine. This is the only time you don’t stroke toward the heart. Finally, dry brush your arms by moving from your wrists to your shoulders.

Reducing your exposure to toxins and chemicals means your lymphatic system isn’t working overtime to detoxify your body.

9. Reduce Your Exposure to Chemicals

One of the major functions of they lymphatic system is removing toxins and chemicals from the body. This is necessary because people are exposed to trace amounts of toxins all day long, at home, outdoors, and at work. The body tolerates trace amounts of these chemicals, but too much makes the body sick. By reducing your exposure, your lymphatic system doesn’t have to work as hard. This makes it run more effectively and keeps your body cleansed of all those things that could make you sick.

A great place to start is at home, where you spend most of your time. Be sure you don’t have contaminants like mercury, asbestos, and lead in the home. If you do, hire a professional to have them removed. Switching to glass and metal containers instead of single-use plastics also reduces chemical exposure when storing food and packing lunches. Additionally, consider switching to green cleaning products and wash your hands regularly to remove any contaminants you may have come into contact with.

Certain botanical ointments, teas, and supplements open the lymphatic system and promote detoxification of the body.

10. Botanical Medicine

Botanical medicine relies on using herbs and plants to heal the body. There are many herbs that benefit the lymphatic system, either by improving how well it drains, fighting against inflammation in the body, or supporting the immune system. Many herbs benefits the immune system in more than one way. While herbal and botanical medicine is generally considered safe, you should talk to your doctor first if you are pregnant or nursing, if you have any pre-existing health conditions, or if you are already taking medication.

Dandelions, cleavers, red clover, and devil’s paw are all known for their ability to purify and de-toxify the blood. They will give your lymphatic system a boost and help clean out any sludge in your body. Calendula, echinacea, and goldenseal all have powerful anti-inflammatory properties that stop inflammation. When inflammation isn’t keeping lymph passages swollen, fluids are able to flow more freely through the body. There are also botanicals that benefit the lymph and skin specifically, including mullein, knotted figwort, and astragulus.

A lymphatic drainage facial stimulates the flow of the lymphatic system. You can do it yourself or see a professional.

11. Lymphatic Drainage Facial

A lymphatic drainage facial involves using light pressure, gentle movements, and even skin brushing to encourage flow of the lymphatic system through the face. It works by manually draining the lymphatic system. Research shows that lymphatic drainage reduces swelling and inflammation. It benefits conditions like eczema and acne and it’s even been used after surgeries and cancer treatment to reduce swelling. You can work with someone licensed in lymphatic drainage facial, or you can do it on your own.

You can lie down, sit, or stand while doing this yourself. It’s best to position yourself however you are most comfortable. Before you start, take several deep breaths. Starting at your head, take the palms of your hands and apply gentle pressure. The pressure you’re applying should pull skin downward slightly. Work in a downward motion, encouraging the lymphs to release toward the nodes in the neck. Target each area of your skin at least five times. Additionally, be gentle around the eyes, switching to just a finger instead of using your whole palm.

An infrared sauna uses light waves to stimulate cell regeneration and the heat promotes sweating that opens the lymphatic system and detoxifies the body.

12. Infrared Sauna

Infrared saunas are beneficial because they offer the same benefits to the skin as sun exposure, with much fewer risks because there isn’t exposure to radiation. The light waves penetrate skin deep down, making it easier for cells to regenerate and encouraging them to release toxins. As you sweat from being in the sauna, the pores open up and it’s easy for the lymphatic system to drain through the skin. Using an infrared sauna has many other benefits as well, including boosted metabolism, reducing pain and inflammation, and managing certain conditions like allergies and skin conditions.

An infrared sauna is something you can use at a spa. There are also smaller sized models made for people who want one in-home. For the most benefit, you should be well-hydrated beforehand. You may even want to bring a glass of water in to help replenish the fluids you are losing through sweat. While the heat does have benefits, it’s still possible to overheat so keep an eye on the time and don’t stay in too long. You can also open the door if you get too hot and still receive the benefits from the light waves.

Switching between hot and cold temperatures cause muscles to contract and relax, helping lymph fluid be pushed through the body.

13. Hot and Cold Water Therapy

Hot and cold water therapy works by causing the muscles and skin cells to contract and relax. Hot water relaxes the muscles and opens the pores up. Once you switch to cold water, everything contracts and it works by squeezing all the toxics and lymph fluid. Since the lymphatic system relies on muscle contractions and other movements to pump lymph fluid effectively, switching between hot and cold water is a great way to detoxify your lymphatic system. Plus, it’s really easy to do this at home while you’re in the shower.

Start with hot water and let your body adjust. Once your muscles are relaxed and it feels like things are opened up, switch to cold water. Wait at least 1-2 minutes while switching between temperatures to give time for the heat or cold to penetrate your muscles. You should do this about 5-7 times on each setting for a deep drainage of the lymphatic system. For added relaxation and lymphatic benefits, try deep breathing while you’re doing this type of therapy.

Turning your body upside down helps because lymphs are located in the upper body like the head, neck, and groin. It gives the lymphatic system a chance to filter excess water and toxins in the legs and feet.

14. Turning Yourself Upside Down

When you spend a lot of time on your feet, the pull of gravity causes blood, water, and toxins to accumulate in the legs and feet. There are no lymphatic drains around these areas. Instead, these toxins need pushed back toward the organs so they can be filtered through the liver, spleen, or kidneys. You can make it easier for your lymphatic system to push these toxins back where they need to go by turning yourself upside down. With your legs being inverted, the lymph fluids travel toward the lymph nodes found in the groin.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to turn yourself upside down without doing a headstand. Some people use an inversion table, but even laying on the floor with your legs flat against the wall in front of you helps the lymphatic system flow. Any way you invert your body is beneficial, so headstands, handstands, and even shoulderstands help cleanse the lymphatic system. There are also several inverted yoga positions you can do, such as the downward-facing dog.

Deep breathing opens the lymphatic vessels and promotes relaxation. Shutterstock.

15. Breathe Deeply

Deep breathing engages your stomach, chest, and diaphragm. As you inhale and exhale, it helps move the muscles around and squeeze the lymph system. By stimulating the lymphatic system, lymph fluids are pushed where they need to go and it helps detoxify the body. Plus, deep breathing benefits the lymphatic system because of its relaxation benefits. Often, balancing a social life, our home lives, work, and family cause people to lead fast-paced lifestyles and they don’t make time to relax. High levels of stress is something that stops the lymphatic system from working as efficiently.

To get the most benefit from deep breaths, you should try to do breathing exercises at least once or twice a day. It only takes a few minutes, but there are great benefits from relaxation. As you breathe, close your mouth and keep the tip of your tongue on the uppermost ridge of your teeth. Inhale for a count of four, hold it for a count of seven, then exhale for a count of eight. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, being sure to keep your tongue in position for the most benefit.

Rebounding causes the lymphs to open and close. It also boosts the flow of oxygen and the lymphatic system.

16. Rebounding

Rebounding is an exercise done using a mini trampoline. Unlike running, jumping offers cardiovascular benefits without putting excess strain on joints. As an added benefit, rebounding involves an up-and-down movement rather than a horizontal movement. Since you are working out in a vertical manner, it becomes easier for the lymphatic system to drain. Some additional benefits of rebounding for the lymphatic system include reducing water retention, better detoxification of the body, and improved skin. Rebounding also has fitness benefits regarding strength, blood pressure, and overall health.

To get the most benefit, you only need to bounce on a mini trampoline for 10-15 minutes each day. As you bounce, the upward and downward motions cause the lymphs to open and close. This helps excess fluid and toxins drain and move through the lymph system. Since the motions cause the valves to open and close, you don’t have to do these exercises all at once. Breaking them up into 3-5 minute sessions offers the same benefits and won’t be as stressful for people that are new to the activity.

17. Enzyme Supplement

Research has shown that gut and digestive health play a greater role in overall health than we once thought. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the enzymes that digest food play a big role in lymphatic system health. Enzymes break down food and aid in many metabolic processes. In between meals when they aren’t breaking down foods, these digestive enzymes also break down organic matter, complex fats, and proteins found in the blood. By breaking these things down, the lymphatic system removes them more efficiently.

While the body produces some digestive enzymes, taking an enzyme supplement gives the digestive system a boost. It increases how well your body processes food, giving the enzymes more time to support the lymphatic system between meals. There has also been research that good gut health decreases inflammation, which helps keep the lymph system running smooth. In addition to adding an enzyme supplement to your diet, you can support digestive health by avoiding processed carbohydrates and sugars, choosing healthy sources of fats, and eating lots of fiber and raw fruits and vegetables.

Certain essential oils encourage purification of the bloodstream and tissues, while others help open the lymphatic system.

18. Essential Oils

Essential oils are commonly used in aromatherapy or applied to the skin. They are extracts from various herbs and botanicals, often those that have been used in traditional medicine systems. Mastic opens the lymphatic and respiratory systems, having anti-microbial and decongestant properties, while guaiacwood is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Citrus essential oils like lemon and grapefruit fight inflammation and help purify the lymphatic system, too. Some other beneficial oils include juniper berry, peppermint, and rosemary.

While modern medicine hasn’t fully researched the many benefits of essential oils, many of them have been used in Native American medicine, Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, and even since the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Essential oils can be used in aromatherapy by adding them to a diffuser, or even adding them to a pot of boiling water. When applying essential oils to skin or massaging the lymph nodes with them, many need to be diluted with a carrier oil like coconut oil, almond oil, or jojoba oil to avoid damage to the skin.

Chiropractic care helps remove inflammation and abnormalities that prevent the lymph system from flowing freely.
Wikimedia Commons.

19. Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is recommended for people who have problems or abnormalities in the musculoskeletal system, which is made up of the spine, bones, nerves, muscles, tendons, and joints. Keeping this system working as it should is also important to the health and flow of the lymphatic system, since it exists alongside it in the body. Misalignments or inflammation in the musculoskeletal system block the lymphatic system and stop it from flowing freely.

Chiropractors identify problem areas and then help with treatment, often by adjusting the spine and muscle groups using manipulation and other types of therapy. As obstructions and areas of tension are removed during a chiropractic session, lymph fluid flows freely to detox your lymphatic system. Research shows removing this tension improves the flow of the lymphatic system and improves immunity. Additionally, chiropractic offices offer other services that benefit the lymphatic system, including inversion tables and electro-lymphatic drainage. They may also be certified to perform manual lymphatic drainage.

An inversion table uses gravity to encourage lymphatic flow. Forbes Health.

20. Inversion Table

Inversion tables offer a number of benefits for the body, as well as the lymphatic system. An inversion table is a padded table that has straps for your feet on the bottom. You are secured to the table and then turned up side down. While in this position, the lymphatic and circulatory systems are stimulated. Gravity works with the body, bring blood and oxygen to the tissues and pushing out toxins. Then, they move through the lymphatic system so they can be filtered and transported out of the body.

In addition to its benefits for the lymphatic system, an inversion table benefits the joints and the spine. As mentioned above, keeping these areas free of inflammation helps the lymphatic system keep moving smoothly. This is especially true since the muscles of the body are the most effective “pump” for the lymphatic system. Inversion therapy can be done with a professional, or you can buy an inversion table for home. Chiropractic offices and other hollistic medicine practioners may offer inversion therapy.