“It’s in the lymph nodes.” is threatening information to someone dealing with cancer. Yet, many people are unclear what a lymph node, or for that matter the lymphatic system, is designed to do. This important system pervades all body tissue with vessels parallel to the blood vessels.
Simply stated, the lymphatic system’s job is to pick up, filter (through nodes) and recycle the fluid washing between cells. It is also the only means for evacuating the blood protein molecules that become trapped in the fluid surrounding body cells. The lymph fluid carries these proteins through the filtering nodes along the way, and finally “dumps” both the fluid and “vetted” proteins into a vein under the left collarbone
Chronic inflammation increases the amounts of extra fluid and blood proteins in the space between body cells (which is meant to have minimal fluid) and thereby overworks the lymphatic system. If the fluid is not kept moving, a stagnant unhealthy state sets so that oxygen and nutrients are not delivered to cells and they can’t do their jobs. All of our energy, indeed every life process, generates at the cellular level. Cancer and other nasty diseases begin to develop in such inflammatory stagnation.
While several absolutely critical lifestyle elements such as diet, sleep, and stress management get much attention in anti-disease discussions, lymph system health is practically ignored. However, we can do several specific things to activate and support this very important system.
Here are five lymph-moving activities to consider:
The lymphatic system does not have a pump like the heart that pumps our blood. Like blood veins, however, lymphatic vessels do have check valves to keep fluid moving in only one direction. However lymph fluid relies on both pressure differentiations and mechanical pumping means. We supply the latter as we live our lives.
Muscle contraction helps the fluid move–especially at the capillary and small vessel level. Muscle driven movement is essential and various forms of exercise help but cannot do the entire job and more physically active lifestyles serve our lymphatic systems better.
Bouncing on Mini-Trampoline:
Bouncing on a mini-trampoline is an excellent way to stimulate lymph fluid movement because it suspends the body “weightless” for short “bursts” that encourage the lymph fluid through the check valves. These trampoline devices are available in a wide price range and some have a handle bar for those who need steadying. People who are weak can sit on the larger bouncers while someone else gently bounces. I’m amazed at how this bouncing has helped me and I use a small inexpensive device. There are free online videos demonstrating this activity.
Deep breathing is absolutely critical for moving lymph fluid especially through the larger ducts in the trunk and then depositing it into the blood. A big yawn, a cough, a sneeze, a belly laugh, singing with proper breath control all do it because of the deep breathing they evoke. Still, breathing exercises and good breathing habits are absolutely essential to avoid lymph back up, pressure on nodes and pockets of inflammation. Deep breathing is particularly important for anyone who has had surgery in their past.
A person with a sedentary job can do deep breathing exercises in place and one well tested “routine” is this:
1. Sitting up straight with chin up, place the tip of your tongue behind your upper front teeth with lips slightly parted.
2. Focus on filling your lungs fully from the “bottom” to “top”.
3. Breathe in through your nose steadily while counting to four.
4. Hold the breath to a count of seven.
5. Then, making a soft “whoosh” sound, breath out through your mouth to a count of eight.
6. Work up to repeating this in sets of four and do it hourly.
Well-designed studies have demonstrated that deep breathing effectively activates lymph fluid movement. Exercises that have a very deliberate breathing component like one I have adapted in my recovery from pancreatic cancer can be very helpful. It is similar to Tai Chi.
Low Voltage Devices:
Under care of physical therapists, sometimes battery-powered devices are used to emit a very low voltage intermittent impulse into the local tissue. The impulse is delivered through strategically placed electrodes adhered to the skin on either side of a site where pain is occurring. Pain signals a lack of oxygen that is often a result of inflammation blocking the removal of trapped blood proteins. This stimulation is meant to break up clumps of trapped plasma proteins to enable lymphatic capillaries to evacuate them. The capillaries often cannot absorb the large protein molecules clumped together.
Some professional masseuses are trained and licensed in lymphatic massage. You can seek out such a specialist to perform therapeutic massage that is helpful in activating the lymphatic system. Doing so might be beneficial for someone who has spent time being very inactive due to hospitalization or illness.
Anyone can improve their state of health by being aware of their lymphatic system and doing some simple things to keep it moving it’s cleansing and balancing fluid through our bodies. Who wouldn’t want to minimize stagnation and do all they can to eliminate pockets of chronic inflammation that can become a tumor’s favorite environment?
Jacquie Woodward, a long time cancer survivor, is the author of the recently launched book, Slam the Door on Cancer and Lock It Out of Your Life. You may watch a video of Jacquie’s own exercise routine athttp://youtu.be/lIWoEaiHEV8. or visit http://www.