Could your fluid retention and chronic sinusitis be due to lymphatic congestion?
Many of us give little thought to our lymphatic system. It is the network of vessels that drains leftover fluid, proteins, cells and wastes from our cells after it has used what it needs from the blood.
What is the lymphatic system?
The lymphatic system contains much of our immune system as it filters our body’s fluids, fights infections and removes wastes. It consists not only of vessels but also of lymph nodes, the tonsils, adenoids, thymus, and spleen.
These organs contain immune cells called lymphocytes and macrophages that are crucial to our body being able to protect itself from viruses, bacteria and cancer cells.
When the lymphatic system is overworked or sluggish these organs can become enlarged for example in the case of swollen and sore lymph nodes in the neck with a sore throat. With severe viral infections such as glandular fever, the spleen can swell which can be life-threatening if it ruptures. With inadequate lymphatic fluid drainage the fluid can build up in the tissues resulting in fluid retention and pain and the immune system can overreact causing mucus accumulation especially in the sinuses.
The lymphatic system will respond to any trigger of inflammation such as infections, cancer cells and allergies and can also cause an increase in the size of lymph nodes. If this occurs its cause needs to be evaluated by a health professional to ensure that an accurate diagnosis is made. Improving the function of the lymphatic system improves the function of the immune system and helps fight viruses and other infections more effectively.
How can I look after my lymphatic system?
Things that can improve the efficiency of the lymphatic system are ensuring you are drinking adequate water. Hydration is crucial to the movement of lymphatic fluid. Lymphatic vessels don’t have muscles around them and rely on gravity and our skeletal muscle contracting during exercise in order to pump the fluid around.
Exercises such as yoga as ideal as they twist our bodies in every direction improving lymphatic flow from all parts of our body. Infrared saunas have also been shown to improve blood and lymphatic circulation.
Common allergens in our foods place an inflammatory strain on our lymph systems such as soy, dairy, and gluten. Alternatively, anti-inflammatory foods reduce the burden on our lymphatics such as foods high in omega 3 oils, green leafy vegetables and high anti-oxidant foods such as berries.
If your lymphatic system needs a big boost then certain herbs have also been shown to help reduce inflammation and assist in the movement of lymph fluid such as fermented turmeric.
Our lymphatic system is an unsung hero and one of our greatest protectors from infections. Looking after it will serve you well into the winter months as we move into cold and flu season.
Words // Dr Elen ApThomas