Pump Up You Lymph: Boost Your Immune System
Your immune system is clever collection of different systems. To keep things simple, I’m starting with just one element – your lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is your own internal clean up team. It washes through your body picking up waste materials and carry them to assembly points in the body called lymph nodes for them to be dealt with and disposed of. Your main lymph nodes are in your neck, groin, armpits chest and the back of your knees. These places swell when they’re producing a lot of antibodies and working hard to protect you. Lymph nodes filter lymph fluid, eat up waste, bacteria and infections and then infuse the fluid with fresh immune cells, so they’re ready for duty again.
The lymphatic system doesn’t have a strong muscular pump like the heart pushing lymph fluid around the body. Instead it is eased along by changes in pressure, stimulated by gravity, temperature changes between hot and cold, breathing, massage, and most important of all, by muscle contraction.
For lymph to move, you need to move.
You need to move the places where you have lymph nodes
Lymph flows easily when you’re in good alignment and relaxed. It’s difficult to flow around kinks and tension causes blockages and stagnation – just like they do in a hose pipe
You need to have enough water in the system. If you’re dehydrated then lymph (and pretty much everything else including your brain and your digestion) will struggle to do its job.
If you sit a lot, your hips are permanently creased in the middle. They don’t get to stretch out and have space for lymph flow. Imagine how the fluid all pools in your feet and your ahem… behind. You wouldn’t want to wash the dishes in greasy, days old water would you?
Modern life doesn’t demand much arm movement either. Apart from a morning stretch, I suspect your arms spend most of their time out in front at waist height – typing or driving. Your shoulders don’t get that juicy full range of movement in all directions to oil your joint and keep your lymph pumping. You can tell if your lymph is stagnant using the armpit hollow test. That’s for another time…
Walking is the best full body workout that your lymph can get. Start each step by pushing BACKWARDS into the ball and toes of your back foot. Leave your arms free to swing like counterweights to the leg movements. If you relax your shoulders, they’ll naturally swing in a spiral around your body. The spiralling motion wrings you out like dishcloth and the return movement rehydrates those tissues with fresh fluid.
In addition, relax your shoulders, learn to soften and relax your tummy, drink enough water, massage your armpits, groin, knees and (gently) your neck in the shower, jump on a trampoline if you have one at your disposal (sadly you may need to share with children), eat lots of veg, but above all, rain or shine, walk, walk, walk.
Finally, follow the fragrant chi gung video on my youtube channel to pep up your lymph flow. I like to do this one outside early in the morning and, (when it’s not too cold) barefoot on the grass. It makes a great desk or study break too.