Lymphatic Drainage and Overall Health
Cells are our bodies' building blocks- health and disease begin and occur at the cellular level. Your lymphatic system is the system that's responsible for maintaining your cellular environment.
As you go about your day to day lives, your circulatory system pumps blood throughout your entire body. As it does so, plasma and other fluids leak from your veins and arteries, into the "interstitial space" or the space between cells. This is a normal process. At the same time, your cells produce waste, which ends up in the interstitial space, too.
So where does this fluid and waste go?
It's absorbed, filtered, processed, and transported to the heart and organs of elimination by a complex, delicate network of vessels and organs known as the lymphatic system. If you had no lymphatic system, you can imagine all of the sludge that would build up in your body with nowhere to go. This would cause severe swelling, creating a highly toxic and acidic environment, both of which would lead to cell death and organ shutdown. This would lead to a person's death fairly quickly.
So your lymphatic system is your body's trash pickup and sewer system. But it also serves as the body's security system: as fluid is moved through the lymphatic system, it passes through "security checkpoints" or lymph nodes, which detect foreign pathogens.
If your lymph nodes detect something potentially dangerous, your immune response is activated, and white blood cells and immune cells are dispatched to fight the intruder. You need a healthy lymph system to help you fight and prevent disease.
Now, the example I gave above about what would happen to your body without a lymphatic system is a bit extreme. If you're alive, you definitely have a lymphatic system. The question is, how healthy is it? Our lymphatic systems are incredibly efficient, but they can get overwhelmed. The system can face an amount of fluid that is simply too large for it to handle at the rate that it typically works. When this happens, some of the fluid and waste can hang out for a little too long in the interstitial space, and we can start to experience symptoms like inflammation, swelling, bloating, acne, skin issues, fatigue, indigestion, and more.
If your cells are living in an acidic, toxic, or just overfull environment, you simply won't be as healthy as you can be. And if your lymphatic system is backed up and moving slowly, an immune response to a pathogen, triggered by lymph node detection, could possibly be delayed.
This is where Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) comes in. MLD uses gentle, rhythmic pumping movements to stimulate your lymphatic vessels to pump more efficiently. In a single pump, your lymphatic system is both absorbing fluid from the interstitial space, and is moving fluid along the vessel. This assisted pumping can help the lymphatic system to work more efficiently, absorbing and transporting a higher volume of fluid. Additionally, MLD practitioners work lymph node groups, which helps empty full lymph nodes that have created blockages. We also work your deeper lymphatic ducts and organs in the abdomen, allowing for complete drainage.
After receiving MLD, many clients comment on noticeable, often drastic, reductions in certain symptoms. Some examples I've had have been clients with lymphedema or venous insufficiency note major reductions in swelling, to the point that they can fit significantly more comfortably in pants, shoes, or compression garments. Some people state that they sleep better for a period of time following their MLD session. Some state joint inflammation and pain is reduced following their session, and continues to improve with regular sessions. Others state that sinus pressure or ear pain is improved, and frequency of sinus infections is reduced. And others state their digestion has improved with regular sessions.
All of these client responses are anecdotes that tell us that MLD can really help in certain situations. It's not a "magic pill" and when clients present with acute or severe issues, a series of sessions is typically needed. Maintaining lymphatic health often requires a commitment to receive lymphatic drainage regularly, even if that's just every 6-12 weeks. But, I've seen it help so many people, that I believe it is truly worth trying.
What questions do you have about the lymphatic system and overall health? Ask below in the comments.