The Lymphatic System and 4 Ways to Keep it Healthy
Cancer is the second most pressing public health concern in America. The projected expectancy of deaths from cancer in America is extremely high. This is due to the fact that cancer is a group of diseases that often goes through the lymphatic system. It is described as “uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. If the spread is not controlled, it can result in death.” It can be extremely difficult to control and prevent once it has reached a certain point, especially depending on the type of cancer.
Generally speaking, cancer either spread through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. The National Cancer Institute provides an explanation of how cancer cells spread:
- Cancer grows into or invades, nearby normal tissue
- Moves through the walls of nearby lymph nodes or blood vessels
- Travels through the lymphatic system and bloodstream to other parts of the body
- Stops in small blood vessels at a distant location invade the blood vessel walls and moves into surrounding tissue
- Grows in this tissue until a tiny tumor forms
- Causes new blood vessels to grow, which creates a blood supply that allows the tumor to continue growing
- While we tend to think of our lymphatic system as merely the vehicle of transmission for cancer, could it be that congested lymph is increasing your cancer risk, to begin with?
Your lymphatic system runs throughout your body such as the armpits, under the jaw, either side of the neck and groin, and above the collarbone. Lymph nodes and ducts function to help clean your blood of things such as bacteria and germs. This creates a strong immune system.
So, what happens if my lymphatic system cannot drain effectively or at all? There are symptoms to indicate a clogged lymphatic system, including:
swollen lymph nodes that may be tender or painful to the touch
Recurring sinus infections
What causes the symptoms of clogged Lymph?
The most common sources are injuries, infections, and tumor. Due to the fact that the swelling is localized, you can identify which ones are swollen can help you identify the problem. The five most common causes are:
Infection (e.g., ear, sinus, tooth, skin)
Inflammation (e.g., lupus, rheumatoid arthritis)
Cancer (e.g., lymphoma)
Cancer of the blood
With your new knowledge of your lymphatic system and the causes and symptoms of swollen lymph nodes, we should revisit the question posed earlier…
Can cancer risk increase due to clogged or swollen lymph nodes?
When lymph nodes become swollen, the waste they’re supposed to get rid of sits stagnant in the clogged node. This does not always mean that you are at risk for cancer. There are other reasons such as common sickness and so on that can lead to swollen nodes.
The increased cancer risk is largely due to obesity, which is closely intertwined with the functioning of your lymphatic system. When the lymphatic system is not functioning properly it can lead to obesity.
The connection between clogged lymphatic systems and obesity can become quite the vicious cycle. Just as a clogged lymph increases the risk of obesity, obesity can severely affect your lymph nodes’ ability to function properly. Obesity is a major cause of death. In fact, obesity has been linked to an increased risk of cancer! This is due to the fact that obese individuals are generally living unhealthy lifestyles overall.
The greatest tool against this epidemic is education and understanding. Here are some techniques that you can use to decrease your risk of a clogged lymphatic system, obesity, and, potentially, cancer.
4 Ways to Unclog Lymph Nodes (and Keep Your Lymphatic System Functioning properly)
Lymph nodes are highly affected by the level of movement (or lack thereof) that you perform each day. It allows them to properly clear and circulate as they are meant to do. This is because sitting stagnant day in and day out causes your body to stiffen as well as its internal systems. Because lymph nodes are located throughout your body, they rely on regular bodily movements to keep them circulating smoothly. Something as simple as walking for 15 minutes every day can work wonders for your lymphatic system. Practicing yoga on a daily basis will also help as this targets a variety of muscles and allows for deep stretching which has positive effects on your organs.
Massages are a perfect way to stimulate the lymph nodes and increase their flow. This works out kicks in the fascia under our outer layer of skin which aids in blood flow and lymphatic system flow. Dry brushing is also effective for detoxing your lymphatic system.
When properly used, castor oil can help drain your lymphatic system. With the use of topical castor oil pack, you are on your way to a well functioning lymphatic system.
Cleavers, red clover, and echinacea are herbs that help lymphatic drainage. Their antimicrobial properties help to remove toxins from your body and strengthen your immune system.
Hydration is key in order to ensure that lymph is flowing properly. Try to remind yourself to drink a glass of water once an hour rather than focusing on 8 glasses a day. You can set a reminder on your phone each hour to remind yourself to drink and a glass of water and stand up a stretch if you are sitting down all day for work.
Have you heard of rebounding? It is a trampoline exercise that works wonders for your lymphatic system. Studies have shown that it keeps the system flowing properly in your body. Spend at least 10 minutes on a trampoline each day if you have access to it. If not, simply jump around on the ground, it might look silly but it’s fun and good for your body!