(NaturalNews) The lymphatic system is a vital bodily defense against infection and disease. Lymphatic drainage massage is one of the best things you can do to help your body help itself. Here, we'll look at what the lymphatic system does and how targeted massage can keep you healthy.
The lymphatic system
The human lymphatic system is, in a sense, the body's second circulatory system. It is made up of lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, lymph (the interstitial fluid drained through the vessels), and lymphocytes (specialized immune cells). The tonsils, adenoids, spleen, and thymus are all part of the lymph system.
Our lymph nodes are soft, small internal structures located in the armpits, groin, and neck, as well as in the center of the chest and abdomen. The lymph nodes produce immune cells that fight infection while filtering lymph fluid to remove foreign material. When bacteria or other immune threats are present in lymph, lymph nodes increase production of infection-fighting white blood cells, which can cause the nodes to swell.
The lymphatic system has no "pump" of its own to move lymph through the system, as the circulatory system has the heart. Rather, bodily movement and breathing function to move liquid lymph through the vessels and filters of the lymph nodes. For people who get too little exercise and eat too much processed food, the lymphatic system can easily be overtaxed - resulting in a body that is susceptible to infection and disease.
Lymphatic drainage massage
Lymphatic drainage massage is an easy home remedy with profound effects. According to a lymph system article (http://www.jonbarron.org/article/optimizing-your-lymph-system) by Jon Barron of the Baseline of Health Foundation, lymphatic massage can increase the volume of lymph flow by as much as 20 times, vastly increasing the system's ability to remove toxins and infectious materials. Studies have found lymphatic drainage massage to be a medically beneficial form of physical therapy for a range of lymphedema-related problems.
A regular yoga practice can also help you improve the effects of lymphedema. If you already have lymphedema, according to a Yoga Journal article (http://www.yogajournal.com/health/1690) by Michelle Stewardson, you should work with a specialist to build a safe practice that will work for you.
The lymph nodes in the neck are very near the surface, as are some veins in the legs. It's important to use a very light touch when doing lymphatic drainage. This very gentle massage can have very profound effects on the body. The same is true with yoga - gentle poses and deep breathing techniques can stimulate lymph flow, helping you feel better without the need for a strenuous asana practice.
You can also hire a professional to give you lymph drainage massage. If you choose a knowledgeable practitioner, the result will be a relaxing massage that's precisely targeted for your needs. If you suffer from long-term lymphedema, or localized swelling related to lymph system blockage, ask a professional's help first.
About the author: Ellie Maclin is a writer and sustainable farmer with a love of all things handmade--food, tools, clothing, children... She has a B.A. with Honors from UNC-CH and a M.S. in Archaeological Resource Management from UGA.
Ellie writes for PlushBeds, Earth and Economy, Natural Awakenings Memphis, and several online writers' co-ops. She also runs a small sustainable farming operation with her husband, providing vegetables on a subscription agriculture model and pork on a hog-share basis.
She lives and works with her husband and daughter on a historic family farm near Memphis, TN, in a farmhouse that was constructed starting in 1832. She is a "green living" specialist with experience in permaculture, organic farming, humane animal husbandry, ecology, anthropology, and the long view of human history on the agricultural landscape.