Updated: Aug 5
If you have been living with pestering health issues and are looking to restore your health and feel better, one of the first things most of us jump to these days is a cleanse or detoxing program. The lymphatic system is of the most important when it comes to detoxification.
When the lymphatic fluid backs up because it is sticky, congested, or blocked, fluid from the tissues containing toxins and waste cannot enter lymphatic system to be disposed of by the body. This back up prevents the cells from getting necessary nutrients. At this point you are living in dirty fish tank water with no pump or filtration system.
When this happens, the cells lose metabolic efficiency and can no longer do their job. If cells are in this state, degenerative conditions develop and sickness and disease result. Effective lymphatic drainage is essential for basic tissue detoxification and is a vital part of any healing process.
Before you dive into any cleansing and detox programs, you must fix the drainage system. You must identify the signs and symptoms you are experiencing in order to determine what is clogged.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to help determine if your lymphatic system is sluggish or clogged:
How do you feel physically? (tired, stiff, swollen, slow, inflamed, fatigue, muscle pain, allergies, etc)
How do you feel mentally? (brain fog, depressed, stressed, anxious, headaches, loss of memory, reduced concentration, unmotivated, etc)
How does your skin look and feel? (dry, acne, blemishes, rash, irritations, itchy, tingling, thick, leathery, etc)
How does your body look? (puffy, juicy, change of shape, etc)
How do you think your metabolism works? (irregular bowel movements, stomach aches, bloating, discomfort, difficulty losing weight although you have made diet and workout changes, etc)
How do you know if your lymphatic system is clogged?
There are several tell-tale signs that lymphatic fluid is not moving effectively and that toxins are building up in your body.
Simple issues that you have probably had at one time, or another include swelling of the hands where the rings that normally fit are suddenly tight and having enlarged lymph nodes in your neck when you are sick. However, there are many other symptoms that can indicate a clogged lymphatic system that you might not know about.
1) Soreness/Stiffness – If you often wake up sore or stiff in the morning, you may have sluggish or congested lymph fluid. You may also notice that you feel pain that tends to move around place to place in the body.
2) Headaches – When there is swelling in the head due to a lack of proper lymphatic and sinus drainage, pressure increases causing a headache. The lymphatic system is also how the cerebrospinal fluid naturally drains out of the brain taking with it waste byproducts and allowing room for new fluid to be produced. These fluids bathe the brain tissues and when they are drained, they help remove proteins that lead to plaque buildup.
3) Bloating and digestive issues – Approximately 30% of our lymphatic system is linked to our gut. Constipation is a common symptom of congested lymph as are unexplained food sensitivities.
4) Chronic Fatigue – Although the diagnosis of chronic fatigue is controversial, its most common symptom is fatigue that is severe enough to interfere with your daily activities. For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to be diagnosed, a significantly reduced ability to perform your usual daily activities with fatigue must last for at least 6 months. It must not be curable with bed rest.
5) Skin problems – Dry or itchy skin and acne can indicate that lymph fluid is not flowing as it should. Approximately 70% of our lymph system resides directly under the skin. Cold hands and feet sometimes can attribute to a backed up lymphatic system.
6) Limb swelling – Swelling can occur in all or part of a limb or another part of the body. It can be difficult to fit into clothes, and jewelry and watches can feel tight. At first the swelling may come and go. It may get worse during the day and go down overnight. Without treatment, it will usually become more severe and persistent. If your limbs are swollen you may experience aching, heaviness, difficulty with movement, repeated skin infections, hard and tight skin, folds developing in the skin, and pitting.
7) Sinus infections & allergies – Frequent sinus infections and worsening allergies are signs that your lymphatic fluid is not moving effectively, as are an increased occurrence of colds and the flu. When there is head congestion bacteria and viruses can travel from the nasal cavities into the stagnant fluid located in the sinus cavity, causing an infection. The feeling of having a stuffy head, congestion, lots of mucous on waking in the morning, or dental infections might also point to a backed up lymphatic system.
8) Brain fog – If the lymph fluid is not draining, plaques and other toxins build up in old cerebrospinal fluid and make us feel groggy, confused, and lethargic. Similarly, depression has been tied to clogged lymphatics.
When the lymphatic system is clogged it creates swelling (edema) known as lymphedema, also known as lymphatic obstruction. Lymphedema may develop quickly, or it may develop slowly over several months.
What causes lymphedema?
There are 2 main types of lymphedemas:
Primary –caused by alterations (mutations) in genes responsible for the development of the lymphatic system. The faulty genes cause the parts of the lymphatic system responsible for draining fluid to not develop properly or not work as they should. Primary lymphoedema often runs in families, although not every child born to someone with the condition will develop it themselves.
Secondary – develops in people who previously had a normal lymphatic system that then becomes damaged. It can be the result of cancer treatment, an infection, injury, inflammation of the limb, or a lack of limb movement.
Known common causes of lymphedema
Infections – An infection, such as cellulitis, can sometimes cause lymphedema. Severe cellulitis can damage the tissue around the lymphatic system, causing it to become scarred.
Inflammation – Medical conditions that cause tissue to become red and swollen can also permanently damage the lymphatic system. Conditions that cause lymphedema include rheumatoid arthritis and eczema.
Venous diseases – Diseases that affect the flow of blood through the veins can cause lymphedema in some people. The abnormal or damaged veins can cause fluid to overflow from the veins into the tissue spaces. This overwhelms and eventually exhausts the parts of the lymphatic system responsible for draining this fluid. Some venous diseases that can lead to lymphedema include DVT (deep vein thrombosis) and swollen and enlarged veins (varicose veins).
Obesity – People who are obese, particularly those who are severely obese, have an increased risk of developing swollen body parts. It’s not clear exactly why this is, but it’s been suggested that the extra fatty tissue affects the lymphatic channels in some way, reducing the flow of fluid through them.
Trauma and injury – Accidental injury to the lymphatic system can be a cause of edema. For example, it can occur after an accident where there’s extensive bruising or soft tissue loss.
Immobility – Movement and exercise help lymph drainage because muscle activity surrounding the lymphatic vessels massages fluid into and along them. Reduced movement can therefore lead to lymphedema because the fluid in the lymphatic system does not get moved along. For example, people who have limited mobility for a long period of time as a result of an illness, nerve damage or arthritis may be at risk for lymphedema.
In many cases, lymphedema can be diagnosed from your symptoms and medical history, and by examining the affected body part and measuring the distance around it to see if it’s enlarged.
There’s no cure for lymphedema, but it’s usually possible to control the main symptoms using techniques to minimize fluid build-up and stimulate the flow of fluid through the lymphatic system. Stay tuned for the greatest techniques out there!
Living with a long-term condition that affects your appearance can cause a great deal of distress and lead to periods of depression.
You may be depressed if you’ve been feeling down for the past few months and no longer find pleasure in the things you usually enjoy.
Talking to other people with lymphedema can be reassuring and decrease feelings of isolation, stress, and anxiety.
If you persevere with your treatment plan, your symptoms should eventually become less noticeable.