Cleansing the Lymphatic System & Hydrating the Body
©Peter Smith (modified January 2013
You may be interested to know (or you may be horrified) that more than one pound (1/2 Kg) of waste products are discharged through your skin every day. For the skin, apart from holding us in one piece and being (hopefully) our pride and joy, has a very important job to do. it is actually an organ of elimination just like our kidneys and colon. These organs work day and night to keep us free of poisons and waste products produced by eating drinking and everyday living plus all the poisonous pollutants we ingest in a post industrialised would. Our skin must share in this work too or we get into trouble.
If the skin becomes inactive with its pores choked with millions of dead cells, then uric acid and other toxic wastes will remain in the body. The other eliminative organs -mainly the kidneys and liver-, will have to increase their labour and may eventually become over worked. When the kidneys and the liver cannot cope with their workload toxins and wastes begin to build up in the tissues and sooner or later disease will follow. One can feel sluggish ones, skin looks sallow and the toxic build-up can contribute to the development of serious illnesses. So there is a great need to keep a healthy and well functioning skin.
But does the ritual with the soap and water actually do the job?
Soap and water is effective at removing the oily build up that collects dirt and excessive bacteria which causes body. However it is quite inefficient at removing the dead and unnecessary skin cells which congest our skin pores. Skin brushing also stimulates the movement and drainage of the lymphatic system -your bodies sewerage system.
Of course it's still fun to jump into the tub, but once you start to skin brush you won't need to use quantities of harsh soap. That in itself will make a lot of difference to the quality of your skin.
The BenefitsImproved circulation, better energy, skin softness and quality, whole body freshness are all areas of improvement you can look for when you make it a regular habit.
You are stimulating the flow of energy in the acupuncture meridians, and enhancing the lymphatic drainage, thereby aiding detoxification, and seeding up the benefits of any other natural therapy you are doing.
How to Skin BrushSkin brushing is done dry, not with water.
Start at the soles of your feet and brush your way up your legs, brushing several times in one place as vigorously as you feel able to. Do it gently at first, you'll find you can build up the pressure in time. Then do your hands and up your arms. On your back and stomach the direction does not matter you can even go round in circles. In the breast area work away from the nipple especially concentrate on the area on the outside of the breast towards the armpit which is rich in lymphatic vessels.
It is very beneficial to skin brush in the breast area to prevent breast lumps and ideally should be done daily after removing your bra.
You do not brush your face but give the back of your neck a good go. For hygienic reasons you may want to wash the brush every once in a while in warm soapy water and dry in a warm place.
A recommended programme would be 10 minutes per day for say 5 weeks, thereafter, 10 minutes three times per week. Women should brush the breast area after wearing a bra for a few hours because bras block lymphatic drainage and lead to toxic build up.
Skin brush more frequently whenever you are ill and detoxifying.
Finally two more things to improve the quality of your skin. Firstly drink at least one and a half to two litres of water per day and secondly eat lots of essential oils from oily fish, seeds and quality essential oils like Udo’s Choice, Flax or Hemp oil available from the Nutri centre.
Epsom Salt BathsPurpose: cleanses the lymphatic system use this whenever you have swollen glands, tonsils or are detoxifying the lymphatic’s.
Frequency: generally 2-3 times per week for 6 weeks
Thereafter: once a week or fortnight for several months
Epsom salts can be obtained from some Chemists and large bags can be bought from that very and farm suppliers, the Epsom salts used as laxatives for large animals like horses are perfect for the bath. You will need "household" or non-food grade Epsom salts. If in doubt tell the chemist it is for the bath not for internal use, which is more expensive.
Use from 2-4lbs (1-2 kilos) of salts according to the size of your bath. A very large bath may need 4+ lbs.
Soak in a very hot bath with the dissolved salts for 15 minutes, then rinse off with clean water.
For the best results do this immediately before going to bed, drink plenty of non-chilled water. You may sweat out a lot of toxins.
This procedure is an effective, traditional naturopathic way of cleansing the lymphatic system, that can be used whenever you have swollen lymph glands a sore throat or special need to detoxify.
N.B. This procedure does not cause any vaginal irritation to women.
ExerciseLymphatic vessels do not have any dedicated pumping system like the heart or muscles in the lymphatic vessel walls to circulate the lymph fluid. Instead the lymphatic vessels contain lots of one way valves and every time we move and breath muscles are contracted which squeezes some lymph fluid along the lymph vessels.
To move the lymph fluid there is absolutely no alternative or substitute whatsoever to being physically active; this fluid is only pumped when you contract your muscles during moving exercising and breathing.
There are no herbs or supplements that can stimulate the physical movement of fluid through the lymphatic vessels. Herbs that claim to cleans the lymph don’t actually move the lymph. These herbs may reduce stagnation in the lymph nodes which will allow better lymph flow, but the lymph fluid still has to be pumped against gravity all the way up to the veins in neck where it drains into the blood then travels to the liver and kidneys where the toxins it contains are removed. You have to physically squeeze the lymphatic vessels to move the lymph fluid.
To get into the blood lymph fluid must travel through the lymph vessels up the legs, up through the belly and chest all the way up to the neck area. There are no herbs or remedies that poses anti-gravity effects that can move fluid up to the neck, as mentions the only mechanism that moves the lymph fluid against gravity is the pumping created by contraction and squeezing of the muscles especially in the legs and abdominal area. In the abdomen and chest particularly there is a significant pooling of lymph fluid in large lymphatic vessels called the cysterna chyli and thoracic duct (see diagram). These large lymph vessels rely entirely upon on proper breathing to squeeze the vessels and force the fluid upward against gravity to the neck where it completes its journey and drains back into the blood to be cleansed by the liver and kidneys. Deep, full belly breathing is the most important mechanical pump that moves this system however bending, running and laughing are also helpful. Hours and hours of sitting in an office chair, followed by a sedentary commute and then finally the sofa provides woefully inadequate levels of movement to power the lymph system. When the lymph fluid that pools into the cysterna chyli is not continuously moved up into the chest and then onto the neck the lymph fluid backs up all the way along the rest of the system. The analogy would be people standing in a queue, each person cannot move forward until the person in front of them moves forward, and they cannot move forward until the person in-front of them moves forward and so on all the way up the line. You must therefore exercise your belly and drain the lymph out of the cysterna chyli, before your legs can drain their lymph.
The procedure I’ve invented for this is to combine what is called breath-of-fire with a partial yoga shoulder-stand. Breath of fire consists of short, vigorous exhalations through the nostrils, created by powerfully pumping the belly. You can probably see it for yourself on YouTube. The way I teach it is imagine there are two candles in front of and to the sides of your face, they are just far enough away to make it difficult for you to blow them both out at the same time with your nostrils. Try blowing out these imaginary candles, with very powerful and vigorous snorting from your nostrils, really forcefully pump your belly in to create this effect. You do not have two deliberately inhale, just relax and let it happen by itself after each powerful out-breath. Repeat this over and over again, gradually speeding up until you’re doing one to two of these breaths per second. When you begin you may concentrate more on imagining you are repeatedly blowing out candles, and as you continue you focus more on pumping and squeezing the belly. In the proper kundalini yoga form as well as pumping the belly you are supposed to contract and pull up the pelvic floor. For the men out there who aren’t sure what the pelvic floor is try to squeeze and contract your anus and pull up your testicles at the same time as you contract your belly. As you will discover this exercise vigorously pumps the belly which will in itself move the lymphatic system, but if you perform this in an upside-down position where the effects of gravity enhance the movement of lymph fluid towards the neck, the results are very rapid emptying of the lymph from the legs and belly. Incidentally this is also a useful exercise for anyone who suffers from bad blood circulation in their legs.
Having mastered breath of fire you now need to look the yoga shoulder stand on YouTube. In the fully straight back final pose the shoulder stand puts quite a bit of blood pressure in the head and throat, it is recommended for hypothyroid for this reason. Because of this pressure it would not be safe to do breath of fire at the same time, however before you get into the fully straight position when your body is bent at the hips and your chin is not locked against the chest the pressure drops significantly and it is in this position to do the breath of fire.
Obviously you can’t spend all day doing this, so the idea would be you perform this exercise for just say 2-3 minutes upon returning home from a day of sitting at work. It you get the opportunity to do it in the middle of the day that will be great. Think of this technique as a quick way of clearing the backlog of lymph throughout the legs and abdomen.
Take care doing exercises, you do them at your own risk. Seek professional advise if in doubt that is is safe for you.
The very best exercise for moving the lymphatic’s and compensating for the many hours of sitting that most of us have to do is jumping up and down on a rebounder. These are mini trampolines, that sit in the living room. The shaking up and down affect produced on a rebounder moves the circulation of blood and lymph better than anything else I’ve tried, except perhaps horse-riding. So unless you’re lucky enough to be able to ride a horse to work, by a rebounder. Don’t buy the very cheap ones, under £50, I had one and it is split! The one feature that is really worth getting if you buy a rebounder is folding legs, this enables you to make the rebounder almost flat so that it can be rolled behind the sofa up against a wall for example and quickly brought out in front of the television. Expect to pay about £95 for a good one that will last three years; my current one is in perfect condition after 12 years of regular use. If you have poor lymph circulation, thread veins, are heading towards varicose veins (see my separate sheet on varicose veins) or suffer from constipation don’t hesitate to invest in a rebounder, they’re great for all these problems. Do the combined breath of fire in relaxed shoulder stand described above first to flush out the backlog of lymph in your belly, and then jump on the rebounder.
A few words of caution: Firstly it may not be safe you to do the shoulder stand position if you have high blood pressure, so bring this down first. Alternative medicine can be very effective at lowering blood pressure, this is something I have treated successfully many times during my years of practice. Secondly you must be careful with your knees and ankles when you begin rebounding. If you have weak knees or are a heavy person it may be best to jump up and down with both feet landing on the rebounder at the same time, as opposed to doing a jogging action, this works just as effectively on the lymph and circulation. Whatever you do make sure that when your feet land you plan the whole foot down on the rebounder, and not just the ball of the foot, the toes and the outside edges. If you land in this position you risk twisting your ankle, it happens to a patient of mine and set her back weeks, she now rebounds wearing baseball shoes! Every time you get on a rebounder concentrate for the first minute or so on landing the whole sole of your foot flat on the rebounder, put it in your muscle memory so it becomes automatic.
HydrationYour body needs water to transport toxins to the kidneys and liver for elimination. You need to drink a lot every day just to maintain good health but especially when you are undergoing naturopathic treatment that stir up toxins. The popular view is that you should sip your water throughout the day, I disagree. I find if you sip all-day it makes you need to pee to often, so I recommend drinking nearly all your fluids in two or three goes. This is also much closer to what animals do in the wild, you don’t see them with a bottle of Evian in a backpack taking little slips throughout the day for their complexion, what many animals do is trek down to the watering hole a couple times a day to tank up with fluids. About an hour and a quarter after drinking a lot of fluids you will probably need to pass a lot of water, but this is quite predictable and easy to co-ordinate with breaks. The body seems to be fine holding its toxins for a little while and then having a big tidal wave of fluid flushing it out.
Another useful thing you can do to make it easier to consume enough water is to add about 1/3 juice to 2/3 water. Any juice works but most juices should be organic because of the pesticides sprayed on their skins, personally I use non-organic pineapple juice as the thick pineapple skin removes the need for pesticides. The presence of diluted fruit sugars helps the water to enter your cells and somehow makes the water significantly more hydrating. People concerned about candida and yeast overgrowth should not worry about drinking quite diluted fruit juices.
Reactivating the Feeling of ThirstWhen you do not have good regular drinking practices and add too busy to go get a drink so that you repeatedly ignore the signal of thirst you condition your mind to ignore and tune it out. To make matters worse it appears that the body can quite quickly gets conditioned into running on low levels of fluids when we don't drink enough and in this state it paradoxically calms down the feeling of being thirsty or are you a no no you are on, in this state you cannot rely. You need to bring your system out of this dehydrated state before you will fully reactivate healthy feelings of thirst that signal to you when it's time to drink. Surprisingly it takes 10-11 days to achieve this, so you have to force yourself to drink at lease 1½-2 L a day for 11 consecutive days, if you miss one day you start counting from one again. For the first 10 or 11 days you may feel like you’re drowning with this much water, but then something strange happens on the 10th or 11th day, your natural thirst is reactivated and you feel like you want to drink that much fluid or even more. Try it! Personally I had to keep working at changing my fluid intake for about six months before it became a natural daily habit.
How Much to DrinkHow much to drink can vary a lot depending on how much you are sweating with heat and exercise. The starting point in a temperate climate would be a minimum of 1½ litres per day in the winter and 2 litres a day in the summer for a woman and half a litre more for a man. Obviously you should drink more -sometimes a lot more- when you exercise, it is possible to sweat several litres during prolonged exercise on a hot day. I once drank 7 litres of water, juice and electrolytes following an 80 km cycling in in hot sunshine and it wasn't until the following morning that I passed some dark brown urine, which shows how much fluid can be lost through sweating.
Your eventual target should be 2L woman when 3 L for a man. Over 4 L and definitely over 5 could be too much over a prolonged period and just overwork the kidneys, unless of course you have lost a lot of fluid from sweating.
The way to know how much do upscale your water intake to compensate for flue losses from sweating is that you need to drink enough every day to produce a decent quantity of clear urine 3-4 times per day, in the summer and following exercise when you notice the quantity of urine you are passing decreases and the colour of the urine looks darker it indicates less fluid going through the kidneys and you need to drink more.
If you find it difficult to drink enough water because your bladder is weak there are techniques which you can read about online and in books to gradually strengthen it to some extent.
Which Is the Best Water to DrinkThe subject of which water to drink can be controversial and hotly debated. Over the years I’ve used basic filters, reverse osmosis, ionised water, steam distilled water, bottled water (different types) and of course a few glasses of tap water here or there. I believe that modern tap water has improved tremendously thanks to better health and safety standards and is not too terrible and damaging in the way that some people claim, but it’s not great either, and you may prefer to drink water that is richer in alkalising minerals and free from chlorine and other trace additives. Rather than being terribly bad for you in choosing to drink tap water its more that you’re missing a out on an opportunity, you’re missing out on the incredible benefits that you can feel when you drink great water and the health protective effects of regularly consuming alkalising (mineral rich) water.
Relying on bottled water as a household mainstay is totally unacceptable today because of the negative environmental impact of manufacturing and then discarding millions of plastic bottles. There is also some evidence that when water sits inside a plastic bottle for a long period of time trace amounts of very unhealthy chemicals can leach from the plastic into the water. These chemicals may adversely affect fertility and immunity. I still buy and drink bottled water occasionally when I'm caught short.
Cheap basic filters like the Brita filter improves the taste and may improve the health properties a little bit by removing chlorine, the same goes for most plumbed in under the sink filters.
Reverse osmosis water filters produce good quality healthy water, and are in my opinion the second best water you can make in your house. The water these systems produce is financially cheap to produce if you don't have a water meter, but very wasteful and expensive for the environment because of the amount of water they waste; the reverse osmosis process actually discards more water than it produces and producing the clean tap-water you put into the system consumes a considerable amount of energy input in the first place. Therefore reverse osmosis systems are not at all an eco-friendly solution. The initial costs are also very high and the water isn’t as good as the best option anyway.
Ionised water (look up water ionisers on Google). These devices claime to electrically alkalise the water, this is technically possible but it's questionable as to whether or not these devices actually achieve it. There is merit to the argument that we should be consuming alkaline forming foods and water however the healthy way to make water more alkaline is to actually add alkaline minerals to it and ionised water generators do not do this. The water these units produce doesn’t taste or hydrate much better than the tap water it is made from, they are expensive to buy and I do not recommend them at all.
Home distilled water is expensive on electricity to produce, and therefore bad for the environment; it is completely stripped of everything including the good minerals and tastes totally ‘dead’, I use to add mineral solutions and shake it up to try to bring it back to life.
What Water I Now RecommendIn a sense the challenge to producing the healthiest water is trying to strike a balance between cleaning out as much toxic elements from the water versus leaving the good minerals behind. The only systems I’ve seen to solve this problem are the Eva Advanced Water Filtration System and the Santevia Enhanced Water System See youtube to see how they work. The Santevia company have good promotional information, videos and websites, while the EVA only produce a booklet. They perform almost identically however with the EVA being cheaper to buy and run. You can see and buy the EVA advanced water filtration system that the Nutri centre shop in central London.
Basically these systems first filter and then re-mineralise the water by soaking it on special gravel. The gravel that dissolves slowly over about 5 years brings the cleaned water back to a natural mineral rich spring water condition. Adding minerals to the water increases the pH or makes it more out line and there is some evidence that this may significantly contributed to preventing osteoporosis.
I've had an EVA for some years now and it is by far the most hydrating and best water I’ve ever drunk, it is also cheap to run and environmentally friendly.
The Benefits of Alkaline WaterWhen we eat what are called acid forming foods (primarily animal protein foods) the body has to counterbalance the acidifying effects of these foods and maintain the pH of the blood at the right level. When there is an inadequate reservoir of alkaline minerals in our tissues the body will often need to draw alkalising calcium from the bones to neutralise the acid in the blood, eventually contributing to the thinning and weakening of our bones known as osteoporosis.
To prevent osteoporosis:
- Reduce what I call calcium robbers which are acid forming foods and fizzy drinks.
- Eat lots of vegetables and drink alkaline water.
- Regularly put lots of stress and strain on the bones with strenuous weight bearing exercise and the new vibration plate devices.
2 glasses of water after waking up - helps activate internal organs. Try to drink a litre of water before 10 in the morning.
1 glass of water 30 minutes before a meal - helps digestion.
1 glass of water before taking a bath - helps lower blood pressure.
1 glass of water before going to bed - avoids stroke or heart attack.
Finally if you just starting out properly hydrating your system after years of dehydration you will get quicker results if you supplement lecithin 2 to 3 deserts spoons per day to your diet.
FastingFasting is a fantastic way to detoxify the whole body but it is an especially useful and very quick way to specifically cleanse the lymphatic system.
I once had a patient with a history of swollen lymph glands and tonsillitis call me with an active case of swollen glands, suspect tonsillitis and holding a prescription for antibiotics in the other hand. She was reluctant to take the antibiotics again because their overuse in the past had caused her to develop both intestinal and vaginal yeast overgrowth but needed a quick cure because it was Wednesday and she was a bridesmaid at a friend's wedding on the Saturday four days later; she asked me if I had anything for her current situation that would work as quickly as the antibiotics to alleviate the swelling in her lymph glands. I told her the only thing would be a three day apple juice fast and Epsom salt bath is if she could do it at such short notice. She did, the lymphatic system drained and she served as a bridesmaid without any problems at all.
General Principals of FastingIt used to be recommended fasting on juices, fruit juices such as apple juice were considered cleansing and vegetable juices from carrot or beetroot were recommended because they contain a lot of potassium which is alkalising to the body however we now know this is not a healthy practice. When you separate the liquid from the fibre in fruit and starchy root vegetables the resulting juice releases sugars into the bloodstream far too quickly which causes our blood sugar to rise very unhealthy levels; fruit and root vegetable juices are unhealthy.
Today I recommend fasting on just water and the few pieces of fruit or smoothies made from liquidised non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spinach et al.
An interesting alternative is to fast on what is called “potassium broth”. Take ¼ inch of outer peelings of potatoes (including the skin), fresh parsley, un-peeled carrots, beet greens, onions, garlic and any other organically grown vegetables on hand. Prepare broth by washing and copping the vegetables, and then simmering in a large pot of water for 30-40 mins. Strain and save the vegetables. On the first day consume only the resulting broth. On the second day prepare a little more and consume both the broth and all the vegetables. On the third day eat only rice and steamed vegetables. On the fourth day return to normal eating. I have tried this and found it very difficult because the taste and smells of the broth made me very hungry. The only reason I can see to chose this method would be for someone with high blood pressure and significant blood sugar control issues like insulin resistance. The potassium is beneficial for hypertension, you can get potassium form carrot juice but carrot juice may contain to much sugar and have an undesirable glycemic load.
Classically one does an odd number of days i.e. 1,3,5, etc. Obviously nothing ‘bad’ happens if you do an even number of days but it does make some sense from experience.
On the first day one can feel weak and tired, this lessens on the second day and by the third day ones blood sugar and energy stabilises and one usually feels good. So if you do more than one day it is worth going to 3 days. The forth day is like the third but on the fifth day the body goes into a different mode and starts to break down more fat tissue and you release different toxins. So if you do more than 3 days you might as well do 5 or 6 days.
There are some great stories of people curing themselves of chronic diseases on long fasts, I have no experience of longer fasts, and think you should know what you are doing or seek advice if you go over 7 days.
You can use fasting as a one off occasional thing especially whenever you have swollen lymph glands, for which it is very effective, typically brining them down within 3 days. Or you can use fasting regularly as part of a long-term treatment program. One day a week is good or my personal recommendation is a 3-day fast once every 3 weeks or once a month. For damaged/fatty liver you will need to perform multiple fasts followed by herbal detoxes.
How to FastYou should drink at least 2 to 3 L of fluids when you fast. If you are using vegetable smoothies must swish each mouthful with saliva to mix it with the digestive salivary amylase enzyme before you swallow.
Without new food entering and passing through the intestines there is nothing to push the last few meals you ate through the intestines; consequently some residue from the last few meals you ate will remain in the large intestine when you stop eating solid foods. This residue will quickly begin to putrefy and released toxins into your system and to prevent this you will need to force the bowels to evacuate for the first two or three days on a fast with either some form of laxative or an enema.
As a herbal laxative I recommend using a product called Lower Bowel Formula by Christopher’s original formulas in the liquid form not capsules.
Alternatively give yourself a green tea enema.
Throughout the day some toxins will accumulate in the gall bladder along with the bile. In order for the gall bladder to contract and discharge the bile and toxins you must have some oil passing through the intestines. To facilitate this process consume to desert spoons of either olive oil, flaxseed oil, hemp seed oil or Udos’ choice oil mixed in with the juice of half a lemon. You could do this in the afternoon and then take a siesta.
What you do on the day you break the fast will make or break the success of the detox. It can be very difficult and require a lot of discipline to not scoff down lots of food once you start eating. Personally I find my taste buds get so excited by the new flavours they urged me to eat everything in sight. Don’t do it, you can negate everything you’ve just achieved. So for breakfast have fruit, some plain yoghurt and a few well-chewed nuts if you wish. For lunch have a vegetarian meal of the either vegetable soup or salad including some beans or lentils, but no carbohydrates at this point. For dinner you can have a full vegetarian meal, including beans, vegetables and low GI grains or small potatoes. Eat slowly, eat consciously (look at you food and think about it while you during it) enjoy it.
The next day you may normally, but healthfully of course!
During a fast you would not take supplements, although you could add vitamin C to the juice has an option. I recommend that you spend several months improving your diet and taking supplements especially magnesium and zinc prior to fasting, so that you do not commence a fast from a vitamin and mineral depleted state.