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Lymphatic Massage 101 with Lisa Levitt Gainsley
Get glowing skin, tone up, and reduce inflammation, all while boosting your immunity from home- for free! The roots of lymphatic massage run deep- their origins lie in boosting your immune system, clearing congestion, reducing stress, improving your digestion, your sleep and more.
What’s all The Buzz about Lymph?!
Your lymphatic system plays a pivotal role in your immune health. Lymph contains excess fluid made up of white blood cells that protect you from viruses and bacteria in your body. Lymph runs like rivers throughout your body similar to your blood vessels. The job of your lymphatic system all day long is to regulate your fluid balance and circulate white blood cells that provide the first line of defense against disease.
Unlike the blood, your lymphatic system doesn’t have a central pump to move it like the way the heart pumps your cardiovascular system. Instead, lymph relies on small, smooth muscle contractions to move fluid to areas in your body where you have lymph nodes; mostly clustered in your neck, armpits, abdomen, the top of your thighs, behind your knees and in your elbow creases. You also have lymph vessels in your brain which helps clean out amyloid plaque (that leads to Alzheimer’s) when you sleep. I refer to the lymph system as The Great Recycling System due to its systemic cleansing nature. Not only does getting a lymphatic massage remove excess inflammation from your body, but it also absorbs fat in your gut and returns lipids to your bloodstream where it becomes fuel.
Because your lymph system doesn’t have a central pump to move it, it needs you to encourage the release of daily toxins. You can stimulate lymph flow with exercise, dry-brushing and learning how to perform lymphatic self-massage on yourself.
Your lymphatic system is referred to as the circulatory system of your immune system. Your immune cells are produced in your lymphoid organs such as your bone marrow, and matures in your thymus and spleen and migrates to other lymphoid organs such as your tonsils, appendix, and gut to mature cancer and other virus fighting B & T cells.
The lymphatic system in your gut makes up 70% of your immune system. It provides your first line defense against food borne illness, increases fat absorption and metabolism- a topic most of us stuck at home are concerned about.
When you get -or give yourself -a lymphatic massage you are working the fluid layer that removes excess stagnant toxins in your tissues that may be making you feel unwell, lethargic, heavy, achy, bloated, slow to heal, and prone to common colds and illness.
When you massage your stomach you can increase the movement of your vital organs and improve your digestion. A lot of people store stress in their abdomen without realizing it. With a few minutes of lymphatic self-massage around your colon you can reduce belly fat and increase your energy. This is why you see flatter stomachs after lymph massage! Of course it’s also vital to pay proper attention to your diet because eating a diet high in processed foods and refined sugar takes a toll on how efficiently your lymph system functions which leads to excess fat and sluggish bowels. (That’s why I’m a fan of Purely Elizabeth- they use the best ingredients!)
Your lymphatic system also clears environmental toxins and pollutants that get congested in your tissues. Your skin absorbs approximately 60% of what you put on it- which can overwhelm your lymph system. Choosing non-toxic skincare products is essential- just think about what kind of deodorant you’re putting directly into the lymph nodes in your armpit! If you can’t ditch that deodorant entirely then please choose one that only contains natural, organic ingredients.
Lymphatic drainage facials can help you achieve glowing skin and get rid pesky acne breakouts (think gua-sha and jade rolling but way more specific!) Some aestheticians are trained in the technique- you just need to check to see if they have the proper certification.
With the onset of Covid came the closing of spas and massage studios across the country- but fret not! Until your local massage place reopens you can still achieve the benefits of a lymphatic massage with some simple DIY lymphatic self-massage from your home with your own two (clean) hands!
Lymph massage has been known to:
- Improve Digestion
- Reduce bloating
- Boost metabolism
- Circulate virus fighting white blood cells
- Remove excess built up toxins from your tissues
- Boost your Immune system response
- Give you Glowing Skin
- Increase Energy
- Reduce Brain Fog
- Improve appearance of presky cellulite (when done on a regular basis)
- Clear Ear congestion
- Reduce Headaches
- Reduce eczema
- Speed up recovery from athletic injury and wound healing
How it Works:
A lymphatic massage is different from most massages you may be used to- it’s the opposite of a deep tissue massage that targets your muscles. A lymphatic massage works on the layer of inflammation that resides underneath the surface of your skin. In order to drain this excess fluid, lymph massage utilizes a light touch to mimic the undulating rhythm of the lymphatic vessels that open and close as they move the fluid to areas in your body where lymph nodes are located. Once the fluid reaches the lymph nodes, white blood cells get to work filtering out harmful bacteria so the lymph fluid can return to your bloodstream toxin free.
In order to stimulate the lymphatic vessels above the muscle bed, lymphatic massage strokes are light, slow, gentle and nurturing- this is also why the touch is therapeutic and evokes the parasympathetic response of your nervous system (the rest & digest state) where healing occurs. By working in a one-way pattern towards lymph nodes, you will eliminate toxins more efficiently. The exception is in your abdomen where you can work the deeper layers of the lymph system.
By massaging the areas where your lymph nodes are located- your head, neck, armpits, breasts, stomach and thighs, your lymphatic system creates a vacuum effect, systemically stimulating lymph flow. These are areas that rarely get touched yet rely on movement for optimal function.
In this time of Covid-19 I’ve been sharing simple self-care rituals that you can do at home! Feel free to check out my instagram where I post How-to Videos to create a free spa day from the quarantine safety of your own home…
Additional ways to Boost your Lymphatic System:
Hydrate- It’s vital that you drink plenty of water. Your lymphatic system needs water to move freely through your body, so don’t dehydrate your cells!
Exercise- All forms of exercise increase lymphatic circulation because lymph depends on muscle movement for flow. Some of the best are rebounding on a trampoline, biking, swimming, dancing, yoga (especially inversions and twists) and walking.
Get proper sleep- The Glymphatic system in your brain works with your CSF (cerebral spinal fluid) to clear out plaque when you’re asleep. Getting proper rest is vital to this cleansing function.
Infrared saunas & biotmats will help decrease inflammation and sweating will help flush toxins from the surface of your skin.
Dry-brushing- is a simple and affordable way to increase lymphatic circulation, improve appearance of cellulite and increase your energy. You can purchase a dry-brush at your local health food store or online. Brush towards your heart. I recommend dry-brushing 3x a week before you shower.
Deep breathing- Deep diaphragmatic breathing stimulates the largest lymphatic vessel in your body- the thoracic duct- which brings the fluid from the lower half of your body up towards your heart. You can do this each day by simply expanding your belly as you inhale and relaxing your belly as you exhale. Try it when you’re standing in line at the grocery store! See how fast the time goes while you boost your lymph system.
Use clean non-toxic skin care and home products - This is essential! Some hormone imbalances can be attributed to the hidden chemicals in products. Your lymph system picks up excess hormones that are too big to get absorbed by blood vessels and can overwhelm your lymph. Making changes to the daily products you use will reduce toxins in the air you breathe and what you put on your skin.
Stop the stress cycle! - Stress is insidious- it can wreak havoc on your digestion, your mind, your heart, your soul and your lymph.. Find ways to mitigate stress whether it's through meditation, a walk in nature, or a zoom with your friends.
Eat a clean, healthy diet- avoid processed foods, sugar, alcohol, tobacco, dairy, gluten and salt as much as you can! Incorporate anti-inflammatory herbs when you cook and eat more organic vegetables and fruits.
Find Joy- when we nurture ourselves and find simple ways to experience joy we increase our health and spread love and happiness to others.
For Immune boosting Lymphatic self-massage, education & virtual sessions
Lisa Levitt Gainsley
For lymphatic facials choose an aesthetician whose trained in the Vodder technique: