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  • Why Lymphatic Health Matters And How To Perform A Lymphatic Drainage Massage?

    Why Lymphatic Health Matters And How To Perform A Lymphatic Drainage Massage?

    The Ayurveda Experience July 06, 2023

    If you scroll through the trending social media posts, you will likely come across the term lymphatic drainage. It is the latest buzzword in the beauty and wellness circle and has everyone wondering what it is. Does the lymphatic system have any role to play in giving a person more youthful, healthy skin, and body? From dry brushing to sculpting and massaging, lymphatic drainage is a concept that needs to be explored. By understanding the profound connection between the lymphatic system and vitality, you can unlock the doorway to a more harmonious and vibrant existence. Read along to know all about the lymphatic system and what Ayurveda has to say about maintaining a healthy lymphatic flow! 

    What is the lymphatic system?1 

    The lymphatic system is a part of the immune system, and it is a network of ducts, nodes, and vessels that pass through almost all bodily tissues. It regulates the circulation of lymph, a type of colorless fluid, through your body and plays a key role in fighting disease, maintaining fluid balance, transportation, and removal of waste products from the body. 

    The lymphatic vessels collect interstitial fluids. These are fluids found in the spaces around cells. It originates from substances that leak out of blood capillaries and help carry oxygen and nutrients to cells and also remove waste products from them. The lymphatic vessels then transport the interstitial fluids to the lymph nodes that help filter out bacteria, damaged cells, and other foreign bodies. The cleansed lymph continues to flow through lymphatic trunks and ducts, eventually entering the bloodstream. The right lymphatic duct drains lymph from the right upper body, while the thoracic duct collects lymph from the rest of the body. These ducts empty lymph into the venous system, where the lymph mixes with blood and returns to circulation. 

    Some vital functions of the lymphatic system are1: 

    1. Immune response: The lymphatic system plays a vital role in managing the body's immune response. Lymph nodes contain specialized cells that help identify and fight off pathogens, foreign substances, etc. Thus, when any harmful microorganisms or pathogen enter the body, they are filtered by the lymph nodes, and the immune cells generate an immune response to eliminate them.
    2. Fluid balance: The lymphatic system helps maintain fluid balance in the body by collecting excess fluid, waste products, which leaks out from blood capillaries into the surrounding tissues. This fluid is collected by lymphatic vessels and moved back into the bloodstream, and maintaining tissue fluid balance.
    3. Removal of waste: The lymphatic system helps remove waste products and toxins from the body. Lymph nodes filter and cleanse lymph, remove cellular waste, damaged cells, metabolic by products and foreign substances. 
    4. Transport of immune cells: The lymphatic system facilitates the transportation of immune cells, such as lymphocytes, throughout the body. 

    Ayurveda and lymphatic system2 

    Ayurvedic wisdom considers the lymphatic system to be among the most important systems in the body. The lymphatic system is closely associated with the rasa dhatu, rasa literally means ‘movement’ i.e. Rasa is any liquid element in the body which flows such as blood, plasma, lymph etc. The digested food is absorbed from the intestine and is referred to as the ‘nutritious essence’. This essence is the rasa3. 

    Srotas are minute channels or micropores which contribute to the function of transportation. One of the srotas is rasavaha srotas, which helps carry plasma and lymph. The rasavaha srotas circulates rasa in the entire lymphatic system. In short, they offer pathways to transport rasa dhatu in the entire body and provide nourishment. Any vitiation or disturbance in this process can lead to diseases.2 

    Lymphatic drainage 

    Unlike the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system has no circulatory mechanism. Lymph flow is unidirectional from peripheral tissues to blood and is considered to be an open semicircular system.4 The system relies on the body's movement and daily lifestyle choices for its functioning. The lymphatic system is a crucial part of your immune system, and when there is any kind of obstruction in the flow of fluids, they start to build up causing a condition like lymphedema5. It is a chronic disease marked by the increased collection of lymphatic fluid in the body, causing swelling, which can lead to skin and tissue changes. 

    That's where lymphatic drainage comes in. It is a specialized type of massage therapy, which was traditionally used to treat lymphedema.6 

    How to perform a lymphatic drainage massage?7 

    There are many layers of lymph. The superficial layer is located just beneath the skin’s surface, where the fluids get collected. So, if there is no movement or flow, ama or toxins will remain dormant unless manually moved. 

    A lymphatic drainage massage is a great way to gently stimulate the lymphatic system. It is vital to understand that this massage should be done with light, gentle movements and slow strokes. You may use your fingers or a kansa wand to perform this massage. 

    Lymphatic drainage massage is a type of light massage therapy that involves moving the skin in particular directions based on the structure of the lymphatic system. This helps promote drainage of the collected fluid or waste through appropriate channels. Ideally, manual lymphatic drainage is carried out by a trained therapist, who performs specialized and gentle hand movements on your body without the use of any oils. These hand movements help to improve lymph flow and acts as a type of skin massage.  

    As a result, with the help of lympahtic drainage massage, tissue swelling is reduced. The hand movements used in the massage are placed strategically to apply tension on the skin in order to increase interstitial pressure on the particular region of your skin. These movements should be rhythmic, and carried on in a controlled pace. Always allow for a return phase in which the skin under tension can return to its normal state. Applied pressure varies from person to person depending upon skin tissue and the area on which is massage is done. 

    Ayurvedic ways to support a healthy lymphatic system 

    Healthy lymphatic flow can be achieved by increasing physical activity,  practicing deep breathing, self-massage, or lymphatic drainage massage. You can turn to the following  Ayurvedic practices to benefit your lymphatic system: 

    • Herbal formulations can help improve lymphatic drainage. Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) and butcher's broom (Ruscus aculeatus) help to improve peripheral circulation and lymphatic drainage in cases of lymphedema8
    • Yoga9 helps to drain lymph though numerous mechanisms. Yoga asanas focus mainly on skin stretching, movement of joints and muscles, shoulder movement, and muscle pumps. Apart from this, pranayamas focus on lung expansion. Joint movements and muscle contractions are designed to help with drainage of lymph nodes. Practicing pranayama or deep breathing exercises can offer multiple health and wellness benefits. Performing these exercises, including sun salutations and legs-up-the-wall poses for 10-20 minutes, may also help with lymphatic drainage. Know how to do yoga the right way & as per your concern + its benefits
    • Abhyanga (Ayurvedic massage) can also help in increasing circulation & lymphatic drainage10. Learn more about abhyanga here.

    Conclusion

    While Ayurveda does not specifically mention lymphatic drainage as a standalone therapy, it does recognize the importance of maintaining a healthy lymphatic system for overall well-being. Our lymphatic system is vital for our overall well-being. Poor lymphatic flow can manifest in poor skin, digestion, mood swings, and various other health conditions. Therefore, it is crucial to keep the lymph flowing and maintain the system's health and functioning. 

    References

    1. http://www.iamj.in/posts/2021/images/upload/405_410_2.pdf 

    2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327886181_RASAVAHA_SROTAS_AND_THEIR_PHYSIOLOGICAL_IMPORTANCE_AN_AYURVEDA_REVIEW  ; https://www.carakasamhitaonline.com/index.php/Rasa_dhatu#cite ; http://www.iamj.in/posts/2021/images/upload/405_410_2.pdf   

    3. https://www.bing.com/ck/a?!&&p=0f0f5528fb998184JmltdHM9MTY4ODM0MjQwMCZpZ3VpZD0yOWQxZjU4NS02M2Q2LTZmNmQtMTdkOC1lNmFmNjJkMDZlNzgmaW5zaWQ9NTE5OA&ptn=3&hsh=3&fclid=29d1f585-63d6-6f6d-17d8-e6af62d06e78&psq=An+Understanding+of+Rasa+Dhatu+as+Described+in+Ayurveda+in+the+Light+of+Modern+Science%2c+International+Journal+of+Pharmaceutical+and+Phytopharmacological+Research.&u=a1aHR0cHM6Ly9laWpwcHIuY29tL2FydGljbGUvYW4tdW5kZXJzdGFuZGluZy1vZi1yYXNhLWRoYXR1LWFzLWRlc2NyaWJlZC1pbi1heXVydmVkYS1pbi10aGUtbGlnaHQtb2YtbW9kZXJuLXNjaWVuY2U&ntb=1  

    4. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5893155_Anatomy_of_the_Human_Lymphatic_System 

    5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3572233/ 

    6. https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/coping/physically/lymphoedema-and-cancer/treating/massage-manual-lymphatic-drainage/about 

    7. Systematic Review of Efficacy for Manual Lymphatic Drainage Techniques in Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation: An Evidence-Based Practice Approach - PMC (nih.gov); Manual lymphatic drainage for lymphedema in patients after b... : Medicine (lww.com); The Utility of Lymphatic Massage in Cosmetic Procedures - PMC (nih.gov)  

    8. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225090642_Improving_Lymphatic_Drainage_with_Herbal_Preparations_A_Potentially_Novel_Approach_to_Management_of_Lymphedema   

    9. https://www.igi-global.com/chapter/research-based-applied-psychophysiology/187478  

    10. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344745102_AYURVEDA_ABHYANGA_MASSAGE_PROCEDURE_-_A_REVIEW 

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