Dull skin? Congestion? It could be due to a sluggish lymphatic system. “The skin is an eliminative organ, meaning it assists the body in detoxification by pushing out toxins directly through the cells and membrane of the skin,” wellness coach and iridologist Jennifer Thompson says. “If you don’t have a natural, healthy glow, it means your body is overloaded with toxins.” Toxicity typically arises from poor lifestyle habits such as eating processed foods, smoking or lack of exercise. It can lead to congestion, blemishes, sallowness and dark under-eye circles. But supporting a healthy lymphatic flow is not difficult. With some healthy habits you’ll soon have radiant skin.
The occasional indulgence is okay, but watch your daily diet. Processed foods, chemical colourings and flavourings, sugar and preservatives add to the body’s load. Naturopath and nutritionist Saimaa Miller, from the Last Resort spa in Sydney, says to watch the amount of stodgy foods you eat, particularly during winter when metabolism is slow. “Heavy foods are harder to digest. If the digestive system is overloaded, it offloads onto the lymphatic system,” Miller says. Thompson says to eat plenty of raw salads with dark green leafy vegetables, as well as cranberries and foods rich in essential fatty acids such as nuts, seeds, fish and avocados.
Regular exercise directly contributes to great skin, improving circulation, boosting oxygenation and stimulating lymphatic flow. “The lymphatic system needs exercise to function effectively,” Miller says. “It responds to bouncing movements. Try jumping on a mini trampoline, skipping or walking on sand.” Thompson says: “Unlike the blood, the lymph has no pump. If you don’t move, it doesn’t move. People who sit all day develop a sluggish lymphatic system simply because they do not move. Other great exercises include walking, stretching, swimming or yoga.”
3. Dry body brushing
The lymphatic system is just below the skin. Give it a kick-start with dry body brushing. Take a firm but gentle, natural-bristled brush. Use long, sweeping strokes from your ankles up towards your heart. Do this each morning before showering. It stimulates lymphatic drainage and helps to loosen dead cells on the skin’s surface, enabling toxins to be purged via sweat.”
Regular massage can help flush toxins from your body and leave skin refreshed. Lymphatic drainage massage, a specialised technique devised in the 1930s by Dr Emil Vodder for the treatment of chronic sinusitis and other immune disorders, uses specialised, light hand movements to trigger lymphatic movement.
It may seem like a stretch to link clothing with skin quality, but Thompson says: “If you’re wearing nylon or polyester, there is nowhere for toxins to go. Living a cleaner lifestyle, with natural foods, natural clothes and regular exercise, keeps the lymph and skin happy.”
Exfoliation works in much the same way as dry body brushing, triggering lymphatic flow and sloughing off dead cells. It also softens the skin and, teamed with essential oils, improves the lymph system’s functioning.
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