According to some experts, about 140 million people on the planet suffer from stagnant lymph. Other researchers claim that this figure is much higher. Whatever it was, but people often do not even realize that they have this problem. More precisely, a person understands that something is wrong with the body, but does not associate this condition with lymph. Meanwhile, it is absolutely impossible to underestimate the dysfunction of lymph: this condition can cause very serious health problems.
What is lymph dysfunction?
If there is a system in the human body that most of us know almost nothing about, then it is lymphatic. Although the correct functioning of other systems, including circulatory and immune systems, depends on it. It is the lymphatic system that takes care of the elimination of toxic substances and pathogens from the body. Therefore, lymph dysfunction is always serious. But before analyzing how dangerous this condition is for a person, it is necessary to understand at least in general terms what the lymphatic system is.
The main thing to understand is that the lymphatic system consists of many vessels resembling blood vessels, and they run throughout the body. Fluid flows through these vessels – lymph, which consists of water and toxins, waste metabolites that the body does not need. Lymph nodes are located in certain areas of this vascular system. These are peculiar reservoirs into which lymph flows for purification. That is, if you greatly simplify this scheme, then it is important for a person that the lymph filled with “garbage” gets into the lymph node and gets rid of it there. But if, for some reason, the lymphatic substance does not enter the lymph nodes, but remains in the vessels and soft tissues in an uncleaned form, they talk about dysfunction of the lymph. That is, lymph dysfunction is a violation of the outflow and purification of lymphatic fluid. What this is fraught with – let’s talk further.
Why does it occur
One of the most common causes of lymph congestion is inactivity. To understand how the fluid in the vessels is related to physical activity, it is necessary to return to the structure and principles of the lymphatic system. The trick is that the lymphatic system does not have an organ that would pump fluid through the vessels (for comparison: blood circulates through the body due to heart contractions). The lymph is able to move properly through the vessels only thanks to the movements of the body (walking, running, physical work, various sports, etc.). If the whole reason for the dysfunction of lymph is in inactivity, then it is quite easy to correct the situation without the help of doctors. But there are other, more serious causes of dysfunction of lymph flow.
Disorders in the lymph system can occur as a result of such diseases and conditions:
- injuries of lymph nodes;
- neoplasms in the lymphatic system;
- paralysis or other diseases that limit mobility;
- removal of lymph nodes during breast surgery;
- obstruction of lymph nodes;
- serious infectious diseases;
- compression of lymphatic vessels;
- hypothyroidism (insufficient activity of the thyroid gland);
- blockage of veins;
- hormonal disorders.
In addition, lymph congestion may occur after taking certain medications, due to alcohol abuse or drug use. Another common cause of improper lymph flow is dehydration of the body.
Signs of lymph dysfunction
It is not difficult to recognize the dysfunction of lymph. The first and most obvious sign of impaired lymph flow is edema. But there is one thing to understand here. From time to time, everyone may experience swelling due to dysfunction of fluid in the body. For example, after eating very salty food or alcohol, in hot weather or after a long journey. If this happened once, and the swelling itself quickly passed, then there is nothing to worry about. It’s another matter if edema has become an integral part of life: they are very noticeable and appear constantly. In this case, most likely, there are problems in the lymphatic system.
Edema with dysfunction of the lymph has characteristic signs. As a rule, swelling is observed on the hands or feet. Often, not both limbs swell at once, but only one, and the other remains in a normal state. In such cases, experts speak of a unilateral accumulation of lymphatic fluid. In addition to the limbs, with dysfunction of lymph, edema can appear on the face, in the chest and abdomen, and what is most dangerous – internal organs swell.
By the way, cellulite, which many women perceive only as a cosmetic problem, and its cause is considered overweight, is actually also one of the signs of lymph dysfunction. In fact, the “orange peel” is swollen and overgrown connective tissue.
The simplest method for home diagnostics is the usual pressing of fingers on the swollen place. If even after not much pressure on the tissue there are dents that align very slowly, this is already a reason to consult a doctor.
What is the danger of lymph dysfunction
When the body loses the ability to get rid of the waste products of metabolism in time, they begin to accumulate in the intercellular space. In this case, not only the lymphatic system suffers, but the whole body. Toxins accumulate in the tissues, causing various health problems. Dysfunction of lymph causes edema, disorders of the immune system, intoxication processes begin in the body, the person weakens.
Many perceive the swelling of soft tissues exclusively as a cosmetic problem. And they are very much mistaken. When the tissue swells, it increases in volume and begins to put pressure on the blood vessels. The stronger the swelling, the more pressure is exerted on the capillaries, arteries and veins. As a result, the blood flow worsens, the nutrition of internal organs is disrupted. If the swelling is very strong, it can cause not just discomfort, but also pain.
Due to dysfunction of the lymph, such diseases and conditions as:
- bags under the eyes;
- chronic pain;
- excessive sweating;
- chronic sinusitis;
- chronic inflammation of lymph nodes;
- swelling of the eyelids and ankles;
- chronic fatigue;
- frequent colds;
- tonsillitis; bronchitis;
- heart disease;
- high blood pressure;
Treatment of lymph dysfunction
For the treatment of signs of lymph dysfunction, a comprehensive program is used, which includes medication and physiotherapy.
Patients are usually prescribed drugs with decongestant action, as well as to normalize blood circulation, increase vascular tone and reduce blood viscosity. In addition to these groups of drugs, people with impaired lymph flow are advised to take vitamin complexes and immunomodulators. If severe swelling appears on the legs, special compression stockings should be worn during the day (as an alternative, bandages using an elastic bandage).
Physiotherapy treatment includes laser and magnetic therapy, manual massages and with the use of a shower. In addition, there is a set of exercises that help improve the outflow of lymph and eliminate swelling from the extremities. One of the most effective exercises is known as the Marilyn Monroe exercise – “feet on the wall”. They say that this is the way the actress was saved from swelling of the legs. To do this, you need to lie on your back, put a pillow under your head, bend your knees at a right angle and rest your feet against the wall (this is how the correct distance between the wall and the hips is measured). Then the legs should be straightened and already in this state lean against the wall. In this position, it is useful to spend 10 minutes a day. During the exercise, you should relax, breathe evenly, while exhaling should be 2 times longer than inhaling.
How to improve lymph flow
The best prevention of lymph dysfunction is a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Drink more water
Maintaining the necessary hydration is extremely important in order for the lymph to actively move through the vessels and drain properly. Lymph is about 95% fluid, so it is so important to drink plenty of clean water during the day. Dehydration is one of the most common causes of lymph congestion. But what is important, it is quite easy to eliminate this cause. The average daily norm of water for an adult healthy person is 30 ml for each kilogram of body weight. It is also very easy to check whether the body is suffering from dehydration. To do this, you need to pay attention to the color of your urine. It should be straw-colored. If it is darker– it is necessary to increase the amount of liquid consumed. If it is difficult for you to drink so much water in its pure form, you can add a slice of lemon, some greens or a few fresh berries to it. But it is essential that it be water, not juices or other beverages.
Along with maintaining hydration, daily exercise is very important for proper lymph flow. Any physical activity accelerates the respiratory rate, improves blood circulation and stimulates the consumption of more fluid, and together these factors help to pump lymph through the system, preventing its dysfunction. To improve the movement of lymph through the vessels, it is most useful to engage in sports walking, running and jumping. Although less active yoga is also beneficial for the lymphatic system. Twisting and stretching exercises cause tissue contraction and thereby promote proper lymph flow. It is very important to exercise daily for people who have a “sedentary” job. Inactivity is one of the most common causes of lymph dysfunction.
Dry brush massage
This technique has been known for centuries and has been used in Oriental medicine since ancient times. Nowadays, she is experiencing a surge of unprecedented popularity. Body massage with a dry brush with stiff bristles improves blood flow and prevents dysfunction of lymph. But it is important to do all the movements from the bottom up towards the heart.
If there are no contraindications, it is useful to visit a bath or sauna to improve lymphatic drainage. When the body warms up, it improves blood circulation and movement of lymph. In addition, while a person is in the sauna, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, that is, the body goes into relaxation mode. And it’s also good for the lymphatic system, since stress is one of the culprits of slowing down the lymph flow.
Pay attention to nutrition
The best foods for the lymphatic system are fruits, vegetables, as well as nuts and seeds. Raw vegetables and fruits contain antioxidants and enzymes that help the body to break down and remove toxins faster. All plant foods are important for the lymph system, but green leafy greens in this group occupy a particularly honorable place. Such food contains a lot of chlorophyll, which improves the functioning of the lymphatic system. Regarding seeds and nuts, they contain essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which, in addition to other beneficial actions, also help to cleanse the lymph of toxins. But it is important to understand that seeds and nuts are best eaten raw. Fried or covered with glaze do not bring the desired effect.
Practice breathing exercise
Breathing exercises have many advantages. One of them is the improvement of lymph outflow. If you devote 10-15 minutes to breathing exercises every day, this will accelerate the movement of lymph through the vessels. During deep breathing, pressure is created on the lymphatic system and thus the fluid in it moves upwards.
Advice to women
Most lymph nodes are concentrated in the shoulders, armpits and chest. If pressure is created on these areas, for example, by too tight a bra or its bones, the lymph is not able to properly penetrate the lymph nodes. In this case, lymph dysfunction can cause swelling of lymph nodes, the formation of fibrocystic tissue in the mammary glands and even malignant formations.
The consequences of lymph dysfunction can be very serious and cause a variety of diseases, up to cancer. But there is also good news: it is usually easy to improve lymph flow and it can be done without much effort.