Hormonal acne or stagnant lymph nodes?
So often, we jump to blaming our diet or skincare routine when our skin is acting up, but the root cause could be something much deeper. In fact, many skin conditions are the direct result of a stagnant lymphatic system.
And if you didn't already think that the lymphatic system is incredibly important for our general health and well-being, then this article is about to blow your mind. Read on to learn how your lymphatic system can help you achieve clear skin, get you in a better mood, and protect you from serious illnesses.
What Is the Lymphatic System?
The lymphatic system is a network of delicate vessels that extend throughout our entire body. Its function is to drain fluid (called lymph) that has leaked from the blood vessels into the tissues and empty it back into the bloodstream via the lymph nodes.
And it’s not only the vessels and nodes that comprise the lymph system but also the spleen, the thymus, the appendix, the tonsils, and the adenoids. So what this really tells you is that the lymphatic system is extensive and incredibly important for the human body.
The main roles of the lymphatic system include:
Blood itself doesn't flow into the tissues but remains inside the blood vessels. However, certain parts of the blood permeate through the capillary walls and into the tissue spaces. This is called interstitial fluid, and when this fluid enters the lymphatic vessels, it’s then called lymph.
Lymph consists mainly of water and important substances found in blood plasma, such as fibrinogen, a protein which, when converted to fibrin by the action of thrombin, is essential in blood clotting, and serum albumin, which helps regulate the osmotic pressure of plasma.
So, the main role of the lymphatic system is to return this excess fluid and protein from the tissues that can’t return through the blood vessels so that the fluid balance of the body is maintained. A disruption of fluid processing can result in localized swelling, known as lymphedema.
By balancing fluid in our bodies, the lymphatic system plays a key role in intestinal function. Part of the gut membrane in the small intestine contains small finger-like protrusions called villi. Each villus contains tiny lymph capillaries, known as lacteals, that absorb fat and fat-soluble vitamins that form a milky white fluid called chyle.
This fluid, besides lymph, also contains emulsified fats, or free fatty acids, which are important for delivering nutrients when reaching the venous blood circulation. Free fatty acids are essential for our body to use as an energy source, and they also play a role in the regulation of metabolism.
Another new finding is that the lymph system is responsible for carrying progesterone throughout our body, which is exceptionally important for women's health and well-being.
When it comes to hormones, the main type of imbalance in modern women is something referred to as "estrogen dominance." This condition occurs due to the inability of the gut flora to facilitate the removal of excess estrogens, levels of xenoestrogens found in food and plastics, overuse of oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy, and other endocrine disruptors, which leaves women with too much estrogen relative to progesterone.
The lymph system is responsible for carrying progesterone throughout our body.
However, since estrogen and progesterone work so closely together, it's imperative that they stay in balance. In fact, the majority of struggles with hormonal imbalances affecting both the female brain and body may be associated with estrogen dominance. This includes everything from fibroids and fibrocystic breasts to heavy and painful periods, hormonal headaches, premenstrual syndrome, and irregular cycles.
So, you may be wondering what the lymphatic system has to do with all this. Well, the lymphatic fluid is regarded as highly non-polar, and thus it's attracted to more fatty substances while avoiding more polar substances. And since estrogen is more polar than progesterone (which is fattier), the lymphatic system "attracts" progesterone more readily.
By this, we can assume that the health of a woman’s lymphatic system will directly impact her ability to move progesterone around the body. And because progesterone is so critical to women's hormone balance, it's super important that we have free-moving lymph that serves as a delivery system for progesterone to balance out the estrogen. So, in short, if the lymph system is not working optimally – you guessed it – your hormones will be out of whack.
Supporting the Nervous System
The lymphatic system also plays a vital role in the function of our nervous system. This is because the nervous system uses the extracellular matrix (which is usually the lymph) as a command center, and its state basically influences the circuitry of our nervous system. This means that if the lymph fluid is toxic due to buildup, the nervous system will reflect that state, which can often lead to auto-immune skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema as well as mood changes and disorders.
Supporting the Immune System
One of the most important functions of our lymphatic system is protecting the body from disease by cleaning it of waste and toxins. By doing this, the lymphatic system also supports our body's immune system from exposure to potentially harmful microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria.
Despite our body being incredibly smart in picking these up and fighting against them, some pathogens do succeed in entering the body. In this case, the lymphatic system enables the immune system to respond appropriately and fight the infection by triggering the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells found in the lymph nodes and spleen that are responsible for producing antibodies to fight infections.
How Can The Lymphatic System Help Clear Your Skin?
The lymph nodes are responsible for filtering fluid and trapping bacteria, viruses, and foreign pathogens. And since acne is an inflammatory condition caused by bacteria overgrowth, the lymphatic system can help clear your skin by removing the bacteria and toxins that cause acne.
The lymphatic system can help clear your skin by removing the bacteria and toxins that cause acne.
On the other hand, stagnation or blockages in the lymph nodes can impede the filtration process, increasing the amount of toxins in the blood and lymph. Add to this a blocked pore that's already struggling with inadequate oil filtration, and you've got yourself the makings of a pimple attack. From there, this can easily turn into a full-blown acne breakout, particularly in the areas where we tend to think hormonal acne occurs – around the ears, neck, and jawline, which is also an area where the (potentially stagnant) lymph nodes are highly concentrated.
What Are the Symptoms of a Poorly Functioning Lymphatic System?
There are a few signs that can indicate your lymphatic system is not working properly:
Swollen lymph nodes: This can signify that your lymph nodes are not draining properly and may be due to an infection or inflammation.
Swelling in the extremities: If you notice swelling in your feet, ankles, or legs, this could be a sign that your lymphatic system is not draining properly.
Chronic fatigue: A poorly functioning lymphatic system can lead to fatigue as the body struggles to remove toxins and waste.
Weight gain: When the lymphatic system is not working properly, it can cause fluid retention and, consequently, weight gain.
Hormonal imbalances: A poorly functioning lymphatic system can cause hormonal imbalances as hormones are transported through the lymphatic system.
Skin problems: A poorly functioning lymphatic system can cause skin problems such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis, as the skin cannot eliminate toxins properly.
Ways To Boost Your Lymphatic System for Better Skin Health
While having a stagnant lymphatic system may sound like the end of the world, getting things flowing again is actually not that hard. However, bringing your lymphatic system back to its normal function can't happen overnight, so it's a good idea to get into the following habits and become consistent with them to see long-term results.
Here are a few ways to boost your lymphatic system for better skin health:
Drinking a good amount of water daily is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and skin, but it also happens to be great for your lymphatic system. Water helps to move lymph fluid through the body and also helps to flush out toxins. So aim to drink anywhere between 5 to 8 glasses of water a day, and even more if you exercise regularly or are exposed to hot temperatures.
Good ol’ cardio will do wonders for your lymphatic system. Cardio helps get the blood flowing and also encourages the movement of lymph fluid through the body. So get moving and get your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes a day, 3-5 times a week. On the other hand, lifting weights won't help much, but if this is something you prefer doing, it's important to throw a little bit of cardio into your workout routine.
Move Your Lymph Manually
There are multiple ways to move your lymph manually, including:
Dry brush: Start at your feet and brush towards your heart. Doing so follows the natural flow of the lymphatic system, which is unidirectional towards the heart.
Lymphatic drainage massage: Start by gently massaging the skin in the direction of lymph flow to encourage healthy flow. Avoid using too much pressure because the lymph nodes are right below the skin, and pressing too much can actually push the lymphatic fluid back into the tissues.
Gua sha: This ancient Chinese healing technique that utilizes a tool (usually a natural stone) can do much more than give you a temporary face lift. Gua sha can be used for lymphatic drainage on smaller areas such as the face and neck to help reduce inflammation, puffiness, and various skin conditions, including acne. When doing Gua sha, don't forget to be extra gentle as the facial skin is even thinner, meaning you can easily harm the lymph nodes with too much pressure. Additionally, if you are doing Gua sha on active acne, make sure to be even gentler, as you don't want to pop your pimples and spread bacteria around.
Face cupping: This is another excellent way to get facial lymph flowing if Gua sha isn't really your thing. Facial cupping is a lot like traditional cupping, but on a smaller scale and with less suction. It also provides a similar effect to Gua sha, which is why you have to remember to be extra gentle in the delicate areas of the neck and face.
Contrast hydrotherapy is the practice of alternating between hot and cold water that can help stimulate the lymphatic system. The best way to do it is to shower with warm (or hot water) for three minutes and switch to cold water for one minute. You can repeat this cycle up to three times if this works for you. Another good way to do it is to visit a sauna and then take a cold shower after a few minutes in the heat.
Shower with warm (or hot water) for three minutes and switch to cold water for one minute.
By implementing the diaphragmatic breathing technique, you’re engaging the stomach, abdominal muscles, and diaphragm when breathing. This will create a pumping mechanism that will pump the lymph to the cisterna chyli, which is one of the main lymph drainage points in the center of the abdomen, and this will improve the chances of having a healthy lymph system.
There are a couple of different ways to exercise diaphragmatic breathing, including while laying or sitting down, which is why you'd have to find the one that works best for you.
A good diet is another useful way to help improve your lymphatic system function because when you give your body a break from processed foods, you will release some of that load and also give your lymphatic system a break. This will allow it to tackle other important tasks like keeping you healthy by ridding metabolic waste alongside giving you extra glowy skin by filtering out the overgrowth of bacteria.
This is why it's a good idea to focus your diet on more alkaline foods, which help clear the lymph. Foods like citrus fruits alongside berries, cranberries, cherries, beets, green leafy vegetables, hemp, flax, sunflower seeds, and nuts are an excellent place to start. The proteins found in chicken, salmon, and tuna can also help improve the lymphatic system.
Lastly, consider using non-inflammatory oils such as extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil for cooking, as some oils can degrade the food you're eating and give your lymphatic system extra load to carry.
There are many different ways to help improve your lymphatic system function, and as you can see, some of them are very easy to do. By making these changes, you can help improve your lymphatic system function and enjoy better health as well as healthy, glowy, and clear skin as a result.
Did you know the lymphatic system is so deeply involved in our health? Let us know below!
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