Livin’ That Lymph Life

Having gone through my own share of C treatments- chemos, surgeries, and radiation sessions- I feel that I should have been more informed about the oh-so-important Lymphatic System. But the only real info I had was that surgeries (where lymph nodes were removed) and radiation treatments can cause lymphedema- swelling due to the altered flow of lymphatic fluid.  It’s something that never goes away and can have a significantly negative impact on one’s quality of life.

It wasn’t until I attended the Be Well Yoga for Cancer Recovery Teacher Training that I truly started to understand why we ALL should care about this amazing part of our bodies- diagnosis or not.  I’m so impressed by the lymphatic system that I find myself constantly fitting fun facts and ways to improve lymph movement into convos with my yoga students, my friends, family members, strangers… really, anyone who will listen… and now you!

The lymph system is pretty much the body’s sewage system. It’s like a one-way highway- a network of tiny channels that form a passage for lymph fluid to travel throughout the body- with stopping points (lymph nodes) along the way that act like trash cans.  In the lymph nodes, lymphocytes and antibodies hang out to sort through waste, searching for and removing toxic cells, dead cells, bacterias, viruses, and other foreign elements.  The lymph system then irrigates potential threats out of the body via body waste.  If the potentially dangerous cells are not removed from the body, the lymph node enlarges as a sign of infection and the rest of the immune system is notified and comes to kick some ass.

Lymph nodes are located in places like the mouth, nasal passages, neck, arm pits, and groin areas. But the largest and main lymph node is the thoracic duct.  It’s located behind the heart and lungs along the spinal column and runs from the top of the lumbar spine to the base of the neck.

So, why did I just completely nerd out on the lymphatic system?  Because all of that info was totally fascinating, right? Mind blown (poof!) And because, as important as it is to our health and immunity, this system does not have a “pump” to keep this crazy-necessary fluid moving. Instead, the lymphatic system relies on muscles, movement, and gravity to get lymph fluid moving.  Nuts, right? So it’s up to us!

Now you’re thinking “But how? How can I get this super important stuff moving?”  Oh, man. I’m glad you asked!

Breath

Simply by breathing we stimulate the flow of the lymph, and through full, deep breaths we can encourage the flow to be both cleansing and powerful. Full breaths create muscular movement and massage the thoracic duct.

Diaphragmatic (deep) breathing:

Begin by breathing in slowly through your nose, pushing the stomach out. The chest should remain relatively still on the inhale.  Slowly let your breath release out through your mouth. Full and slow diaphragmatic breathing for even just 5-10 rounds will circulate lymph fluid and oxygenate blood.

Before starting any of the exercises below…

Begin with a few rounds of diaphragmatic breathing.  Then bring your ear to your shoulder and on the opposite side, place your palm or flat fingers above the collar bone on the side of the neck.  Gently stretch the skin down while counting like a waltz~ 1-2-3 (about 5-10 times). Repeat on the other side.

Think of it this way, if you don’t open these main drains before getting the lymph moving, it would be like pressing from the bottom of a toothpaste tube with the top on… it will have no where to go. 

Movement & Yoga

The lymphatic system depends largely on muscle activity for its circulation. Though, we tend to spend a lot of time sitting, whether it’s at a desk, in a car, on the couch… and all of this sitting can lead to stagnation.  Fortunately, even minor movement can help.   Remembering to take breaks throughout the day to walk around and stretch can be really beneficial for your lymph system AND your overall wellbeing.

Yoga can help maintain lymph fluid movement via gravity (inversions), utilizing body positioning to reverse pooling of lymph fluid in the lower extremities.  Yoga also increases lymph flow with postures that cause large muscles to contract and relax- encouraging lymph to move through the body.  

Legs up the… whatever you can find. Just get them up!

Gentle self-lymphatic massages can be added to various poses to aid the flow of lymph fluid. Try very gently running/dragging the fingers from wrists towards armpits on the top, sides, and bottoms of arms- massaging near the armpits (think- while in Warrior II), as well as very gently dragging fingers from ankles to pelvic area (on all sides of the legs) and massaging around groin / hip creases (think- Staff Pose).

Lymph massage… don’t forget to massage the hip creases!

Dry Brushing

Dry skin brushing also promotes lymphatic drainage and is said to include additional benefits like refreshed skin and reduction of cellulite.  It’s best done few minutes before a shower, using a natural bristle brush.

Stand in your bathtub or shower so all of the falling dead skin doesn’t land on your super sweet bath mat.  Using long sweeping motions, begin brushing at your feet, moving upwards towards your heart.  All brush motions should go towards the heart area. No need to press hard because the lymph system is close to the surface of the skin.  After you have brushed your whole body, hop in the shower.

Dry brushing is best done naked… but this ain’t that kinda site

Fun Facts:

  • About 4 liters of lymph fluid is moved through the body and eliminated each day!
  • The body has between 501 and 700 lymph nodes- varying from person to person.
  • Where there are veins, there are lymphatic vessels.  The cardiovascular system and lymphatic system run parallel to each other .
  • The thymus is a super important part of the lymphatic system.  It is where the T-cells are generated which help to destroy the naughty cells that get flushed out.
  • The thymus is located behind the sternum, between the lungs and can be stimulated by tapping or softly thumping in that area 20-30 times.

Sooooo…. Have I peaked your interest in the lymph system?  Are you as fascinated as I am?

Are you ready to live that Lymph Life?

The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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Just Because You Can

There’s this saying- ‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’- which I usually reserve for the dickwads going 65 in the carpool lane.  Turns out, it’s another line I spout out that I should listen to myself.

I am finally recovered from my sinus surgery, which took much longer than anticipated.  I think I said it before, I just ended up being one of the few who did not tolerate it well.  While I should have been taking it easy and listening to my body, I was pushing myself to do my normal tasks and then some… because I could. I was exhausting myself during the day, unable to sleep at night, and overall- a real “peach” to be around.  {insert eye roll and face palm}

Once I started to take it easy, I started to feel better.  Go figure.  And now that the swelling has gone away, I am really happy that I did it. Being able to breathe through my nose is pretty exciting.  So is having the ability to hear out of BOTH ears.  This gal gives the final results two thumbs up.

In other medical news, I had a CT scan on Monday of my pelvis, abdomen, and chest to follow up on a hemangioma on my liver which was found about 6 months ago.  I didn’t tell anyone about the scan because, honestly, I didn’t want to think about it. And sometimes avoidance is my coping skill of choice. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

The results came in yesterday afternoon and my scan showed no evidence of disease. And my liver only shows a small fatty spot.  HELLS..  TO.. THE.. YEAH!

My brain is now free to prepare for my final weekend of Be Well Yoga for Cancer Recovery Teacher Training, to finalize a couple of upcoming workshops I’m holding, and to hopefully get re-inspired with a project I had been working on pre-surgery.

What are some things you are working on?  Or would like to begin?  I feel a vision board party should be in order soon. Yeah? You in?

Fun fact: Growing up, my mom’s license plate was BizzyBZ 🐝

Post Surgery Shiiiiit

My little victories were short lived.

I woke up Monday morning with a severe migraine. Thankfully, my mother-in-law was at the house watching the kids and keeping them busy so I could rest. I slept until 3pm and when I got up, the migraine was still kickin’.

Along with the migraine, my nose had been bothering me. It was extremely swollen on the inside and I lost my sense of smell and taste again. Though I did enjoy them while they lasted.

I went to bed that evening fully expecting the migraine to be gone when I woke up but it definitely was not. So I ended up at the doctor’s office because, by Tuesday morning, I was dizzy and short of breath- still with the headache and sinus pressure. If I didn’t move, my head was fine. But any standing, sitting, or quick turning of the head made me lose vision and feel sick. They gave me some fluids because I was dehydrated and a hip/ butt shot of something to help with the headache and inflammation.

I left the office feeling better and went to work thinking we took care of the problem and that I just needed to increase my water intake. Wednesday came around and I thought I had a rebound headache from the I injection but then woke up Thursday with the full blown shit show- severe headache, pain in the face and sinuses, swelling. I went to work but quickly left and went to urgent care where I was given fluids and a pain med again. Same deal as Tuesday.

Apparently I have been holding in a lot of emotions- I mean, I rarely cry so not too surprising I guess- and I just lost it in urgent care. I could not stop crying. The one benefit of looking like a crazy lady was that the nurse put me in a room super fast. While I was sobbing, the nurse called the Head and Neck Department and got me in for an appointment later that day.

At the Head and Neck dept, I had a couple of docs taking a look into my super swollen nose. Short story- I had an extensive surgery and should have taken more time off to heal. My swelling looks to be a bit more severe than someone else in this situation and all of this is most likely causing these awful headaches. The docs then performed the adult equivalent of the baby Nose Frida- if you don’t have kids, they suctioned a ton of mucus, blood, and left over dissolvable packing out my nose. (Text me if you want to see a picture 😜) And I was prescribed steroids.

I now realize that I need to take some serious time to heal so that I can be a functioning part of my home and society. So I will not be teaching yoga for the next couple of weeks and am not extending myself further than I know is ok for me right now.

Throughout all of this, it has been hard to find the positive. I feel like complete shit and would prefer to sleep until this is all over and I feel good again. But that’s not possible. So in order to not be a complete dick, I will practice what I preach.

The positives I have experienced this last week: At least my teeth still do not hurt like they did before surgery. I have a husband who takes on way more than his share to keep our home functioning smoothly. A mother-in-law who provides so much help and support with our two crazy kids. Employers who truly care about my health and well-being and who do not get upset when I need time off to recover and instead, they help me along the way to take the load off. And family and friends who listen to me bitch about feeling like shit and look at my nose suctioning pictures without complaint.

Fingers crossed that my next post has good news to report. 🀞🏻

Smiling because I thought we had found the answer on the first day of fluids
Pre suction-party on Thursday