How do I know if my lymphatic system is congested?

I'm often asked this question by clients - naturally enough. How do I know if my lymphatic system isn't draining properly? After all, the lymphatic system is one of our drainage pathways, and our drainage pathways are how our bodies remove waste products, toxins and pathogens to keep us healthy, safe and functioning well.

When our drainage pathways aren't working properly, that's how we get symptoms and even develop illnesses - chronic and acute.

You see, the lymphatic system doesn't have its own pump, like the circulatory system has the heart. It relies on muscle movements to move lymph, and I'm sure you're aware that for most of us modern living can be pretty sedentary. Add in possibly restrictive clothing and - yes, I bang on about it all the time! - insufficient hydration, and it's easy for our drainage system to get congested and sluggish.

So, how do you know if your lymph is stagnating? There are actually quite a few symptoms, as the lymphatic system plays such a large role in the body. Here are some you may notice - you may have all or just a few:

1) Waking up for no reason between 3-5am - this is known as the hour of the lung and lymph in traditional chinese medicine, and is the time your lymphatic system is working the hardest. 

2) Swollen hands, arms, feet, ankles, legs. Are your socks regularly leaving marks on your skin? It's normal to have slightly swollen feet after a long day standing on them - gravity plays a role in sluggish lymph movement too! - but if you are regularly finding you are retaining fluid you probably aren't draining properly.

3) Waking up in the morning with stiff, achey joints and muscles - the body repairs itself while you sleep, so you should wake up feeling good. If you're achey and stiff, you may not be draining.

4) Swollen or enlarged nodes (including tonsils). They might be hard (note that if you've had your tonsils removed, you're likely to have drainage issues - the tonsils are an important part of the lymphatic system). If you're not sure where your nodes are, lift up your arm and have a look at your armpit in the mirror - it should be a hollow. If it has a rounded, puffy appearance - that's lymphatic congestion.

5) Chronic fatigue - feeling tired even after 7-8 hours of sleep? Or maybe you crash mid-afternoon? You may need to move some lymph. 

6) Depression - now how can depression be linked to poor lymphatic drainge?! Well, when your lymphatic system isn't draining properly, it can lead to toxin build up, which can cause inflammation in the brain - which can absolutely contribute to depression.

7) Brain fog - having a hard time remembering names, or retaining information you've just learned - or maybe even where you just put your keys?   

8) Headaches - again, this is due to a build up of toxins from poor lymph drainage. The occasional headache can happen for many reasons, but if you're getting them nearly every day, this could be a sign of stagnation.

If you regularly have some or all of these symptoms, it is very likely that your lymphatic system isn't draining too well. Lymphatic drainage massage will help, as will dry brushing and more movement. Follow me on instagram for tips on increasing lymph flow at @ljm.therapies - ideally while drinking a large glass of water!

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