The lymphatic system is considered one of the seven body tissues and the first to become compromised under stress. There is a stark contrast between how little attention is given to the lymph in the west and how highly it is revered in Ayurveda.
The Sanskrit word for lymph is rasa. This is also the word for taste, emotion, juice, nutrient fluid, melody, plasma, water, menses, semen, breast milk, satisfaction, and love. In Sanskrit, the more meanings a word has, the broader its scope and the more important it is considered to be. The following are 7 different aspects of the body that are affected if the lymphatic system is neglected.
Digest and Detox Ability
As the largest circulatory system in the body, the lymphatic system plays an integral role in digestion, detoxification and the delivery of nutrients, like fats, for stable, lasting energy. The lymph starts as small finger-like projections, called lacteals, which run along the inside of the digestive tract. The lacteals absorb and transport both nutritional and toxic fats, lipids and proteins off the intestinal tract and into the lymph surrounding the intestines.
Undigested proteins, like gluten and casein, along with toxic fats, can take a major toll on the lymph. When these are not completely broken down by the digestive system, they are too large to be absorbed into the bloodstream. The lymphatic system takes up these undigested fats and proteins that can overwhelm and congest the lymphatic circulation. Environmental toxins, pollutants, pesticides, preservatives, and heavy metals – which are all fat-soluble – can also slowly congest the lymphatic system. (1)
80 Percent of Your Immunity
If the intestinal skin becomes irritated by undigested foods, toxins and stress, the lymph around the gut, called the Gut-Associated Lymphatic Tissue (GALT), can become congested. Many experts agree that this is where 80 percent of the body’s immunity lies. If this major hub of lymph becomes congested, due to poor digestion or stress impacting beneficial intestinal microbes, the entire lymphatic system can become congested compromising immunity, energy, and detox. (2)
Skin and Respiratory Health
Congested lymph can back up into the Skin-Associated Lymphatic Tissue (SALT), causing a litany of skin and complexion issues. The Mucus-Associated Lymphatic Tissue (MALT), which drains all of the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract is linked to sinus and respiratory congestion and sensitivities to environmental irritants. (3)
As a circulatory system, the lymph vessels are the drains of the body, supporting the better understood venous system. If these get congested, the body will have difficulty draining the waste out of the body, putting unhealthy pressure on the circulation system. This can lead to lymph congestion and the dumping of toxins into the skin, joints, and muscles, as well as fluid retention. (1)
Brain and Central Nervous System Health
While western medicine seems to be convinced that every area of the human body has been thoroughly mapped, a surprising new discovery of lymph vessels that were never thought to exist has been made.
Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine discovered that both the brain and the central nervous system are drained by meningeal lymphatic vessels called glymphatics, indicating that there is a strong link between the immune system, which travels via the lymph, and the function of the brain and central nervous system. (4) Glymphatic malfunction has been linked to autoimmune concerns, infection, inflammation, cognitive, memory and mood-related issues.
A new study has discovered that when people sleep, special lymph channels in the brain, referred to as the glymphatic system, actually open up and drain dangerous neurotoxins from the brain into the cerebral spinal fluid. (5-8)
The study suggested it takes about 6-8 hours of sleep to complete the brain drain plumbing process, which is compelling evidence that getting the correct amount of sleep matters.
The study found that the glymphatics are like hidden caves that open during sleep, and, much like the body’s lymphatic system, they drain toxic waste and proteins out of the brain. The study found that copious amounts of neurotoxins are drained during the natural sleep cycles.
The most well-known neurotoxin, beta-amyloid plaque, is drained through these glymphatics of the brain. The problem is that studies show that the less you sleep, the less these glymphatics can work and the more beta-amyloid accumulates in the brain.
The catch-22 is that the more beta-amyloid that accumulates in the brain, the worse you sleep and the worse your memory can become. (9) Beta-amyloid plaque has been indicated in numerous cognitive and memory concerns that are only now starting to be more fully understood. (10-12)
The brain dumps about three pounds of toxins, like beta-amyloid plaque that is linked to cognitive decline, from the brain each year. This is the entire weight of the brain in toxins that get processed through these newly discovered brain glymphatics each year! (4,10-12)
A study from Stony Brook University is suggesting that how you sleep could help reduce your chances of developing cognitive concerns later in life. (13)
The study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, found that a person’s body position while they sleep could affect how toxins are flushed from the brain through the glymphatics. Scientists used rodents to test how different sleep positions affect the glymphatic system. Researchers found that lying on your side when you sleep may be the most efficient position for toxins to flush out of the brain through the glymphatics. The study found that the rodents who were in the lateral position cleared beta-amyloid proteins about 25 percent better than when sleeping on their backs or stomach. Fortunately, most folks find sleeping on their side most comfortable.
According to Ayurveda, these glymphatics are an understood system, called “tarpaka kapha,” which is the aspect of the kapha dosha that literally drains toxins from the brain into the cerebral spinal fluid. If these channels become congested, the mood can shift, memory can become compromised, and the brain can become foggy. The cause of this imbalance can be emotional trauma or the cumulative impact of stress, lack of sleep, and digestive weakness.
Lymphatic System Cleansing Therapies
- Red root, ocotillo bark, ginger root, stillingia, and astragalus combine well to make LifeSpa’s *powerful new lymph detox tincture,* Lymph Cleanse.
- Nasya – the sniffing of herbalized nasya oil into the sinuses. (14) Learn Ayurveda’s most powerful brain-lymph cleansing technique in my article, “How to Clear your sinuses and Emotional Baggage.”
- Balancing blood sugar – see my free eBook, Blood Sugar Secrets for Health and Longevity eBook. (15)
- Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) is a known brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) booster, which supports healthy brain cell production, mood, and memory. (17)
- Another great herbal supplement to consider is Brahmi (Centella asiatica), found in our Brahmi Brain formula. Brahmi has been found to support healthy cerebral microcirculation, mood, sleep, and memory. (18) (Take one 500mg cap before bed)
- Manjistha (Rubia cordifolia) is Ayurveda’s classic lymphatic mover and antioxidant blood and lymph cleanser. (18-22)