There is a stark contrast between how little attention is given to lymph in the West and how highly it is revered in Ayurveda. The lymphatic system is considered one of the seven body tissues in Ayurveda, the first to become compromised under stress.
The Sanskrit for lymph is rasa, which 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.
You do not want to neglect this important system! (Though most of us do.) The following are seven aspects of the body affected if the lymphatic system is neglected.
1. Digestion + Detox Ability
As the largest circulatory system in the body, the lymphatic system plays an integral role in digestion, detoxification, and delivery of nutrients (like fats) for stable, lasting energy. It starts as small finger-like projections, called lacteals, along the inside of the digestive tract, which absorb and transport nutritional and toxic fats, lipids, and proteins off the intestinal tract into lymph surrounding the intestines.
Undigested proteins, like gluten and casein, along with toxic fats, can take a major toll on 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, which can overwhelm and congest lymphatic circulation. Environmental toxins, pollutants, pesticides, preservatives, and heavy metals (which are all fat-soluble) can also slowly congest lymph.1
2. 80% of Your Immunity
If intestinal skin becomes irritated by undigested foods, toxins, and stress, lymph around the gut, called gut-associated lymphatic tissue (GALT), can become congested. Many experts agree this is where 80% of our 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
3. Skin + Respiratory Health
Congested lymph can back up into skin-associated lymphatic tissue (SALT), causing a litany of skin and complexion issues. Mucus-associated lymphatic tissue (MALT), which drains mucus membranes of the respiratory tract, is linked to sinus and respiratory congestion and sensitivities to environmental irritants.3
As a circulatory system, lymph vessels are drains, supporting the better understood venous system. If these get congested, the body will have difficulty draining waste, putting unhealthy pressure on the circulatory system. This can lead to lymph congestion and dumping toxins into skin, joints, and muscles, as well as fluid retention.1
5. Brain + Central Nervous System Health
While Western medicine seems convinced that the body has been thoroughly mapped, a surprising new discovery of lymph vessels has been made! Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine discovered both the brain and central nervous system are drained by meningeal lymphatic vessels called glymphatics, indicating a strong link between the immune system, which travels via lymph, and the function of the brain and central nervous system.4 Glymphatic malfunction has been linked to autoimmune concerns; infection; inflammation; and cognitive-, memory-, and mood-related issues.
6. Cognitive Function + Sleep
A new study discovered when we sleep, special lymph channels in the brain, the glymphatic system, open and drain neurotoxins into the cerebral spinal fluid.5-8The study suggests it takes ~6-8 hours sleep to complete the brain-drain plumbing process, compelling evidence that getting the correct amount of sleep matters.
The study found glymphatics are like hidden caves that open during sleep, and, much like the lymphatic system, drain toxic waste and proteins. The study found copious amounts of neurotoxins are drained during natural sleep cycles.
The most well-known neurotoxin, beta-amyloid plaque, is drained through these glymphatics. The less you sleep, the less these glymphatics can work and the more beta-amyloid accumulates in the brain. The vicious cycle is that the more beta-amyloid 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 only starting to be understood.10-12
The brain dumps about three pounds of toxins, like beta-amyloid plaque, from the brain each year. This is the entire weight of the brain in toxins!4,10-12
A study from Stony Brook University suggests how you sleep could reduce chances of cognitive concerns later in life.13 The study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, found that a person’s sleeping position could affect how toxins are flushed though the glymphatics. Scientists used rodents to test how different sleep positions affect the glymphatic system.
Researchers found that lying on your side may be the most efficient position for toxins to flush out of the brain. The study found that rodents sleeping in the lateral position cleared beta-amyloid proteins about 25% better than on their backs or stomachs. Fortunately, most folks find sleeping on their side most comfortable.
7. Emotional Health
According to Ayurveda, these glymphatics are an understood system, called tarpaka kapha, the aspect of kapha dosha that 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
- Lymph Cleanse Tincture: Red root, ocotillo bark, ginger root, stillingia, and astragalus combine well to make LifeSpa’s powerful lymph detox formula, Lymph Cleanse.
- Lymph Vein HP is an extract of orange peel pith found to support healthy microcirculation and lymphatic flow, linked to cellulite, circulation, and skin-related lymph concerns.
- Manjistha (Rubia cordifolia) is Ayurveda’s classic lymph-mover and antioxidant, blood, and lymph cleanser.18-21
- Brahmi (Centella asiatica): Another great herbal supplement to consider, 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.)
- Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) is a known brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) booster, supporting healthy brain cell production, mood, and memory.17
- Nasya: sniffing herbalized oil into the sinuses.14 Learn Ayurveda’s most powerful brain-lymph cleansing technique in my article Cleanse Your Sinuses + Emotional Baggage.
- Balance Blood Sugar: see my free eBook Blood Sugar Secrets for Health and Longevity.15
Do you take care of your lymph? Tell us what you’ve found!