Are you eating to support your lymphatic system? We’ll be diving into the 8 lymph drainage pathways in the body – all of which are essential for staving off infections, inflammation and preventing a host of chronic conditions. Here’s everything you need to know about these pathways – including the signs they’re blocked up, plus which foods will give them a much-needed boost.
If you’ve been bogged down with chronic health issues – from digestive troubles to a stubborn rash – it’s likely that your lymphatic system is impaired. If your drainage pathways aren’t working as they should, you’ll probably have noticed some of the following symptoms:
- Rashes and itchy skin
- Trapped wind
Mental health issues
- Brain fog
- Mood swings
- Anxiety and stress
Circulatory and inflammatory issues
- Fluid retention and swelling
- Stiffness and achiness
- Joint pain
- Cold hands and feet
An unhealthy diet packed with added sugars and processed foods could be to blame for congested drainage pathways. This is because they cause inflammation, damage our cells and destroy our gut health. Environmental toxins like pollution and allergens could also be wreaking havoc on your lymphatic system – so if you’re living in the heart of the city, you might want to invest in an air purifier to give your respiratory system a rest. Dehydration can also be a major contributor to clogged lymphatic pathways, and even stress and anxiety can be to blame – this is because they can cause a weakened immune system and inflammation, all of which inhibit the lymphatic system. Inadequate exercise and long periods of sitting can also cause fluid retention – this is what causes the swelling in your arms and legs – so if you’re a desk worker, don’t forget to hop up every now and again. But for now, we’ll be getting into the best foods to munch on when you’re in the throws of congested drainage pathways – and luckily, there are a few simple dietary changes you can make to get things moving again. Here are our favourite foods to eat to open each lymphatic drainage pathway in the body.
This powerhouse of the cell – yep, we all took that class – is responsible for releasing the energy from our food sources, and it happens to be the major hub for our immune system. So, if your mitochondrial drainage pathways are clogged, is it any wonder you’re experiencing frequent colds, allergies and infections? So, if you’re looking to get the pathways flowing again, here are the foods to stock up on:
- Phytonutrients: These nutrients found in fruits, veggies and legumes strengthen our cells, repair DNA damage and improve our immunity against pathogens and free radicals. The result? Less inflammation and unclogged drainage pathways. You’ll find these in higher doses in red and orange veggies and fruits like tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and strawberries, along with leafy greens like spinach, kale and broccoli, and in allium veggies like onions and garlic.
- Omega 3 fatty acids: These brain-boosting fats also have an unexpected benefit for our mitochondrial health through our gut. By strengthening our gut lining and improving digestive function, our cells also stand to benefit from reduced inflammation. Go for foods like fish, eggs, walnuts and hemp seeds.
- CoQ10: This is an antioxidant that your body produces naturally – but, levels may drop due to the ageing process, along with infection and inflammation. Your cells require this antioxidant for proper function, so if you’re experiencing signs of an impaired lymphatic system, do your mitochondria a solid and get yourself a dose of this stuff. You’ll find it in eggs, veggies like spinach and broccoli, sesame seeds, pistachios and lentils.
You can think of your glymphatic drainage pathway as the gateway to your entire lymphatic system – the glymphatic system involves a wide network of blood vessels, structures and processes with the difficult job of clearing waste out of our central nervous system. In fact, this vital system was only discovered in 2012 and named in 2013 – but since then, we’ve learned that impairment and dysregulation of this drainage pathway can cause cognitive decline and may even lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. That’s why it’s essential to help keep the system flowing, and eating a range of glymphatic-boosting foods is your first step to healing. The focus for a healthy system is on brain-boosting foods – so give the following a try.
- Magnesium-rich foods: Dark chocolate, leafy greens and avocado will be essential for improving the health of your blood vessels.
- Omega 3-rich foods: These are important for reducing cortisol levels – an excess of which can throw your system out of whack – along with regulating our circadian rhythm, which is deeply connected to our brain health and glymphatic system. This is because quality sleep is essential for proper function, and foods like eggs, fish, walnuts and algae oil can all boost our sleep quality – and subsequently, our brain health.
We’re constantly breathing in toxins, allergens and pathogens all around us – from the pollution outside to the hidden mould in our homes, our lungs and immune system are under constant attack from these intruders. Here are a few foods to boost your immunity and get your lymph drainage pathway flowing again:
- Beetroot and beet greens: These veggies boast a healthy dose of nitrates – these have been proven to lower blood pressure and increase our oxygen uptake, giving our lung function a much-needed boost.
- Capsicum: City-slickers stand to benefit from upping their dose of these vitamin-C rich veggies, and that’s because it acts as an impressive antioxidant throughout our body. If you’re frequently exposed to inflammatory toxins in the air, this will reduce the effects on your lungs, giving your lymphatic system the support it needs to prevent congestion.
Skin lymphatic system
If acne, rashes and cellulite are your lymphatic kryptonite, we’ve got a few healing foods to choose from to get your skin back on track. You’ll want to prioritise nutrients that encourage the repair of cells and reduce inflammation – this is because inflammatory foods are often responsible for the pooling of fluids under the skin and congested pathways. Let’s dive right in:
- Papaya: This fruit is loaded with potassium, which is essential for a functioning lymphatic system. The beta-carotene also reduces damage to our skin and body tissue, preventing inflammation and skin irritation.
- Leafy greens: Dark leafy greens are your answer for skin troubles – that’s because they’re great sources of lutein; this is an antioxidant which boosts circulation, thereby preventing the fluid pooling and stagnation that can cause rashes. Go for kale, asparagus and spinach.
- Ginger: This warming veggie isn’t just good for your stir fries and ginger bread, it’s also a toxin-fighting superfood. Ginger has been found to improve blood flow, reduce inflammation and stimulate your drainage pathways.
Your bile ducts are the tubes which pass through the liver, and a poor diet can easily wreak havoc on their functionality. Poor lymphatic drainage will be apparent if you’re struggling with upper abdominal pain, yellowing skin and dark-coloured urine. Sound familiar? If your bile duct drainage pathway is blocked, you’ll want to go for high-protein, low-fat foods to get things moving again.
- Lean meats: Due to the link between the bile duct and gallbladder, it’s important to go for lower-fat meats, as high fat tends to overwhelm the gallbladder when there’s a blockage.
- Legumes like chickpeas and lentils:These low-fat legumes are nutritional powerhouses that gently nourish and heal a blocked drainage pathway.
Your liver goes through a lot – after all, it takes on the brunt of fructose absorption when we’ve gone a little too hard on the sugary, processed foods, and it’s also the first responder for those who hit the alcohol on the regular. When your lymphatic system falls short, we’re more likely to gain weight, develop autoimmune conditions and even diabetes. The visceral fat caused by ultra-processed diets also puts us at significant risk for fatty liver disease – but if this sounds like your situation, it’s not too late to turn it around. The first step is to open up your drainage pathways to get things flowing again – and one of the easiest places to start is with your diet. To help get your liver lymphatic system functioning normally, it’s essential to eat anti-inflammatory, healing foods. Here are a few liver-centric foods to prioritise:
- Herbs: Schizandra, burdock root, liquorice root and dandelion root are anti-inflammatory and boost kidney function. Liquorice root in particular is known for its protective properties against alcoholic fatty liver disease, while burdock root may promote lymph drainage.
- Turmeric: This is an antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory food which boosts liver function and some studies suggest it may protect against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Bitter foods:Foods with a bitter or astringent taste are known for their liver-boosting qualities, so go for rocket, dill, sesame seeds and cumin to give your drainage pathway a shove in the right direction.
Your colon is an essential element of processing food, and this is because it removes toxins and waste from our bodies, along with helping us digest our meals. When you start to notice bloating, constipation and abdominal pain, that’s when you’ll know something is amiss – chances are, it could be clogged lymph drainage pathways. Take a look at some of the foods to eat to get those pathways moving:
- Colourful fruits and veggies: Berries, apples, corn and broccoli are all nutritious produce to stock up on when your colon is out of whack. These are loaded with fibre to prevent waste blockages and help your lymphatic system do its job. They also have antioxidants to help fight toxins in the body.
- Salmon: The omega 3s in salmon will reduce your bloating symptoms, and they’ll also reduce your risk of colon cancer – after all, blocked lymph pathways significantly increase your risk for this disease. So, load up on omega-rich foods like salmon, eggs and walnuts to promote a healthy colon.
Your kidneys go through a lot to keep us healthy – in fact, they’re one of our best defences against toxins. They contain a network of fluid-clearing lymphatic vessels, and these vessels are essential for our immune system and for preventing kidney disease. A sugary diet can lead to a clogged drainage pathway and cause damage to our kidneys, leading to inflammation and disease, and that’s why you’ll want to pop some of the following foods in your shopping basket instead:
- Red fruits: Strawberries, raspberries, cherries and cranberries are all packed with antioxidants known as phenols – including anthocyanins and ellagitannins in strawberries – both of which are known for supporting kidney function.
- Other fruits: Blueberries, apples, pineapples and citrus fruits are also anti-inflammatory foods – they’re bursting with antioxidants that help our clear out those clogged pathways and fight off free radicals in the body.
- Kidney beans: It’s all in the name! Believe it or not, kidney beans are actually good for your kidneys – that’s because they’re loaded with fibre, low fat and promote stable blood sugars, giving your kidneys the break they deserve.
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