Want to perk up your lymphatic system? Here’s how energy and emotions affect the flow of lymph through your body.
Before I studied Traditional Chinese Medicine, I had no idea what the lymphatic system was or what it did. Had I known, I would have done things differently because the lymphatic system is one of the most important systems in your body for immunity, detoxing, and overall health.
It’s also one of the most overlooked systems.
Back when I worked in a high stress high tech job many years ago, I started experiencing all sorts of weird ailments, infections, and health issues. It got so bad I actually wondered if I was dying. I refer to that period in my life as “My Year of Illness.” Doctors did all sorts of tests and told me I was healthy. But I knew I wasn’t. I certainly didn’t feel healthy.
One thing I noticed at the time was that I had a few weird bumps under my armpits (not in the armpit, but on the side of my body below the armpit). They looked like dark pimples, but they really weren’t anything like pimples.
I didn’t think anything of it, but the first time I got a Chinese Reflexology treatment from a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor, he seemed quite concerned about them. In hindsight, I see how they were actually related to problems with my lymphatic system, and a lot of the health struggles I had were due to issues with my lymphatic system.
Weird infections—lots of them, lack of resilience, slightly elevated white blood cell count, an overall sense of un-wellness, struggling to turn things around, feeling like I was on a downward health spiral.
In hindsight, I also see how the emotional roots associated with problems in the lymphatic system were affecting my health. Addressing these roots helped me turn my health around. And here I am now, over ten years later, following my soul’s calling and sharing this information with you. It’s all interconnected.
First, the Basics: What Is the Lymphatic System and What Does It Do?
The body’s lymphatic system does a lot of important things. It supports the immune system, and it also filters and removes cellular waste products. Basically, your lymphatic system helps to clear wastes and toxins from the body, and it helps your immune system fight infections.
So what exactly is it?
Let’s start with some anatomy. The lymphatic system is comprised of organs (spleen, tonsils, adenoids, and thymus), lymphatic vessels, lymph—a type of fluid that flows through the vessels—and lymph nodes.
This system is similar to the circulatory system for blood where you have arteries and veins throughout your body. The larger vessels branch out into smaller vessels until you get to the smallest level, which are the capillaries. At the tiny capillary level, plasma leaks through the capillary walls, and it’s then referred to as interstitial fluid. This is the fluid in the spaces between your cells.
Eventually, the interstitial fluid is reabsorbed via capillary-like vessels in the lymphatic system. Then the lymphatic system works like a network of canals, where it collects “junk” from the cells (e.g. waste byproducts from cellular activities), and shuttles the “junk” floating in the “water” through the canals.
As lymph moves through the lymphatic system, lymph nodes help filter out the “junk.” They’re like mini water filtration plants throughout your body. They pick out the “junk” from the fluid and also “treat it” with immune cells (like adding chlorine to water to kill bacteria).
You’ve got lymph nodes concentrated in your neck, armpits, chest, abdomen, and groin. The lymph nodes help filter toxins and fight infection since they contain a lot of white blood cells. That’s why you might notice swelling in your lymph nodes (especially in the neck) when you have an infection such as a sore throat.
While the lymphatic system is similar to the circulatory system for blood, there is ONE HUGE difference. The heart pumps blood through the blood vessels. But in the lymphatic system, there isn’t a pump to move the lymph fluid.
The only way lymph is moved through the lymphatic vessels is through physical movement.
For example, raise your arm up in the air, extend it out to the side, bring it back over your head, and then lower your arm to your side. You just moved lymph fluid in your body!
As long as you’re moving and active, you’re moving lymph through the lymphatic system.
But what happens when you’re sedentary? What happens when you sit at a desk for hours at a time with minimal movement? That’s what I did when I was working in high tech, and here’s what was happening for those hours: nothing. Quite literally, close to nothing with respect to the movement of lymph.
So what happens to your health if a lack of movement becomes your default lifestyle?
Well, you certainly can’t expect your body to be able to fully utilize the lymphatic system’s abilities to filter out toxins, and support the immune system in fighting infection.
I wasn’t inactive outside of my job. I walked or biked to work every day. That was at least 10 miles a week of walking and a few hours of biking. But this level of activity wasn’t enough to compensate for so many sedentary hours, or to overcome the emotional roots behind lymphatic issues.
A Joyful Segue of Movement
As I’m writing these words, I’m walking around my house and dictating into my phone. Walking is a great way to get your lymph moving. But it’s not just moving that matters, how you’re feeling while you’re moving matters too.
I tried writing this article a few times, but couldn’t seem to make much movement (bad pun intended). Then it dawned on me that I needed to be moving while writing about the lymphatic system.
Movement gets things flowing and movement is what the lymphatic system is all about.
If I’m going to be writing about the emotions associated with the lymphatic system, then I need to embody these emotions while I’m writing.
Hence, I decided to call this the Lymphapalooza article. Who doesn’t enjoy a good music festival? You want to move and groove to the tunes. An article about the lymphatic system should feel like a good music festival. Fun, joyful, invigorating, and inspiring movement.
While I’ve written a lot about Chinese Reflexology points in this blog, I’m going to focus on the joy of a healthy lymphatic system in this article because having the right focus is essential for supporting your lymphatic system.
If you’d like to read more about Chinese Reflexology points to help detox your body and boost your immune system, check out these two articles:
- Reflexology for the Lymphatic System to Reduce Toxins: Get instructions on how to massage your foot for lymphatic drainage
- 2 Points to Boost Your Immune System: Includes two additional points that help boost the immune system
Emotions Associated with the Lymphatic System
According to Louise Hay—one of the pioneers in identifying the emotional roots of diseases—lymph problems are a warning that the mind needs to be re-centered on the essentials of life, which are love and joy.
You have to focus on what’s important: love and joy.
Let’s look at what happens when a person is not feeling joy, or they’re feeling stuck or trapped in life. There’s a lack of movement. On the other hand, if you look at a happy child, they naturally move a LOT. They run, play, jump and squirm.
Our bodies are basically a reflection of what’s going on in our lives. They’re quite literally mirrors for reflecting things that we need to change. When we don’t make these changes, the Universe will find a way to get your attention.
It starts with soft whispers nudging you in a certain direction. If you ignore these, then you might notice situations and circumstances arise to push you in the right direction. If you resist these signs, then the Universe has to employ stronger means of persuasion, and this can manifest as physical disease or discomfort in the body.
Working in high tech was extremely stressful. I hated it. I also was drawn to the field of healing for many years, but I ignored this calling. So then the Universe found other ways to get my attention through unpleasant situations in the workplace.
One time, the CEO of the small company I worked for came by after-hours looking for me. It happened to be the one day I decided to leave “early” to give myself a small break so I could take a music lesson that I had skipped for weeks because I was too busy working. He had a major hissy-fit, and he publicly denounced me in front of my co-workers who were still at the office.
Did I heed the call and leave high tech? Nope, I just changed jobs. And the stress and bad situations just repeated themselves elsewhere. The only thing that got my attention was when my health broke down.
Chinese Reflexology helped me turn my health around, but what truly pulled me out of “My Year of Illness” was following my soul’s calling and embracing love and joy.
It’s not about being more loving to the people around you. It’s about loving yourself more, and being more loving to yourself.
I made time to learn Chinese Reflexology because I found it fascinating and felt alive when I was learning. I also started giving people reflexology sessions. Then I moved to California. With its sunny climate, there were more options for fun outdoor activities. I could bike year-round!
I also started studying Traditional Chinese Medicine, something that I had contemplated doing in my mid-twenties. But it took almost 10 years before I finally made the leap and enrolled in an acupuncture program. It wasn’t a linear journey as I was particularly stubborn and felt overly responsible to do the “right thing” versus follow my passions. So the Universe “kindly” let me know with other health ailments.
But eventually, I left high tech for good, created a blog that’s read by hundreds of thousands of people each year, and here I am writing this article. My health at 50 is infinitely much better than in my early thirties when I was so stressed, unhappy, and not very loving to myself.
I can’t look back and pinpoint a single moment when my life transformed. It starts with small changes you make each day to focus on loving yourself more, and looking for joy in each moment and activity.
Re-center on Love and Joy
So if you’re feeling a lack of joy, I invite you to listen to your heart and soul, and reconnect with your passions and what makes you feel alive. Re-center on finding joy in the moment, and being more loving and compassionate to yourself.
When you feel excited, when you feel joy, when life is moving, you’ll find that you are naturally moving your body more. That’s essential for moving lymph through the lymphatic system. Move with joy!
So it’s not about joylessly running on a treadmill. Yes, that’s movement. But if you hate it, you’re not focused on love and joy. You’re doing a chore, and that type of movement doesn’t get you in the mindset of changing your life. It won’t get you out of a rut or move you into joy, unless you enjoy running on the treadmill.
Joy is felt in the moment. You don’t make a “to-do” list to create joy. You simply choose to be joyful in the moment. For example, you may be sitting at your computer reading this article. It’s interesting information. Your mind is chewing on it, but it’s not exactly joyful.
What if you lightheartedly poke fun at yourself right now? You’re a sack of cells and interstitial fluid, much like a beanbag chair—sitting on a chair. Isn’t there a tinge of self-irony and amusement in that observation?
You’re a beanbag chair sitting on a chair. Lol!
Tease out the feeling of mirth and allow it to grow. When you do this, it can help you step out of your own seriousness and view yourself with amusement.
See yourself as your soul sees you. If you do, you just might laugh out loud.
Laugh, not because you’re mocking yourself, but because it’s so funny how serious you are.
I remember when I worked in high tech, I was super stressed, time constrained, and angry most of the time with a very short fuse. One day, I was waiting for the elevator to take my boyfriend and I down from his condo.
He lived on the 25th floor. It took forever for the elevator car to arrive so I was already feeling extremely impatient. Then the car stopped on the fourth floor. Not to pick up more passengers, but to let people off the elevator.
When the doors shut, I angrily exclaimed, “Who the hell gets off on the fourth floor?”
It was such a ridiculous thing to say that I had to laugh at myself right after I said it. From that point on, riding the elevator became a source of amusement.
As you seek to find joy in life’s moments, you will find more joy. You will also move your physical body more, and you will move with more joy. As a result, you’ll embody emotions that are more in alignment with a strong and robust lymphatic system.
Without this alignment, it makes it a lot harder for your lymphatic system to do its job. If you don’t address the emotional roots of disease in the body, it’s harder to restore balance and harmony, which makes it harder for your body to heal.
Every disease and discomfort in the body is a message from your heart and soul to draw attention to areas of your life that need to change.
Change is hard, but having walked this journey myself, I can unequivocally say that NOT changing is harder.
So if you’ve been struggling with a sluggish lymphatic system, consider looking at where you’re feeling stuck in life. Where are you not feeling movement? Where are you lacking joy? What changes could you make that would be more loving and joyful for yourself?
Chinese Medicine Perspective on Love and Joy
If you need just a touch more convincing about how valuable it is to focus on love and joy, let’s look at things from a Chinese Medicine perspective. First, let’s look at toxins. In Chinese Medicine, if there is an insufficient flow of qi (life force energy), then toxins can accumulate in the body.
Qi is the life force energy that moves the physical substances in your body. This includes everything from blood and food to air and lymph. When toxins accumulate, this can lead to various physical ailments from infections and tumors, to dizziness and mood disorders, and many other ailments.
In order to be healthy, qi needs to flow smoothly and abundantly throughout your body. Qi has similarities to lymph and blood, in that it flows through a network of energy meridians throughout your body.
The ancient Chinese identified and mapped these energy meridians in the body. There are 12 primary meridians, and each is associated with a different organ. Interestingly, the Heart and Pericardium meridians are the two meridians that run closest to the armpit area where there are large concentrations of lymph nodes.
These two meridians also run across the chest. They’re just below two large ducts located beneath your collarbone: the thoracic duct and the right lymphatic duct. These ducts are where lymph drains out of the lymphatic system and is returned to the bloodstream.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. In Chinese Medicine, the Heart and Pericardium are associated with the emotion of joy. We also commonly associate the heart with where we feel love.
And thus, it comes around full circle to what Louise Hay said about the connection between lymphatic problems being a sign that the mind needs to re-center on what’s important in life: love and joy.
How to Refocus on Love and Joy
If you want to boost your lymphatic system through the mind-body connection, an attitude adjustment is necessary to refocus your mind on love and joy.
Sometimes this isn’t the easiest thing to do because it requires self-reflection and honesty. But speaking from personal experience, it’s much easier to do the self-reflection and change your life, than it is to continue struggling. When you look at the emotional roots, and make changes to address them, it’s amazing how quickly your body can respond.
I once had a client, back in the day when I used to see clients in person, who had an extraordinarily sensitive Heart reflexology point. The more sensitive a point is on the foot, the greater the energy imbalance in the associated organ. While he didn’t have any physical issues with his heart, the level of sensitivity on his foot indicated an imbalance at the energy level—and a substantial one.
Since qi helps everything function smoothly in the body, if energy imbalances are not addressed, they can manifest into physical issues. That’s why you want to address them early and Chinese foot reflexology enables you to spot things at the energy level before they show up in the physical body.
Typically, when a point is as sensitive as it was on this client’s foot, it would take at least a couple of months of consistent reflexology sessions twice a week to see a significant reduction in the sensitivity level.
At that time, I was beginning to incorporate Dragon Spirit meditations into my sessions. Basically, I would clear my mind, connect to the Universe, and share whatever wisdom came through. It’s like I’m a vibrational tuning fork for helping people open up to their connection to the Universe so that they can see themselves with the higher perspective of their soul’s eyes.
During the meditation, I guide people into what I call, the Dragon Spirit space. This is when your mind is quiet and you’re most connected to the Universe. As a result, it’s much easier for you to hear the messages from your heart and soul.
In the Dragon Spirit space, the client realized that he was carrying a lot of pain from childhood, when he was heavily criticized by his mother. Being able to see this emotional root from his soul’s perspective, he was able to clear and release this pain.
Guess what happened to the sensitivity of his Heart reflexology point?
The next time I saw him, the sensitivity was significantly lower. Unbelievably lower. It should have taken weeks for that reduction, but it happened very quickly when he cleared the emotional roots.
That’s why I incorporate Dragon Spirit meditations into the online programs that I teach. While I haven’t written much about the mind-body and soul connection in my website articles (it’s probably a whole other article to explain this evolution), I’m starting now. It’s never too late to get started!
I also have a podcast episode that I recorded a couple of years ago, and I would recommend listening to it if you’d like to refocus on joy. The podcast is aptly titled, Return to Joy. Have a listen, and re-center on what’s important in life: love and joy.