The lymphatic system is a vital component of your body's defence mechanism. It consists of an intricate network of tiny vessels known as lymphatic capillaries that weave through nearly every tissue in your body. This system is responsible for recovering excess tissue fluid and clearing toxins, microbes, and other threats.

Lymphatic tissue is widely present in the digestive and respiratory systems and is critical because those systems are in direct contact with the external environment. When disease agents are detected, the immune cells of the lymphatic system spring into action to protect your health. Interestingly, the lymphatic system also returns lost proteins back to the blood.

If you have a dysfunctional lymphatic system, you may experience headaches, brain fog, water retention (i.e., swollen limbs), abdominal heaviness or bloating and recurrent colds or infections. Studies have even recognised the role of lymphatics in the development of arthritis and pointed out how lymphatic function stimulation attenuates the severity of joint tissue lesions [1,5].

Various natural methods can stimulate your lymphatic system and enhance its proper functioning. This article covers the recommended strategies to promote good lymphatic flow.

Woman running


Engaging in a regular exercise program can work wonders for your lymphatic system. It increases lymph function through processes like promoting the formation of new lymphatic vessels and increasing lymph flow. This helps improve the clearance of waste products and maintain the integrity of your cells, ultimately leading to enhanced physical performance and well-being [4].

Any exercise can cause an increase in lymph flow; studies have pointed out the beneficial effect after the eighth step of a walk. So don't worry if you don't have much time to exercise; even 10 minutes will make a difference [9].

Breathing exercises


While all types of exercise can improve your lymphatic flow, relaxing practices such as yoga and diaphragmatic breathing exercises have been highlighted for their lymphatic benefits as they encourage lymph movement. This is achieved by increasing muscle tone and activating articular pumps, effectively reducing inflammation. Controlled breathing, combined with specific muscle contractions, can create pressure differences in your abdomen and thoracic regions, facilitating lymph flow into the venous system. Breathing techniques like Bhastrika are particularly effective in maximising lymphatic emptying [6,7].
Woman getting massage


Manual massages consist of slow, repetitive hand movements during massage therapy to stimulate lymphatic flow and drainage in affected areas—where swelling or clogged fluid is present. These gentle massage techniques may also include firmer movements, often starting at the neck and trunk and moving gradually to the limbs in segments, following the direction of lymphatic flow. Massage therapy can help improve lymphatic function and promote better overall health. A deep knowledge of lymphatic anatomy is necessary to perform this technique successfully [10].

On the other hand, the self-care and beauty gurus have turned Gua-sha and Jade Rollers into a popular trend as they have been found to enhance lymph flow, resulting in clearer and de-puffed skin. Gua-sha, in particular, increases both blood and lymphatic flow. Additionally, a short (5-minute) session of facial massaging with a Jade Roller can have the same effects and improve vascular dilatation in the long run. These techniques may even have anti-ageing effects when performed correctly [3].

Woman getting acupuncture


Interestingly, acupuncture, a fundamental practice in traditional Chinese medicine, may have a connection to the lymphatic system. Acupoints are specific areas on the body that practitioners stimulate to promote the flow of 'qi' – a concept believed to be an energy flow within the body's meridian system that enhances overall health. Recent research into acupoints reveals they are often located near tissue rich in nerves, blood vessels and lymphatic vessels. This means that acupuncture has the ability to stimulate lymphatic flow and help you in your mission to promote the proper detoxification of your body [8].
Woman sleeping on bed


We already know that sleep is crucial for many reasons, and now you can add another one to the list. Sleep deprivation can adversely affect the clearance of toxins, even within the deep regions of the brain. The recovery from a whole night of sleep deprivation has been proven not to happen immediately; on the contrary, your body can take up to two days to compensate for such an event. Plus, acute sleep loss can impact cognitive functions, memory, learning, attention, and emotional reactivity. Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to an increased risk of neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer's disease, and this is why prioritising sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy lymphatic system and brain [2].
Woman doing yoga


Often overlooked yet crucial, the lymphatic system serves as your body's silent guardian. It maintains overall well-being, including joint and brain health, by clearing toxins and safeguarding health. Various methods can optimise lymphatic function, from exercise and breathing techniques to manual massage and acupuncture. Additionally, quality sleep plays a pivotal role in ensuring your lymphatic system functions efficiently, preventing toxin build-up and health issues. Prioritising lymphatic health enhances your body's defence mechanism and long-term well-being.


[1] Bouta, E. M., Li, J., Ju, Y., Brown, E. B., Ritchlin, C. T., Xing, L. and Schwarz, E. M. (201). The role of the lymphatic system in inflammatory-erosive arthritis. In Seminars in cell & developmental biology, Academic Press,38, pp. 90-97.
[2] Eide, P. K., Vinje, V., Pripp, A. H., Mardal, K. A. and Ringstad, G. (2021). Sleep deprivation impairs molecular clearance from the human brain. Brain, 144(3), pp. 863-874.
[3] Hamp, A., Anderson, J., Laughter, M. R., Anderson, J. B., Presley, C. L., Rundle, C. W., and Dellavalle, R. P. (2023). Gua‐sha, Jade Roller, and Facial Massage: Are there benefits within dermatology?. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 22(2), pp. 700-703.
[4] Khalil Mohamed, M., Yehia Bagato, A. and Ahmed Mohamed, M. (2013). Effect of Physical Training on Lymphatic System, Cell Function and Physical Fitness. Journal of Applied Sports Science, 3(3), pp. 87-93.
[5] Liang, Q., Shi, Q., Wood, R. W., Xing, L., & Wang, Y. (2015). Peri-articular lymphatic system and "Bi" theory of Chinese medicine in the pathogenesis and treatment of arthritis. Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, 21(9), pp. 648–655. doi:10.1007/s11655-015-2305-0
[6] Narahari SR, Aggithaya MG, Thernoe L, Bose KS, Ryan TJ (2016). Yoga protocol for treatment of breast cancer-related lymphedema. Int J Yoga , 9(2):145-55. doi: 10.4103/0973-6131.183713.
[7] Nilofar Pasyar, Nazanin Barshan Tashnizi, Parisa Mansouri, Sedigheh Tahmasebi. (2019).
Effect of yoga exercise on the quality of life and upper extremity volume among women with breast cancer related lymphedema: A pilot study, European Journal of Oncology Nursing,42, pp. 103-109.
[8] Schwartz, N., Chalasani, M. L. S., Li, T. M., Feng, Z., Shipman, W. D. and Lu, T. T. (2019). Lymphatic function in autoimmune diseases. Frontiers in immunology, 10, pp. 519.
[9] Tatlici, A. and Cakmakci, O. (2021). Exercise and lymphatic system. Turkish Journal of Sport and Exercise, 23(2), pp. 150-154.
[10] Thompson, B., Gaitatzis, K., Janse de Jonge, X., Blackwell, R. and Koelmeyer, L. A. (2020). Manual lymphatic drainage treatment for lymphedema: a systematic review of the literature. Journal of Cancer Survivorship. doi:10.1007/s11764-020-00928-1

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