If I asked you to name the 11 organ systems of the human body, I’m sure the lymphatic system wouldn’t be the first that comes to mind. But without this system, you would fall apart because the immune system would weaken and the cardiovascular system would shut down. So you can see just how important this system is.
While the lymphatic system has a number of roles in the body, a specific one that may peak your interest is its relation to clear skin. Let’s explore how it connects to acne and what you can do to support it.
Before we dive into the relation between the lymphatic system and acne, you need to know what this system does.
The lymphatic system lies just below the skin and parallels the circulatory system throughout the entire body. It’s made up of lymphatic vessels, lymph, and lymphoid organs like the tonsils and lymph nodes, among others. While this system has many functions, here are just a few:
This organ system is one of the main components to your immune system. The lymph transports immune cells throughout the body and then the lymphatic organs keep an eye on the lymph for any pathogens that need to be destroyed. It then helps to remove products of infection, bacteria, virus, and other pathogens from the body.
The lymphatic system also helps regulate fluid balance in the body. When blood circulates through the arteries and veins, about 10 percent of the fluid gets trapped in your tissues. This loss of fluid adds up to about 2 litres per day and would be life-threatening if the lymphatic system was impaired. So a properly functioning lymphatic system collects this lost fluid and returns it to the circulatory system.
Another function of this vital system is to absorb and transport fatty acids from the digestive system. During fat digestion, fatty acids are digested, emulsified, and converted into a lipoprotein called chylomicrons. Lymph vessels in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract absorb these chylomicrons into lymph fluid. The lymph vessels then take the chylomicrons into blood circulation, where they interact with HDL cholesterols and are broken down in the liver.
On top of the above functions, the lymphatic system can also play a role in acne.
The first reason why is stagnation. Put simply, there are several lymph nodes located in the ear, jaw, and neck area. If the lymphatic system is slacking, toxin-filled lymph can build up around those lymph nodes in the ear, jaw, and neck area leading to breakouts.
A poorly functioning lymphatic system can also contribute to hormonal acne. This system carries progesterone throughout the body as well. If the lymphatic system isn’t working well, though, hormonal imbalances can occur because the progesterone will not end up where it belongs and then lead to symptoms of progesterone deficiency. This will ultimately contribute to hormonal acne because low progesterone (and therefore high estrogen levels) is one of the big causes of hormonal acne.
If you want to clear your skin for good, one of the many things you need to do is love up your lymphatic system. Here are ways you can do so:
Since the lymphatic system doesn’t have its own internal pump (like the circulatory system has the heart), it relies on manual stimulation and muscle movement to push toxins out. Exercise helps the lymphatic system with the latter. By exercising the body, you are moving your muscles by lengthening and contracting them. Find a form of exercise you enjoy, whether it’s going for a 30-minute walk after dinner or doing yoga. Jumping on a mini indoor trampoline (aka rebounding) is another great way to get the lymphatic system moving.
Turning your body upside down allows your lymphatic system to travel more easily to its drainage points, bringing nasty intruders along for the ride. Just lay on your back and prop your legs up against a wall for no longer than 12 minutes. You may feel tingling in your legs, which is totally normal given all the blood is rushing away from the extremities. Yoga inversions are also a great way to support the lymphatic system.
There are many ways you can manually move your lymph. One of the ways is dry brushing. The act of dry brushing removes dead skin cells, stimulates the lymphatic system, boosts blood circulation, and helps flush those nasty toxins.
The ideal time to dry brush is before your shower so that you can rinse off any impurities loosened by the massage. When you dry brush, you make long strokes towards the body’s main lymphatic drainage points — the breastbone, armpits, and bikini line. Remember, you don’t need to brush hard. A soft, smooth stroke is what you’re looking for because dry brushing shouldn’t be painful or irritate your skin. Click here for a step-by-step breakdown on how to dry brush.
Another option is gua sha, which is an ancient Chinese healing technique. All you need is a natural stone to massage the skin. You can watch this reel to learn how to do it.
Staying hydrated is so important for the lymphatic system. When you’re dehydrated, lymph fluid is thick and this makes it challenging to push toxins through the lymphatic system. But when you’re hydrated, lymph fluid is thin and can flow through more easily. Aim for 3L (or 12 cups) of filtered water or lymph-supportive teas per day.
There are a number of foods that can help support this organ system, such as:
This practice is great for helping to increase the circulation and clearing of our main detoxification organs: the skin, kidneys, colon, liver and lymphatic system. It involves rotating between hot and cold baths or saunas. You can easily do this at home by switching from hot water to cold water. Here’s how to do it: