Clearing the Lymphatic System of Cellular Waste, Toxins, and Other Symptom-Causing Debris

by Dr. Susan Tanner, MD

We often discuss body fluids, focusing on blood, or urine, or even cerebrospinal fluid, but may neglect giving proper attention to lymph.  The word “lymph” comes from the Latin word for “water”.  Indeed, lymph is watery, practically clear, but has a great deal more importance in human function than perhaps we give it credit for.

What is Lymph?

I actually quite like the description of lymph given by Wikipedia. Here is a shortened version:

“Lymph, the fluid that flows through the lymphatic system, a system composed of lymph vessels (channels) and intervening lymph nodes whose function, like the venous system, is to return fluid from the tissues to be recirculated. At the origin of the fluid-return process, interstitial fluid—the fluid between the cells in all body tissues—enters the lymph capillaries. This lymphatic fluid is then transported via progressively larger lymphatic vessels through lymph nodes, where substances are removed by tissue lymphocytes and circulating lymphocytes are added to the fluid, before emptying ultimately into the right or the left subclavian vein, where it mixes with central venous blood.

Because it is derived from interstitial fluid, with which blood and surrounding cells continually exchange substances, lymph undergoes continual change in composition. It is generally similar to blood plasma, which is the fluid component of blood. Lymph returns proteins and excess interstitial fluid to the bloodstream. Lymph also transports fats from the digestive system to the blood.

Bacteria may enter the lymph channels and be transported to lymph nodes, where the bacteria are destroyed. Metastatic cancer cells can also be transported via lymph.”

Put in simpler terms and for visual impact, this watery fluid exists to flush into and around all areas and organs of the body bringing in white blood cells to address infection while also carrying away toxins and end products of cellular metabolism to then dump into the venous blood to be released from the body through breath, urine, sweat, and feces.  This is a constant and ongoing irrigation process.

Understanding this then, we can see how this lymph fluid and mechanism is so important to address in patients who have been made ill by mold and mycotoxins as well as any other toxin accumulation, infection, or even cancer.  When there is stagnation in the lymphatic tree, then its job is greatly impaired and overall body detoxification and healing is impacted. In other words, the “bad stuff” is not moving out of the body as it should be and illness or disease can follow.

Stagnant Lymph

What causes stagnant lymph?  There are several ways that this can happen.  One is from disruption to the system itself; an example being after surgery removing lymph nodes under the arms when treating breast cancer.  This sort of lymph disruption may induce pooling of lymph into the arms and subsequent swelling.  The medical term for this is lymphedema.  Similarly, excessive pressure from weight or any infectious or malignant process in the abdomen may cause pressure on the lower body lymphatic system resulting in leg swelling.

Another way in which lymph may become stagnant is through excessive toxicity, infection, or inflammation.  The lymph vessels themselves become clogged and congested and are unable to efficiently pass the lymph along into the body and the transfer of byproducts into the venous system may become compromised.  This stagnation is not always associated with lymphedema; thus, lymph is not always considered when evaluating detoxification strategies.  While it is true that removing toxins in the other routes that we have discussed in previous articles, namely liver and kidneys, will help lift some of the burden from the lymphatic system, enabling it to work better, working directly with lymph certainly can also help the efforts in lowering the total body load.

Getting Lymph Flowing

There are several methods of reducing lymphatic stagnation, and they may be used in combination or one at a time.  Typically, these are gentle in nature and may achieve very good results.

Homeopathic lymphatic drainage:  This is done usually with homeopathic drops and can be quite powerful.  There is stimulation to the lymph channels to open and drain and is often a great first step in an overall detox effort or plan.  There are many brands of these on the market; One that I like and have seen do quite well in most patients is Lymph-Tone 1, 2 or 3 by Energetix. CellTropin by Micro Balance Health Products is also helpful for lymph as it promotes circulation, hormone production, and may also relieve symptoms of fatigue and heaviness–signs of stagnant lymph! Additionally, homeopathic formulas that promote immune system efficiency, like Sinus Defense 2.0, also help the lymphatic system to function at its best as their use help strengthen and rid the body of viruses, infections, and toxins that bog lymph down and cause it to become sluggish and less detoxifying.

Lymphatic massage: This is typically done by a licensed massage therapist who can gently massage over the lymph canals and encourage emptying of the lymph nodes.  Typically, more is seen by massage over the deeper nodes of the abdomen than the more superficial ones that we can all feel in the neck and underarm regions.  A good therapist has a systemic approach to doing this and usually starts top and works down. Combining lymphatic massage with sauna therapy is an excellent detox protocol, as sauna bathing after massage helps sweat out even more toxins. There are medical devices, both vibratory and laser, which are also effective at stimulating lymph flow.

Compression: Once the lymphatic system has been damaged by physical trauma, such as surgery, then compression is about the only thing that helps with lymphedema.  Lymphedema of this sort may or may not be associated with the other toxicities, so compression sleeves, socks, or tights are often used to promote circulation.

The Benefits of Addressing Lymph

The benefits of addressing lymphatics in general detoxification are quite remarkable.  Most patients report feeling lighter, more energetic and improved overall in their sensitivities and chronic health issues when lymph is circulating properly.  Whether I begin with this or add to a treatment protocol, it is not done continually.  Generally, 4-6 weeks maximum is enough to get things flowing and allow other biochemical mechanisms to work better, unless a structural problem is being addressed. I will add that lymphatic treatment is not done by itself, but really must be combined with enhancements to liver and kidney detoxification strategies to truly reduce the body load!

Questions? Comments? Please write to us below or email us at