In the world of immunity the lymphatic system plays a major role! It helps the body detox. Carries away waste and fluids preventing a build up and also traps microorganisms and delivers them to organs and nodes that contain macrophages which are special cells that destroy invaders. Not only that but the lymphatic fluid itself has lymphocytes, monocytes and even antibody producing cells. The Lymphatic system is one of your body’s first lines of defense against illness. This makes it an important part of your immune system! So, caring for your lymphatic system is sure to bolster your immune system as well!
How the Lymphatic System Works
the most familiar part of the lymphatic system is probably lymph nodes. Most people at some time or another have likely had a swollen lymph node during, prior to or after an illness or infection. This is essentially caused by an increase in microorganisms being collected and destroyed in the node. But, how are these microorganisms delivered to the nodes in the first place? Well, they arrive via a complex series of vessels throughout the body. This collection of vessels can be imagined as similar to the veins, arteries and capillaries of the cardiovascular system.
How do the Cardiovasular and Lymphatic Systems Differ?
These systems have one very distinct difference, which is that the cardiovascular system has a pump and the lymphatic does not.
We are all very familiar with the heart and it’s role in pumping blood through the body. So, it’s very clear how this fluid gets around. But, how does lymphatic fluid ciruclate in the body? How does the lymphatic system deliver microorganisms to the organs and nodes that destroy them? Well, those are excellent questions!
The lymphatic system is reliant on muscles and joints to move it against gravity. This is one of many reasons why exercise and movement are so important to your health. But there is something else you can do to improve lymphatic circulation and thereby bolster your immune system!
Manual Circulation Stimulation
What did you just read??? This sounds very daunting and like a medical professional should be involved! Actually, this is a term I’ve coined to summarize the process of using tools or massage to improve lymphatic circulation.
Part of why massage is scientifically proven to be so beneficial to our health is because it helps to stimulate blood and lymph circulation. Not many of us have the time or money to get massages daily (or even weekly… though if you do, you should). So, what are we to do? Well… we can and should take up body brushing!
What is Body Brushing
Body brushing is the process of rubbing a natural bristled brush over your body. Both the brush and your skin should be dry. This is often alternatively referred to as dry brushing. It is recommended twice a week to daily depending on tolerance and should be done in the morning. It’s typically considered too invigorating and stimulating to be done before bed.
How to Body Brush
Body brushing should always be done by brushing towards the heart. Many people like to use long strokes from the extremities inward and generally finish the brushing process within about 5 min. I personally use a slightly different technique. I typically brush in smaller strokes starting at the heart and going toward the heart and then finish with long strokes from the extremities inward. This is because I was taught to perform massage and especially lymphatic massage using this technique. And, I apply the same principle to body brushing.
Preventing a “traffic jam”
Essentially I am assuming that there may be blockage somewhere along the way and I need to clear it before creating a traffic jam. This analogy might help you understand the process.
Imagine that you see a traffic back up… do you bring the vehicles from furthest away to the back up or do you clear the back up first. Obviously, you clear the back up first.
The concept of body brushing being beneficial is based on the idea that it aids circulation and lymphatic flow but if you are struggling with detox or lymphatic drainage you are likely to have a back up somewhere and clearing it first may help. This is why I use the shorter toward the heart strokes first and work my way out. When I get to my hands and feet I use long strokes toward my heart to completely clear the way and return blood and lymphatic flow. If you choose to practice body brushing using this technique do not skip these long strokes. This technique takes about 15 minutes.
Long stroke brushing
If you are more comfortable or time doesn’t allow, you can skip the shorter strokes and just do the longer strokes from the feet to the heart, hands to the heart and face to the heart. Most who use this technique use clockwise circles on the stomach, chest and underarms. Remember it is essentially brushing from every part of your body toward your heart. This would only take about 5 minutes.
If you body brush daily or a couple times a week you could alternate between the two techniques. This may help alleviate boredom. Body brushing feels great to most people but it can be tedious.
Often people shower after body brushing. Since I brush every day and don’t shower every day this isn’t part of my routine but I do moisturize as needed with a natural or homemade moisturizer. Do not body brush after showering. Your skin will be too damp.
Firmness and Pressure
You might want to play around with how firm you want the bristles on your brush to be. I love this brush set because it offers so much variety! Often when people first start out they find that they prefer a softer bristle brush and move up to a more firm brush. You may also have a preference as to style. I use both a handheld and long handle brush. But, many people prefer to only use a long handle brush. This can make it easier to reach your back and feet and can also help to distribute the pressure better.
You don’t want to apply so much pressure that it is painful. Body brushing should feel pleasant and should not sting or hurt in any way. You typically want to go over the same spot 5 – 10 times. You don’t want that last time to hurt!
What to expect
You can expect that your skin will peel a little bit and might be pink when you body brush. You shouldn’t experience redness, pain or soreness. Though when I first started my arms were a bit tired from the repetitive motion. If you do experience discomfort you may need a softer brush or touch (you may be brushing to vigorously). It is also possible that your skin may be too sensitive for brushing. Don’t brush if you have a skin condition, rash or cut (I have found that bruises tend to heal faster with brushing but be cautious with pressure). You may also notice that your skin needs more moisturizing. Use a natural or homemade moisturizer.
Are the Benefits Proven?
You will surely see many articles and posts claiming that body brushing has a whole array of benefits. People claim improvements in everything from circulation to energy levels to digestion. Not to mention the obvious skin tone and texture improvements. The truth is that body brushing hasn’t been extensively studied, but has been long practiced in Ayervetic Medicine. A lot of the stated benefits are anecdotal. And some are the result of correlating brushing with massage (which has been studied more extensively).
Is There a Down Side?
That being said, there really isn’t a down side to trying out body brushing. Worst case scenario your skin will be to sensitive to do it or you won’t see any benefit. If you have a medical condition like peripheral neuropathy (diabetes) or lymph-edema you should definitely discuss brushing with your doctor. And truth is, even without one of these conditions you might want to consult with a physician or pharmacist before starting any new health or wellness regimen. Barring any contraindications or health conditions, brushing is safe for most people and worth a try!
Start Body Brushing to Bolster Your Immune System
This technique is quick and simple and very low cost. It pays off with benefits to the cardiovascular system, improving the appearance of skin and increased lymphatic flow. It’s a great addition to any morning routine since it not only helps to bolster the immune system but is also invigorating! What are you waiting for? Get yourself some brushes and put this amazing habit into your schedule!
This is a “those who care, share” post! Who doesn’t want to pass along this valuable information to help those they love stay healthy?