Cancer and the lymphatic system have a pretty interesting relationship. The lymphatic system runs parallel to the circulatory system. Unlike blood, there is no pump to circulate lymph; it flows through the body via muscle movement.
Lymph is a clear, fatty fluid produced by blood marrow, organs, and glands that moves throughout the body, carrying nutrients and removing waste that are too big to move through veins. The system is comprised of lymph nodes, vessels, and lymphoid tissues. The gut is the body’s lymph storehouse, containing 80% of our immune cells in lymphatic tissue (1).
Cancer And The Lymphatic System
Lymph moves through the body and is filtered in the nodes. Lymphocytes in the nodes kill abnormal cells (cancer), viruses, and harmful bacteria. The liquid then transports the waste to the liver and kidneys for detoxification and subsequent removal through the excretory system.
Any intruders that the lymphatic system doesn’t recognize (e.g., toxic chemicals and pollutants) go along for the ride and are carried throughout the body, including in the blood and organs. This is why cancer tests include a lymph biopsy: if cancerous cells are prevalent in lymph, it’s a sign that they exist in the organs as well. What the immune system (of which lymph is a huge part) can’t kill is transported and makes its way through the lymphatic system—this is how cancer can spread.
Symptoms of a sluggish lymphatic system include:
- Brain fog
- Breast swelling or soreness during menstruation
- Cold hands and feet (poor circulation)
- Dry or itchy skin
- Leg discoloration
- Morning stiffness or soreness
- Swollen fingers
Keeping Your System Flowing
We can see then how important it is to keep lymph flowing freely, to prevent toxins and cancerous cells from settling in any one place to take hold and proliferate. Here’s what you can do to reset your system.
Regular exercise helps keep everything in the body working properly: We simply aren’t meant to be sedentary. Muscle movement, strength and tone are important to move lymph. Studies show that exercise increases lymph flow 2-3 times that of when at rest.
Gravity is a useful force with any liquid and bouts of zero gravity help to drain lymph. Not all of us live near an amusement park to ride a roller coaster so gentle jumping on a trampoline—called “rebounding”—is one of the best ways to improve lymph flow. It’s low impact and you can do it at home. Two minutes at a time 3-10 times a day does wonders for circulation.
Placing your body or parts thereof in an upside-down or inverted position allows gravity to pull in the direction opposite of the normal upright, thereby pulling lymph through nodes and toward the heart. An inversion table is ideal for this. Some yoga positions are extremely beneficial for this purpose as well. You can find photos and instructions for some poses here.