When we went into lockdown and I realised that many women on my programmes weren’t able to get outside and walk much, especially those in New York, Spain and America, I called up New Zealand Exercise Professional, Darryl Goad [On facebook as ‘Channel D’]. His ‘brief’ was to produce some short videos that helped women move in a low impact way that improved their cardiovascular system and their lymphatic drainage.
I’ve know Darryl for decades and the more I observed the harder more vigorous types of exercise that prevailed on the internet during lockdown, I knew he was the person to provide a specific workout for women on my programmes who are overweight, have sore knees and need to focus on lymphatic drainage. This includes the women who are recovering from breast cancer. Lymphatic drainage is important for them too. It’s my privilege to share his 25 minute workout video with you at the bottom of this article.
The lymphatic system rarely gets mentioned in menopause weight or cardiac health management. But it should. Because during menopause, which is the gateway to our biological ageing, our lymphatic vessels are changing and this affects our weight, energy and fluid retention.
Too many women end up with tired legs, bloating in their breasts and gut as well as swollen ankles during menopause, but never get told that this is just to do with the changes that occur to our lymph vessels as we lose oestrogen and therefore, biologically age. For many women, their immunity can suffer too. In a time of huge global concern about coronoavirus and other infectious viruses, improving our immune health is imperative.
Lymphatic vessels are thin and transparent and DRAIN AWAY fluid that is pumped OUT of tissues. They congregate in nodes which sometimes get blocked. Whilst massage helps to unblock the nodes, the most important strategy to also implement is simple, low impact movements.
Managing our lymphatic system, liver and gut health are key to improving our health, energy and weight as we move through menopause and it’s something I focus women on in my ‘Transform Me’ weight loss programme. I also get them doing the right exercise that they need to facilitate toxin clearance through the lymphatic system. This isn’t intense exercise which is a change in focus for so many, like Tineke below.
What is the lymphatic system?
This precious system works very closely with your cardiovascular and nervous systems. This powerful network of tiny vessels comprising blunt-ended lymphatic capillaries, collecting lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, and the thoracic duct converges to connect with your blood system and with the exception of the retina in the eye, bone, and your brain, this spider-web of vessels, ducts and nodes are spread throughout your body. Lymphatic fluid also moves in accordance with the balance of oestrogen and progesterone. When oestrogen is higher in relation to progesterone (this is called ‘oestrogen dominance’ which I talk about in my 12 week weight loss ‘Transform Me’ programme – to view the video, please click HERE), then our lymph vessels don’t work properly. Lymphatic fluid is highly non-polar and thus attracted to more fatty substances. So, like our blood vessels, our lymphatic vessels get a bit blocked, especially when our diet isn’t conducive to menopause weight loss.
The main thing about your lymphatic system, is that it helps you to stay healthy by:
- Maintaining the rate and flow of fluids in and out of your cells.
- Removing the by-products of tissue metabolism. This includes the removal of lactic acid or other toxins associated with exercise.
- Helping our immune cells to move to areas of greatest need when you have an infection.
When the flow of lymph is impeded or blocked, then you develop oedema (tissue swelling). As such there is a build-up of toxic wastes and potential for dysregulation of the nerve synapses. For women going into or through menopause, this means that we can experience aching legs, muscles, tingling and yes, we can’t shift our weight either. For many, as Rasika did, they notice the rings on their hands getting tighter as well.
When our lymphatic system isn’t functioning well, the removal of excess proteins and wastes from the space between our cells (interstitial spaces) is affected. But this removal is an absolutely essential function, which can lead to all sorts of muscle pain and other health changes too.
Knowing that our lymphatic system is ageing is important.
An ageing lymphatic system doesn’t work as well as it used to. This means that we can build up toxins in our cells and it can’t clear excess nitrates that arrive in our body from diets that are high in fats and proteins – and yes, all animal proteins are high in fat. Think about that statement for a minute before you go on that Paleo or Keto diet. 😊
Because our lymphatic system works really closely with our nervous system, even a stressful day can affect lymphatic drainage. This is also why deep-breathing helps to stimulate the lymph vessels to do their job of removing inflammatory proteins and dangerous toxins that have myriad deleterious effects around the body. But when we understand that we need to love our lymphatic system, then we can better support proper circulation of fluids and crucial hormones, particularly progesterone. This powerful hormone helps to reduce inflammation as well as helping to maintain energy, vitality and weight loss.
The main changes that occur in our ageing lymphatic vessels are:
- Loss of around 20% of their contraction strength (just like our blood vessels).
- Around a 70% decrease in contraction frequency.
- Increasing loss of lymphatic muscle cells which is linked to oxidative stress (inflammation).
- A reduction in the levels of proteins that regulate muscle contraction.
- A thinning of the lymphatic vessel walls.
As such, we need to better manage and help our lymphatic system as it gets older. That’s why ‘Movement is Medicine’ and it’s what Darryl is going to focus you on in your workout below.
3 Things you Can Do to Help your Ageing Lymphatic System:
- Because the lymphatic vessels don’t contract as efficiently as they used to, then having increased plant sources of nitric oxide is important. You can add beetroot (beets) and celery to your diet or juice them instead.
- Learn to breathe better. I talk about breathing in all of the MyMT™ programmes and teach women the best breathing strategy to use to improve tissue oxygenation and to improve our lymphatic system in this module in the programmes.
If we are more sedentary, or we have a diet high in saturated fats and heavy in proteins or we aren’t drinking enough water and/or have had a lot of exposure to toxins over our lifetime, then yes indeed, we need to focus on our lymphatic system.
- Get moving (preferably in the morning). As part of our cardiovascular network, our lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump like the heart does. It relies on movement, massage, muscle contraction and deep breathing to function. When I met Rasika on my UK tour in early March (how long ago does that feel now?!), she told me that she had changed her morning routine so that she was walking and doing the lymphatic stretching I shared with her in the programme. I was so excited for her. It was one of the lifestyle changes that she needed to make, not only to help her ageing lymphatic system, but also to HALT her weight gain. Lymphatic drainage movement as well as sleeping all night and restoring liver health are absolutely fundamental to improved health and weight loss as we age – Rasika was finding this out too.
All hormones, nutrients and waste products going to and from the cells deep in our tissues, must pass through the interstitial or extracellular matrix. This depends on a reliable, functioning lymphatic system. If the lymphatic channels cannot remove toxins properly, no hormone, no gene, no enzyme, and no molecule is going to work optimally, and there will be deposition of waste products into the tissues. This is why many of you begin to feel bloated, experience tissue swelling and cellulite increases. As well, if your legs are aching – as mine used to, then I want you to love your lymphatic system with Darryl’s workout below. Have fun!
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It would be my privilege to help you understand that menopause is the gateway to our biological ageing and as such, we need to know how to turn around our health.
Inoue, K., Maruoka, H. (2017). Effects of simplified lymph drainage on the
body: in females with menopausal disorder. J. Phys. Ther. Sci. 29: 115–118.
Shang T., Liang J., Kapron, C. et al. (2019). Pathophysiology of aged lymphatic vessels. AGING, Vol. 11, No. 16, 1-12.
Zolla, I., Nizamutdinova T., Scharf, B. et al. (2015). Aging-related anatomical and biochemical changes in lymphatic collectors impair lymph transport, ﬂuid homeostasis, and pathogen clearance. Aging Cell, 14, 582–594