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.
Numerous women end up with with tired, swollen legs and ankles, tightness in their breasts and some of you may have also experienced a protruding gut during menopause. You may not know that these concerns might also be to do with the changes that occur to your liver and your lymph vessels as you lose oestrogen with age.
Swelling of tissues can cause many women distress during menopause and any distension or oedema (tissue swelling) must be checked out with your Doctor. It is called Lymphedema and if the swelling occurs in the abdominal cavity, this is called ascites. Both situations require you to see your Doctor, so please do this, because there may be an un-natural build-up of tissue fluids because of impaired lymphatic drainage and you might need to see a Lymphatic Drainage Specialist too.
Did you know that your LIVER is the largest lymph-producing organ?
The term ‘Lymph’ is derived from the Latin word ‘lympha’ which means ‘water’. It is the fluid (like plasma) which flows through your lymphatic system, helping to remove toxins from your blood back to the general circulation. The lymphatic system comprises a network of vessels and lymph-nodes that function to return fluid from the tissues to the central circulation. A well-functioning lymphatic system is needed to restore fluid balance and to clear toxins. It is a very important part of your immune system. In a time of huge global concern about our resistance to the virus, we all know that managing and improving our immune health is imperative.
Most of you may not know that your liver produces a large amount of lymph. This is estimated to be 25 to 50% of lymph flowing through the thoracic duct. That’s why the health of your liver matters to your immune system. But it matters even more to your weight loss if you are overweight. I can’t emphasise this enough and I have a big focus on your liver and your lymphatic health in the MyMT™ Transform Me programme (the video is below).
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 women on my programmes, such as 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’), 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, bloating, larger limbs, tingling and yes, we find it harder to shift our weight 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 for our health as we age.
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. If you feel swollen and overweight, then start with reducing animal fats in your diet and have healthier plant fats instead. These help with reducing inflammation.
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 why, for the month of January, 2021, you can select the option to also come onto the Rebuild My Fitness programme as well as the Transform Me programme. Inside the exercise programme, you will find New Zealand Exercise Professional, Darryl Goad, whom I used to teach with and he will guide you through simple aerobic movements that you can do in your home. Women from around the world love the workouts!
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. 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.
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 2020, (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 you move through menopause.
With my January SALE now underway with the bonus option of purchasing Rebuild My Fitness with it, I hope you can join me – I explain it in my video below. Pricing and more information is HERE.
Please join me when you can on any of my 12 week online programmes. Throughout January, don’t forget that the MyMT Transform Me weight loss programme has savings of NZ$100. You can also ‘bundle’ this up with my 12 week exercise programme called ‘Rebuild My Fitness’ giving you amazing savings of NZ$300. I know it’s been a tough year for many of you, so the details and prices for different currencies are in the link below. The promo code is JANUARY21 to access your savings, but please learn more by clicking on the link below.
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 at this important stage of life.
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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