MyMT™ Blog

Whether you are overweight or not, Menopause is the time to love your ageing lymphatic system.

Rasika was beaming. Finally, her weight was dropping and she told me she was feeling so much happier and healthier now that she was sleeping better as well. She had traveled up from London to Birmingham to see me as well as attend my live ‘Masterclass on Menopause’ (see the EVENTS page for upcoming seminars).  But most of all, she said she wanted to thank me. Because at long last, she felt like her old self again with her moods and motivation and she was sleeping all night again. When she told me that she had changed her entire routine in the morning to incorporate walking, doing my fresh juices and then adding in my specific deep breathing and stretching strategies to improve her lymphatic system, I was so happy for her. She was now on her way to better understanding how to look after herself in her 50s and how important it is to support her ageing lymphatic system.

Managing our lymphatic system and liver and gut health are key to improving our health, energy and weight as we move through menopause.

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.

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 ‘oestrogen dominance’ which I talk about in my weight loss ‘Transform Me’ programme – please watch my video below to learn more), 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.

The main thing about your lymphatic system, is that it helps you to stay healthy by: 

  1. Maintaining the rate and flow of fluids in and out of your cells.
  2. Removing the by-products of tissue metabolism. This includes the removal of lactic acid or other toxins associated with exercise.
  3. 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 they notice the rings on their hands getting tighter too.

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.

I never used to think about my lymphatic system, but now, I think of it every day. Rasika and other women on my programmes are the same. In fact in my 12 week exercise programme called, Rebuild My Fitness, this week, I’ve had an entire week of focus on this precious system on my coaching pages.

Knowing that our lymphatic system is ageing is important. As I’ve been explaining to women who have attended my live-events this week in the UK, menopause is the gateway to our ageing. As such, there are changes that are occurring all around our body – and not just saggy-skin either … I’m talking about the ‘invisible’ changes that are occurring inside us. 

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 pathogens and toxins that have myriad deleterious effects around the body. But when we understand that we need to love our lymphatic system, then we support proper circulation of fluids and crucial hormones, particularly progesterone, which helps to reduce inflammation as well as helping to maintain energy, vitality and weight loss too.

The main changes that occur in our ageing lymphatic vessels are:

  1. Loss of around 20% of their contraction strength (just like our blood vessels).
  2. Around a 70% decrease in contraction frequency.
  3. Increasing loss of lymphatic muscle cells which is linked to oxidative stress (inflammation).
  4. A reduction in the levels of proteins that regulate muscle contraction.
  5. A thinning of the lymphatic vessel walls.

As such, we need to better manage and help our lymphatic system as it gets older. This is imperative for those women who are doing lots of exercise and not sleeping …  your body isn’t recovering from all the exercise you are doing whilst your body is transitioning through menopause. I see this all the time with women who join the MyMT™ symptom reduction programmes. I also come across numerous women who are feeling bloated and overweight and despite going on diets or doing lots of exercise, their weight isn’t shifting. That’s when they learn that they need to focus on the two ‘L’ organs – the Liver and the Lymphatics. As I had to as well.

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. Which I was doing this morning with my specific stretching routine before my day became busy with travel in the UK. 

  • Get moving in the morning. When Rasika told me that she had changed her morning routine so that she was walking in London, 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. 

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.

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 women feel bloated, experience tissue swelling and feel as if their legs are aching if they are standing a lot – as mine were late last night after presenting my live-event. 

Dr Wendy Sweet, PhD/ Women’s Healthy Ageing Researcher & MyMT Coach/ Member: Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine. 

Join me when you can on any of my 12 week online programmes. 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 in menopause. If it’s weight loss you are interested in, then please watch my VIDEO below for the MyMT Transform Me programme. 

References: 

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

“If you have ever wondered if there was a clear easy plan to follow to sleep all night, reduce hot flushes and prevent or reduce your weight gain during menopause, then ‘welcome’ – you’re in the right place now.”

Discover how either of my two Menopause Transformation programmes might help you too or take my Symptoms Quiz below… 

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