Everyone has an old family secret to fighting colds & flus – from hearty chicken soup, ginger & lemon tea or copious amounts of garlic (no vampires here!). But did you know that one of the most important parts of your immune system is also the most unappreciated?
We all know your immune system is a complex system that helps protect your body against infections. It keeps are record of every germ and virus it has fought over the course of your life (so far!) in special white blood cells called ‘memory cells’. Some infections (like the flu) have to be fought over and over because there are so many different strains.
To boost your immune system and increase your resilience against infections, you need to keep all parts of your immune system ‘fighting fit’. This includes;
- White blood cells – fight microbes (bacteria, viruses, fungi & parasites)
- Antibodies – recognise chemicals on the surface of microbes which allows the white blood cells to then fight the microbe,
- Complement system – proteins which compliment the actions of the antibodies
- Spleen – blood filtering organ
- Bone marrow – produces red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets
- Thymus – filters and monitors blood content and produces a type of white blood cell called T-lymphocytes
- And… the focus for today: the Lymphatic system!
What is the lymphatic system?
The lymphatic system has some important jobs to do, including maintaining fluid levels within the body, transporting white blood cells, absorbing some dietary fats from the intestines and most importantly – removing cellular wastes and abnormal cells. It is made up of the following parts:
- Lymph nodes – (you might call these glands) trap microbes
- Lymph vessels – these are the tubes that transport the lymph fluid which contains white blood cells and cellular wastes.
- Lymph fluid – A collection of the extra fluid from cells and other tissues. The lymph fluid is made up of proteins, minerals, fats, damaged cells, cancer cells, white blood cells and microbes.
When our body is fighting off an infection be it from virus, bacteria or fungi (eg Thrush) the lymphatic system helps mobilise white blood cells to fight the infection and then transports the dead microbes to the lymph nodes where they get trapped. Infections can cause stress to your lymphatic system which can lead to fluid retention. You might see this as puffiness, clothes/jewellery fitting tighter towards the end of the day, heavy feeling in the arms and legs, body aches, body parts further away from the heart may feel cold to the touch.
How to keep your lymphatic system healthy (and improve your immunity!)
Because the lymphatic system is part of the immune system it is important to keep it as healthy as possible. Some of the ways you can keep your lymphatic system healthy are:
- Drink plenty of water 2-2.5L a day is recommended, this helps ‘flush’ the immune and lymphatic systems.
- Limit the amount of alcohol and caffeine you drink. Alcohol and caffeine cause fluid retention.
- Eat a healthy diet. Limit the amount of fats, salts and sugars you consume as these can cause fluid retention.
- Gentle exercise such as walking, swimming, pool walking/deep water running/aqua aerobics are great for stimulating the lymphatic system.
- Moisturise daily with a good quality moisturiser like QV or Cetaphil. Fractionated Coconut oil can also be used as a moisturiser. It is especially important to moisturise after swimming as both saltwater and chlorine dehydrate the skin.
- Wear clothes that are the right size. Tight fitting clothes (with the exception of compression clothing) can block lymphatic flow.
Essential oils and the immune system
Certain essential oils have antimicrobial properties. The top essential oils for the immune system are:
- Basil – antibacterial, disinfectant, antiviral, decongestant
- Bergamot – antibacterial, antifungal, disinfectant, antiseptic, anti inflammatory, anti-parasitic
- Cardamom – antibacterial, antiseptic, disinfectant, decongestant, expectorant.
- Cedarwood – antifungal, disinfectant, antiseptic, astringent
- Cinnamon – antibacterial, antifungal, disinfectant, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiparasitic, antiviral, immune stimulant.
- Clove – antibacterial, antifungal, disinfectant, antiparasitic, strong antiseptic, antiviral, immune stimulant. Eucalyptus – antibacterial, antiviral, anti-infectious, helps expel mucous
- Frankincense – antiseptic, anti-infectious, expectorant, expels mucous, immune stimulation
- Lavender – antifungal, antihistamine, anti-infectious, antimicrobial, antiseptic
- Oregano – antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, antiseptic, antiviral, immune stimulant
- Patchouli – anti-infectious, antifungal, antiseptic, decongestant
- Roman chamomile – antifungal, antibacterial, immune stimulant
- Tea tree – antibacterial, antiseptic, antiviral, antifungal, antiparasitic, decongestant, expectorant, immune stimulant
Essential oils for the lymphatic system
- Basil – decongestant, diuretic, anti inflammatory
- Cardamon – decongestant, diuretic, anti inflammatory,
- Cypress – diuretic, lymphatic decongestant
- Grapefruit – lymphatic decongestant
Essential oils are safe and highly effective when used correctly, so if you have never used them before we highly recommend attending an introduction workshop, or speaking with us about resources to learn more.
How we can help you:
- Have a Manual Lymphatic Drainage massage with one of our Remedial Massage Therapists. This is a gentle type of massage that focuses on improving lymphatic drainage. This type of massage can also help with recovery after injury or surgery.
- Have an Aromatouch Massage – the Aromatouch Massage technique uses a range of oils including On Guard, Aromatouch, Tea Tree, Lavender, Wild Orange & Peppermint to deeply relax you and aid in whole body wellness.
- Have a Vibrasaun session. The Vibrasaun uses whole body vibration and low heat to improve circulation and lymphatic drainage.
- Get treatment from our Chiropractor
- Attend a workshop to learn more about essential oils & what they can do to support your immune health everyday.