"There’s a great deal of evidence out there to suggest a well functioning lymphatic system can help reduce the dreaded side effects of menopause, with lymphatic massage being the one complementary treatment that can deliver significant improvement."
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The link between lymph and the menopause
Menopause is a normal part of the ageing process and with it comes some unpleasant side effects such as hot flushes, insomnia, depression, headaches, bloating and weight gain. Though not officially reported as a common symptom, dig a little deeper in menopause discussion and support groups online and you’ll find a surprising number of women reporting swollen lymph nodes as a common sign of the start of perimenopause or the menopause.
But is there really a link between the lymphatic system and our hormones? In our latest blog we shed a little light on how the lymphatic system plays a critical role in female hormonal balance and how lymphatic massage can help those experiencing menopause.
You may have been reading an increasing number of articles of late on the latest buzzword in beauty: lymphatic drainage. If you’re sceptical as to whether one treatment can really do everything from boosting your immunity, to reducing stress, the appearance of cellulite, improving skin tone, aiding better digestion, alleviating bloating and promoting better sleep, you shouldn’t be.
According to Ginger Nash – a lecturer and practitioner in Naturopathic Medicine and expert in the field of women’s health and hormone balance, the lymphatic system is absolutely critical in treating almost every single chronic health issue including hormonal health.
The science bit – What is the lymphatic system and how does it work?
Your lymphatic system is a vast circulatory system that interfaces with the blood vessels to carry away fluid and waste proteins from the interstitial space or extracellular matrix (ECM) – in essence the area between your cells. It’s a very complex, finely balanced network of vessels, tissues and organs.
Like the circulatory system that supplies your blood, the network of lymph vessels serves almost every cell in your entire body. As our heart pumps blood through our circulation, it then reaches the smaller blood vessels and some of the fluid seeps out through tiny capillaries into the body’s tissues. The lymphatic system collects and transports this fluid (now called lymph) from the tissues to return it to the bloodstream.
This system is vital for maintaining fluid balance, and protecting our bodies as it forms part of the immune system (producing lymphocytes or white blood cells to fight infection), removing waste products and abnormal cells, and absorbing fats and proteins from the intestines and taking them back into our blood so we can use them as fuel. All hormones, nutrients and waste products going to and from the cells must pass through the interstitial or extracellular matrix.
If a healthy lymphatic system becomes compromised due to illness, poor lifestyle, toxic overload or a hormonal imbalance this can lead to a range of issues, including tissue swelling, poor skin tone, excess weight, cellulite, headaches, joint pain, fatigue and greater susceptibility to illness.
While your heart sits at the centre of your cardiovascular system, your lymphatic system has no central pump. Instead it relies on muscle movement, deep breathing and, sometimes, manual manipulation, or a lymphatic drainage machine like Body Ballancer® to move the fluid.
The lymphatic link to our hormones
In a recent article, ‘How Hormones impact your lymph’ Legology’s Kate Shapland explained the integral link between lymphatic health and hormones. According to Kate: “When it comes to hormones the main type of imbalance in modern women is what naturopaths commonly call ‘estrogen dominance’. Due to the inability of healthy gut flora to facilitate the removal of excess oestrogen, levels of xenoestrogens found in foods and plastics, and other endocrine disruptors, and the overuse of oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy (HRT), most women have too much oestrogen stimulation relative to progesterone. Oestrogen and progesterone work so closely together that it’s imperative that they stay in balance.
In fact, the majority of struggles with hormonal imbalances affecting both the female brain and body may be associated with oestrogen dominance. This includes everything from fibroids and fibrocystic breasts to heavy and painful periods, hormonal headaches, premenstrual syndrome and irregular cycles.
What’s fascinating about the interface of lymph and these two hormones is that lymphatic fluid is highly non-polar, so attracted to more fatty substances while avoiding more polar substances. Oestrogen is more polar than progesterone, which means that the lymphatics ‘attract’ progesterone more easily. In addition, this may be why topical application of progesterone, where the lymph vessels are superficially located, may result in higher than normal levels reaching the tissues. Research by a compounding pharmacy in 2014 drew exactly this conclusion about the delivery of topical progesterone.
In short, the health of a woman’s lymphatic system will have a direct impact on her ability to move progesterone around the body. Because progesterone is so critical to hormone balance, it may be more important than ever for our lymph to be moving freely, serving as a delivery system for progesterone, to balance out oestrogen.”
So how can lymphatic massage help women experiencing the menopause?
There’s a great deal of evidence out there to suggest a well functioning lymphatic system can help reduce the dreaded side effects of menopause, with lymphatic massage being the one complementary treatment that can deliver significant improvement. A 2017 study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science reported the effects of lymphatic drainage on women experiencing typical menopausal symptoms including water retention, mood swings, insomnia and fatigue found that after just a single lymphatic massage the stress-related hormones cortisol and DHEA were significantly reduced with positive mental and physical effects being reported with comments from participants being “i feel better” and “my legs feel lighter.
Lymphatic massage administered both manually, or via a Body Ballancer® has a number of proven benefits including a reduction in swelling and puffiness caused by water retention, improved body shape, aids weight management, and a reduction in the appearance of cellulite and improved skin tone. It is also known to improve digestion, resulting in feeling lighter and less bloated, and aid better sleep. What’s more, the gentle rhythmic action of a Body Ballancer® lymphatic drainage massage will not only assist in reducing the level of stress inducing hormones, but also helps eliminate their waste products – free radicals, which have been implicated in premature aging.
Other benefits include improved immune function, gut health and blood circulation, all of which are known to adversely impact the aging process.
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