Lymph drainage, digestion and dry brushing

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 “If you lightly graze your skin, or brush it…. this is a gentle enough touch to encourage your lymphatic system to move fluids along under the skin, preforming drainage. The system responds very well to a light, massaging touch.”

Amy Florian is a daturopathic doctor (ND), based in Kentville. She refers to ‘Dry Brushing’ – a very gentle technique which helps move lymphatic fluids through our bodies, for the purposes of detoxification.

In our bodies, blockages and congestion can interrupt the natural flow and drainage of lymph fluid. This fluid buildup can lead to swelling. For example, the most common cause of leg swelling is edema – when all, or part of a limb, may expand due to an increase in muscle tissue, fat, or blood. Edema develops when the rate of lymph formation exceeds lymphatic drainage.

“We always brush upwards, towards the heart. When focusing on the legs, we [start at the foot] and would brush gently up the leg, repeatedly. This works for any area of the body where fluid tends to build. If someone swells in the wrists – because they are on the computer all day – then focus the upward sweep from there. Brush repeatedly from the wrist, gently up the arms to the heart.”

Encouraging circulation in our bodies promotes better health. Florian says that dry brushing can be beneficial for many conditions.

“A lot of women will use dry brushing on their breasts, if they have hyper-cystic, or ‘fibrocystic’ breasts [a noncancerous condition in which the breasts feel lumpy] and definitely people who have leg or extremity swelling. A lot of NDs will include the dry brushing technique in a detox program, or regime. Anyone can benefit from this kind of massage to improve circulation.”

The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph – a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body.

Dry Brushing and similar forms of soft massage, encourage the movement of lymph fluids around the body – helping to remove waste and toxins from bodily tissue. Our lymphatic system is directly connected to our immune system; therefore, this sort of simple massage could potentially create a ripple effect. We could see a variety of benefits throughout our collective body systems.

Florian says the best brushes to use are ones with very fine bristles.

“The ones that are typically sold with the long handle and are meant to scrub your back in the bathtub – those old school brushes. Use that brush, post-bath or shower, when your body is nice and warm; it’s the best way to move lymph fluid.”

Florian says the Dry Brushing technique can also be helpful for individuals with digestiveissues, encouraging the passage of food matter through the large intestine.

“In terms of digestion, it’s a similar process to the one you use for the rest of the body.  You ultimately brush towards the heart; but you can also brush in a circular motion, around your [large intestine] colon. If you think of a box around your lower umbilical [navel] area, you think of brushing up and around, in a clock-wise motion – following the circular direction of the colon.”

In addition – for someone looking to aid digestion through massage – Florian suggests an easy abdominal rub, using castor oil.

To promote digestion – they can rub castor oil on the stomach and massage in the same clock-wise motion, around the abdomen, following the direction of the intestinal tract. Castor Oil is a deeply penetrating, warming oil which relieves inflammation. A lot of oils will just sit topically, but there is a medicinal compound in castor oil that is absorbed through the skin and is also very anti-inflammatory and relaxing.”