Wake Up Your Immune System

As I learn more about how the body works, I’m reminded of the miracle of this creation. Scientists can produce life in the laboratory, but not without the genome from living tissue. Are they ever going to get it? They cannot create life — or so I think!

The lymphatic system is yet another amazing part of the body. It includes a network of conduits, glands and organs that carry a clear fluid called lymph. One of its many functions is to work alongside the immune system where the flow of lymph transports immune cells to stimulate an immune response. Swollen glands in the neck and bone marrow transplants as a treatment for cancer are examples of the lymphatic system at work. Lymph circulates from the neck to the feet, running down the arms to the back of the hands, down along the spine, and out to the armpits, groins and down the legs. Cells called lymphocytes transport nutrients to lymph nodes as well as aid in expelling toxins.

We can keep this system healthy by doing specific exercises to stimulate and supply it with oxygen. I’ve been doing these easy daily exercises for about a year, and when I get bored with repetition, I start a different exercise. With all of the exercises, do them at your own pace, let your body tell you how long to do them and at what intensity. Make yourself conscious of your breathing while exercising; this will enhance your awareness.

The simplest one is standing with feet comfortably apart and knees slightly bent. Bounce the core of your body with a quick, slight up and down motion. Let the head and neck relax and you’ll feel the neck area jiggling. This short, quick bounce really works those glands in the neck and more subtly at the core of the body.

The more sophisticated version of this exercise is jumping on a trampoline. With the trampoline, the impact on the joints is minimal. Starting off slow gives you the feel of how gravity works your body. You can get creative with your steps on the trampoline: jump with both feet touching the equipment at the same time or alternate your legs like a run. Do this at the speed most comfortable for you. If you’re coordinated, you can do a twist dance and let your hips turn one way and your arms the opposite. Have fun using music and see what your body likes.

Using a natural bristle brush, skin brushing has a wonderful communication with the lymph glands. This is something I do before a sauna and my tests show that I detoxify more because I perspire more. Always brush in a single direction towards the heart. Do not do a back and forth motion. Start at the bottom of the feet and brush upwards about three or four strokes in one area and work up covering a comfortable length of about twelve inches at a time. Finish the legs at the groin area and concentrate a good brushing there. When you finish the legs, do the same with the arms, starting at the hands. Then, go to the core of the body. Brush up from the hip area up to the heart level around the whole body. Then brush down from the neck to the heart area and finish with a thorough brushing of the armpits. This is a good “waker-upper!”

A direct quick massage at three lymph gland sites is another exercise that will get you moving. While standing, work one side of the groin at a time by pulling up over the inside top of the thigh with a brushing motion up to the hip. Use your right hand on the right groin, left hand on the left groin. Pull firmly up towards the hip. Push your opposite hip out in order to access the inside groin area. Do this with a quick rhythmic motion from 10 to 20 times each side. Next is the armpit. Raise one arm up along the ear with elbow bent back and briskly but firmly stroke up from just under your armpit towards the elbow for 10 to 20 times each side. The third area is the back of the neck. Alternate with both arms. With the arms raised along the ear and elbow bent back, reach with your hand to the middle of the spine to the lowest point you can go. Briskly stroke up into the back of your neck for ten strokes.

At the end of these exercises, finish off with a visualization exercise. Put your index and second finger together straight up front of you. Hold your ring and pinky finger down with your thumb. Place the tips of your fingers under your chin and imagine gold light going through those fingers to your throat and head. Relax.

As we’ve become more sedate and confined, the need for exercise increases. Exercise delivers oxygen to all the cells of the body and tones the tissues to freely circulate fluids. A healthy lymphatic system suppresses the start or spread of cancer and helps us fight infection better. Nutrition is important, too. Social connections also boost the immune system, but that’s another topic.

Mary Shaffer is a freelance writer and elder living self-sufficiently, sensibly and sustainably. Her approach to health care is self-care first and when help is needed search out more than one discipline. “I’m not a scientist nor have I studied medicine, but my years of research and healthy lifestyle have garnered me a great storehouse of practical information about healthy living on a budget.” Mary can be reached at 413-339-4342.