Spring Cleaning for the Body
By: Jody Valkyrie, LMBT/CRM/CLC
March is here, which means the first official day of Spring is just around the corner. It’s that time of year when many of us rouse from our winter dormancy. Temperatures become warmer and daylight lasts longer, which gives the primal parts of our brains and bodies an increase of energy and rise in ambition for productivity. So if you’re like the many of Americans who have already fallen off their own resolution wagon of “New Year, New Me,” don’t fret! January was the time for planting those seeds of intention in the figurative soil. Now is the time to allow them to start emerging from the darkness of winter, just as the crocuses of early Spring do.
Death and rebirth is a continuous cycle, and our bodies are no different. Human body cells die off in a planned, controlled process known as apoptosis and is very important to healthy human development and life. Apoptosis is a carefully executed death of a certain cell at a certain time. This ability to die on command is encoded in the human genome and that of other organisms as well. The average adult human loses between 50 and 70 billion cells each day due to apoptosis and are replaced with new cells. In 80 to 100 days, approximately 30 trillion will have replenished—nearly equating to a new you! How’s that resolution looking now? 😉
Once a cell dies and is broken down, its remains are distributed into the lymphatic system; a network of tissues, vessels and organs that work together to move a colorless, watery fluid called lymph back into your bloodstream. The liver and kidneys then remove these from the blood. The body passes them out with other body waste through bowel movements or urine.
Your lymphatic system works directly with your cardiovascular system to keep blood and lymphatic fluid levels in balance and to remove toxins and waste from the body. It also carries immune cells throughout the body to help defend against infections. Unlike the circulatory system however, our lymphatic system does not have a powerful organ like the heart to keep fluid flowing. The lymphatic system is stimulated by gravity, muscle contraction, breathing, hydrotherapy, lymphatic drainage therapy and massage. If your lymphatic circulation slows or stagnates (such as during the dormancy of winter, AKA “cold and flu season”), toxins will accumulate and immune cells won’t be properly delivered to the areas of the body where they are needed. This causes a variety of ailments, the very least of which are aches, pains and inflammation. This creates a breakdown of key immune components such as the thymus gland and spleen, thus weakening your body’s ability to fight infection and disease.
Although there are a number of methods for improving lymphatic movement—such as cardio workouts, rebounding exercise, swimming, contrast showers and breath work—one of the most effective ways to really get things flowing is through the professional application of lymphatic massage therapy. This technique involves the use of long, gentle and rhythmic strokes aimed at restoring the lymphatic system’s optimal function. The best time of year for the average adult to receive this type of therapy is during the changing of the seasons, whether it be when we’re heading into a time of dormancy (Autumn to Winter) or coming out of one (Spring to Summer). So the time is now. Spring cleaning is all about clearing out the old to make space for the new, even if that new is you.
"Clutter isn't just the stuff in your closet; it's anything that gets between you and the life that you want to be living." -Peter Welsh
(Contraindications for lymphatic massage include acute infection, cardiac edema, malignancies, acute deep vein thrombosis, renal failure, bronchial asthma, and uncontrolled hypertension.)