The lymphatic system removes toxins, waste and pathogens from your body, protecting you from infections and health conditions. When the lymphatic system becomes clogged, toxins can’t be eliminated from the body, cells can’t function properly, and we become more susceptible to sickness.
How well your lymphatic system functions greatly affects how well your body eliminates toxins and fights infection. Various factors influence your lymphatic system, such as exercise, flexibility, sleep, hydration, herbs, and diet.
This article will discuss the best foods to eat for lymphatic system health.
What Is the Lymphatic System?
Your lymphatic system is a significant part of your immune system. It has many functions, such as protecting your body from pathogens, maintaining body fluid levels, and removing cellular waste. The lymphatic system comprises a network of tissues, vessels, and organs that work together to move lymph—a colorless, watery fluid—back into your bloodstream. To learn more about the lymphatic system, read our blog "Lymphatic System | Everything You Need to Know."
The lymphatic system ultimately depends on a well-balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals to keep it healthy. So while there are specific foods with unique lymphatic system benefits, you cannot have a genuinely healthy lymphatic system without balanced nutrition.
Without going into too much detail about nutrition, you can meet your daily nutritional needs by consuming a balanced diet of whole organic foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, healthy oils and fats, and animal foods if desired.
In addition to having good nutrition, limiting your exposure to toxins is essential for maintaining proper lymphatic system health. Toxins can wreak havoc on our health, impairing the proper function of our organs, draining us of energy, and weakening our immunity, leading to sickness and disease.
We are exposed to so many toxins today that impact our health. While some toxins are practically unavoidable, we can significantly reduce the number of toxins we are exposed to by making simple adjustments to our diet and lifestyle.
The most significant source of toxic exposure comes from:
- Contaminated food (processed foods, foods grown with pesticides, foods with added chemicals and preservatives, unhealthy oils)
- Contaminated water (unfiltered water, tap water, water stored in plastic)
- Contaminated air (especially in cities, highly populated areas, or industrial areas)
- Products (cleaning products, beauty products, and hygiene products often contain harmful toxins and chemicals in them)
- Materials (certain clothing materials, furniture, carpets, paint, cookware, and other materials either contain toxic chemicals or are sprayed with toxic chemicals after production)
It is essential to avoid sources of toxins whenever possible. To do so requires that you pay more attention to what you purchase and make wiser decisions regarding what you consume. For example, instead of buying conventional produce, buy organic produce. Instead of drinking tap or bottled water, get a high-quality filter or find a natural spring near you. Invest in a HEPA air filter for your home. Buy clothes with organic or natural materials. Buy naturally made furniture that is not sprayed with chemicals like fire retardants. Buy natural toothpaste, lotions, deodorants, and other health and beauty products. Use white distilled vinegar and natural soaps instead of toxic detergents and harmful cleaning agents. Find non-toxic cookware and avoid toxic metals like aluminum and lead.
Most people do not think twice about the things they consume or how they impact their health. Because toxins are typically microscopic, we don't directly see how they influence our well-being. Regardless, toxic chemicals and heavy metals can harm your health and lead to poor health and disease.
They also put a major strain on your lymphatic system. They are one of the major reasons that the lymphatic system becomes clogged, allowing toxins to accumulate without being properly eliminated.
Best Foods for Lymphatic System Health
There are many foods good for lymphatic system health. In particular, the best foods for the lymphatic system include:
Berries are one of the best foods for lymphatic system health. Berries are rich in antioxidants, particularly a powerful type of antioxidant known as anthocyanins. These potent antioxidants fight free radicals and prevent cellular damage from oxidative stress. They are also powerfully anti-inflammatory and immune boosting due to their vitamin C and polyphenol content. Berries contain multiple phytochemicals that have a strong antioxidant effect on the body and are excellent foods for lymphatic health.
Grapes, notably darker-colored grapes like red grapes and concord grapes, are powerful food for lymphatic system health. Grapes are a rich source of antioxidant resveratrol. Studies show that resveratrol modulates immune function and stimulates the lymphatic system, helping to improve overall lymphatic circulation and function.
Melons like watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew are excellent foods for the lymphatic system. They contain a high-water content and are deeply hydrating. They also contain many phytochemicals, antioxidants, and beneficial nutrients that support lymphatic health. Watermelon, for example, contains a compound called glutathione. Studies on glutathione show that the immune system works best if the lymphoid cells have healthy levels of glutathione.
Fresh, organic fruit is excellent for lymphatic system health. While berries, grapes, and melons are particularly beneficial, all fruit supports lymphatic system health—especially fruit with a high-water content like mangoes, apples, pears, pineapple, cherries, plums, and peaches.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy greens, such as lettuce, spinach, kale, collard greens, beet greens, arugula, chard, etc., are some of the best foods for lymphatic system health and overall health. This is because they contain many essential vitamins and minerals and are rich in fiber, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds like chlorophyll.
Cruciferous vegetables also have an important place in the diet. These include vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts. These vegetables are incredibly nutrient-dense, high in vitamin C, rich in fiber, contain many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and are known to lower inflammation in the body, which plays a vital role in maintaining proper lymphatic system health.
Omega 3 fatty acids are essential, meaning we must consume them in our diet regularly for optimal health. Omega 3 fatty acids also benefit lymphatic health because of their anti-inflammatory properties. Some healthy sources of omega 3's include:
- Wild seafood
- Chia seed
- Healthy oils
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds also benefit immune and lymphatic health due to their nutrient density. They also contain omega 3's and antioxidant polyphenols that help to keep inflammation levels low. They are great foods to eat on the lymphatic diet, or when you are on a diet to cleanse the lymphatic system. Some of the best nuts and seeds for lymphatic health include:
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Brazil nuts
Some culinary spices also have beneficial effects on the lymphatic system. These effects are attributed to certain compounds found in these spices. Adding these spices to some of your meals may help to support your lymphatic health. Some of the best spices for the lymphatic system include:
- Black pepper
These spices are all great herbs and foods that promote lymph flow and a healthy lymphatic system.
Worst Foods for Lymphatic System Health
So what are the worst foods for the lymphatic system? Well, just as there are good foods for the lymphatic system, there are also foods that hurt your lymphatic system. It is best to limit your consumption of these foods or avoid them entirely to keep lymphatic system health optimal. The worst foods for lymphatic system include:
- Refined vegetable oils (palm oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil, safflower, sunflower oil)
- Processed foods (packaged foods, junk foods, candies, etc.)
- Processed meats (sausage, bacon, hot dogs, pepperoni, spam, etc.)
- Low-quality animal products
- Common allergens such as gluten, dairy, shellfish, soy, corn, or nightshades
Foods to Avoid with Swollen Lymph Nodes
If you have swollen lymph nodes, it's important to avoid certain foods that can worsen the condition. These include:
- Processed Foods: Processed foods like packaged snacks, frozen dinners, and fast food contain high levels of sodium, preservatives, and unhealthy fats that can lead to inflammation and fluid retention.
- Dairy Products: Dairy products like cheese, milk, and yogurt can be difficult for the body to digest and can contribute to lymphatic congestion.
- Sugar: Sugar can cause inflammation in the body and weaken the immune system, leading to lymphatic congestion and swelling.
- Fried Foods: Fried foods like french fries and fried chicken contain high levels of unhealthy fats that can clog the lymphatic system.
- Red Meat: Red meat is high in saturated fat and can be difficult for the body to digest, leading to lymphatic congestion and inflammation.
Vitamins for the Lymphatic System
In addition to certain foods, there are also vitamins that can promote lymphatic health. These include:
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is important for boosting the immune system and promoting lymph flow.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help reduce inflammation and promote lymphatic drainage.
- Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 is essential for the production of lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that helps fight off infections.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is important for the immune system and can help reduce inflammation in the body.
Other Tips for Keeping Your Lymphatic System Healthy
In addition to eating the foods mentioned above (and also avoiding toxins and foods that harm lymphatic health), here are some general tips for keeping the lymphatic system healthy:
This is perhaps the most crucial tip for keeping your lymphatic system healthy. Dehydration is a significant cause of lymph congestion. This is because lymph tissue becomes thicker and less mobile when dehydrated. On the other hand, it flows nicely when you are properly hydrated. Aim to drink between half a gallon to one gallon of water daily, depending on your lifestyle and activity level. However, avoid drinking too much water with meals, as this can impact digestion.
Exercise is essential for lymphatic circulation. If you don't move your body often, lymph can get clogged and backed up in the lymphatic system. This is because your lymphatic system doesn't have a pump as your circulatory system does. So, it relies on other things to help it circulate, primarily movement and hydration. So, make sure you exercise daily, even if only light exercises like stretching and walking. Your body needs to move regularly to be healthy.
Eat A Nutritious Diet
As mentioned earlier in the article, every system in your body relies on nutrients like protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, and minerals to function correctly. The lymphatic system is no exception. Therefore, ensure you are eating a well-balanced diet, and aim to include more foods mentioned above that are particularly beneficial for lymphatic system health.
Massage can also be very beneficial for lymphatic system health. While all types of massage can encourage lymph circulation, lymphatic drainage massage is a type of massage that is specifically focused on helping your lymphatic system. You can find local masseuses that offer lymphatic massage or give yourself a lymphatic drainage massage.
Gentle bouncing on a small trampoline, or rebounder, has been proven effective for increasing lymphatic flow and activating lymphocyte activity. This gentle, low-impact bouncing motion supports healthy lymph function and helps lymphatic valves open and close. Rebounding is one of the best methods for improving lymphatic system health.
Wear Loose Clothes
Tight-fitting clothes can put pressure on lymph nodes and restrict lymphatic circulation. There is a large cluster of lymph nodes found in the armpit, as well as the groin. Clothes that put pressure on these areas can influence how well lymph drains. Wear looser clothing to prevent the pressure of clothes from affecting lymphatic circulation.
Herbs for Lymphatic System Health
In addition to the tips mentioned above, certain herbs are beneficial for supporting lymphatic drainage.
Cleavers is an herb high in vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, coumarins, and various alkaloids that support the movement of lymph fluids, enhance the ability of the lymphatic system to flush out toxins and ease congestion of swollen lymph nodes.
Figwort is another herb that helps cleanse the built-up waste's lymphatic system and restores proper lymphatic system function.
Cayenne pepper is also a clinically researched herb that stimulates the circulatory and lymphatic systems, encouraging cells to work more efficiently and helping to remove excess waste in the blood and lymph.
We included therapeutic-grade extracts of these three herbs in our Lymphatic Detox Tonic, herbal formula for encouraging lymphatic drainage and supporting overall lymphatic health.
The lymphatic system is essential in the body. That helps remove toxins, waste, and pathogens from your body while protecting you from infections and diseases.
To keep your lymphatic system in good health, it is essential to:
- Eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet
- Drink plenty of water
- Exercise often
- Get sufficient rest each night
- Keep inflammation levels low
- Avoid the worst foods for lymphatic system health
You can also give your lymphatic system some extra love and care by eating the foods mentioned in this article and by supplementing with our Lymphatic Detox Tonic, rebounding, and receiving regular lymphatic drainage massages.