Updated: Jun 7
During my drug addiction I had no regard for my body. I knew what I was doing wasn't good for me, but it wasn't until I began studying the body that I truly understood.
The Lymphatic System
The human body has its own detox process called the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and nodes that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. These materials are then filtered out and flushed from the body.
The lymphatic system plays a key role in the immune functions of the body. It's the first line of defense against disease, so you can see how important it is to keep it running smoothly.
It’s similarity to the circulatory system is pictured in the image below; rivers and streams of vessels. But the main (and very important) difference is that the lymph system doesn’t have a dedicated pump such as the heart to the veins. This means you have to move your body to get the juices flowin. I talk about three ways to facilitate this below.
The Lymph System & Drug and Alcohol Abuse (courtesy of American Addiction Centers)
Two things that interfere with the lymph system’s functioning are blockages and cancer, both of which have correlations with the overuse of alcohol and certain drugs.
Blockages- over time, intravenous drug use can cause significant scarring in the lymph tissue, creating blockages. Blockages disrupt the flow of lymph fluid and make the body more prone to disease.
Cancer- many street drugs contain or are cut with carcinogens that increase the risk for cancer. As well, chronic use of alcohol and heavy alcohol use (more than an average of four drinks per day for men and more than three drinks per day for women) can lead to an increased risk for developing cancer according to the National Cancer Institute.
As hard as it may be to learn how addiction affects vital parts of the body, being informed is better than staying ignorant. If this left you feeling uneasy I get it. You’re not alone. Let this be a motivation for us both to continue to live a clean and healthy lifestyle.
3 Ways to Promote Lymphatic Flow & Increase Immunity
How :Lie on your back with your knees bent and hug one knee in towards your chest. Hug the bent knee with your arms. Hold for five breaths and release. Repeat five times on both sides.
Why: The squeeze and release of compression is like a natural pump for the lymph. This method can be done on other parts of the body as well.
How: Lie on your back on the floor and drape your legs over a chair or sofa. Or put them up a wall if you’re familiar with legs-up-the-wall pose.
Why: Reversing the flow of gravity encourages lymph and blood circulation to move to areas that don’t receive it as easily.
Note: This is a gentle inversion, but even so people with untreated high blood pressure, glaucoma or other eye issues, and beyond the first trimester of pregnancy should avoid or use caution.
How: Just get movin! It doesn’t matter what or where (although I always advocate for the great outdoors). Yoga, walking, jogging, biking, hiking, whatever floats your boat.
Why: Remember, we’re talking about getting the juices flowin. There’s no pump for the lymph system so we’ve gotta get that sluggish lymph movin.