Apologies to those of you who were hoping for an inspirational post last Monday, full of useful advice on how to spring back after the gluttony of the Easter weekend. I was far too stuffed with homemade hot cross buns and Easter biscuits to access my brain, let alone open up the laptop! But, now that you’ve read and thoroughly utilised my posts on hydration here and here (if not, be a love and read them now) you may be ready for some more practical advice. Grab yourself a glass of water (I’ve nearly finished mine so, while you’re up, could you please top mine up too?) and read on…
Being hydrated allows your cells to detoxify more easily, like replacing the water in the bucket of water you mop the floor with rather than using the same water you used last time. But where is that rubbish going to go once you’ve washed it out of your cells? Firstly (and, while the following is somewhat oversimplified, it should suffice to gain an initial understanding of the detox process) it will end up in your lymphatic system, the network that produces immune cells and filters waste from your blood and tissues. From there your blood carries any excess to your liver to be broken down further before it is carried out of your body via the bowel. If your liver is overworked or you are constipated then this waste backs up, rather like when your household plumbing isn’t functioning properly. You can feel this happening when you get certain types of migraine or headaches centred around the eyes (liver overload) or ache and feel “fluey” (lymph system). Sometimes your skin or lungs will also take on some of the stress resulting in a breakout of spots/dry patches or asthma-like symptoms.
With this in mind it’s easy to see why changing your diet for the better can sometimes cause side effects that make you look and feel worse! So over the next few weeks I’d like to give you some tips on how to help keep your elimination routes humming along nicely.
If you know that you have certain health issues around any of these routes please don’t muck around with these techniques – see your doctor first. And please read my disclaimers.
Your lymphatic system is a major player in your immunity. You can feel it at work at the beginning of a cold or flu when inflammation of the lymph nodes makes you aware of the lymph glands in your neck, armpits or groin. Frequent bouts of tonsillitis or throat infections can also suggest a congested lymphatic system. You can think of the lymph as the sewage and treatment works of the blood system. The vessels and capillaries of both are intertwined; enabling the lymph to work tirelessly at filtering out impurities from the blood.
The lymph nodes produce white blood cells with superhero identities and names to match such as Lymphocyte Woman, Captain Phagocyte and The Incredible Monocyte; cleaning staff by day and infection fighters by night. So picture them, if you will, groaning as your cells release all that rubbish and then getting busy with their mops and bleach, cleaning up the lymph fluids before they are released back into the bloodstream. They don’t get to wear their superhero costumes for this drudgery. And it makes them grumpy.
The best thing you can do to support your lymphatic superheroes is to keep moving. Every time you walk, run, squat, hula-hoop or cartwheel you are squeezing those lymph vessels like an enthusiastic toddler with a tube of toothpaste. If you spend your day at a desk, behind a car wheel or in front of the TV that tube of toothpaste is going to go dry and crusty. You don’t want that. So, run up and down your stairs a few times a day, shove a child off the swings in your local park (only worthwhile if you then get on yourself) and practice show-girl moves in the kitchen
when no-one’s looking. Just get moving. And, if you have the time or the inclination, you can try the following naturopathic techniques to help with the environmental clean up, leaving your cellular superheroes to concentrate on the…pause for effect… War against Evil, Alien Invaders.
A great and time honoured hydrotherapy technique is to finish off your morning shower in the following way:
- Run the water hot for a minute until you are feeling really toasty then turn the temperature down as low as you can comfortably stand for around 30 seconds (note that I say “comfortably” – for some people merely a cool shower is enough when they first start).
- If you have time repeat the process twice, finishing on a cold blast before you get dry.
While you get dry you may notice that your body temperature automatically heats up again quite quickly. That’s because the hot/cold shower process causes the blood vessels to alternately move towards and away from the surface of the skin, dragging the lymph vessels with them to enhance their efficiency. It’s a bit like a mini workout, leaving you feeling refreshed and ready to start the day. Regular use can also slightly push your body temperature up which is great news for both your immunity and your metabolism. You could also take a hydrotherapy shower in the early evening to freshen up, but as it’s energising you won’t want to do this too close to bedtime.
Epsom salt (a.k.a. magnesium sulphate) absorption baths are a lovely way to relax muscles, reduce inflammation, relieve migraines, gently flush toxins from your system and help you get a really good sleep after a busy day. Tip between 250g – 500g and up to a maximum 1kg of Epsom salts (experiment to see what you feel comfortable with) into a warm bath and soak for a good twenty minutes, topping up with hot water if necessary. If you find that you feel dizzy after hot baths, or suffer from either high or low blood pressure, run cold water in while you let the plug out and stay in until you have cooled down sufficiently.
Measure out your salts the first few times you use them; it will seem like a lot to use in one go. You will often see instructions to just throw in a handful, which is perfectly fine if you just want to relax your muscles after a workout or a long day, but to get the full therapeutic, detoxing effect, you will need to use a lot more. You can buy Epsom salts in chemists but you should be able to source them cheaper if you buy them in bulk online. The more you buy the cheaper it should be overall.
Try and drink a glass of water both before and after an Epsom salt bath. You’ll want to replace any fluids lost.
“At the end of the working week my Epsom Salt baths are like hitting a big red emergency STOP button!” Rhian
Dry Skin Brushing
“The backs of my hands are now visibly smooth and my facial lines are more plumped.” Helen
Body brushing helps to keep the skin clear by removing the surface layer of dead skin cells and any impurities that has been excreted from your pores. It also encourages the lymph fluid to drain towards the lymph nodes. You should notice an immediate increase in your metabolism and general energy after brushing, a bit like you’ve run up and down the stairs a couple of times but without the breathlessness or wheezing!
Body brushing should be done on dry skin before showering or bathing on a daily basis (although you’ll still see benefits from a commitment to brushing three times a week). Some practitioners advise that you take one week off each month (if you menstruate then the first week of your cycle is the best time for this). Many people find that they don’t much like the feel of body brushing when they first start. But just go really gently and over the next few weeks you will find that you can comfortably increase the pressure. Most people actually learn to love it!
Here’s how you do it:
- Brush the sole and top of one foot, then brush with firm strokes up towards your knee (back and front of leg); then spend a while sweeping the brush up your thigh and buttock using whatever pressure feels right to you.
- Repeat on the other side of your body.
- Brush the palm and the top of one hand, then brush with firm, strokes up towards your elbow, finishing by brushing the upper arm and shoulder.
- Repeat on the other side of your body.
- Brush what you can reach of your lower back in an upwards direction, do your tummy in a clockwise direction and very gently go over your armpits and chest towards your heart. If you are feeling brave you might like to gently whisk the brush over your face towards your heart too.
That’s it! It should take about three to five minutes. Over time you should notice an improvement in skin tone, particularly with any dry, dull or bumpy bits, and a reduction in cellulite.
“Body brushing leaves me really energised and makes my skin glow. Since starting a few months ago my cellulite has disappeared too.” Emma