If you have lymphedema, there can be a lot of variables.  How did you get it?  What parts of your body does it impact?  Regardless of the type or severity, however, there’s one thing we all share:  a compromised lymphatic system.

Because of that, it’s vital that we be extremely careful to take care of what functioning we do have.  It’s critical not to do things that damage it further.  And, you want to make the most of what you have by detoxifying the body reguarly.

Things like exercise naturally detoxify, but what about making sure you’re not adding toxins right back?  That was important to me as I focused on reducing my lower leg lymphedema.  It simply makes sense to take the toxic load off your body…that way your lymphatic system, as the “garbage collector” of your body, doesn’t have to work quite so hard.

Clean Up What Goes In  

The first thing I focused on was what I was eating and drinking.  The less processed foods the less negative impact on your body.  That makes sense, so with lymphedema you should focus on just putting good foods in.

However, one thing that was eye opening to me was how our bodies can be polluted not only from what we ingest.  Our health is also impacted on what comes in from the outside.

Clean Up What Goes On, Too

Everything we put on our skin gets into our body.  While the skin is a protective barrier, it probably hasn’t evolved enough to process many of today’s chemical-laden products.  So with lymphedema, you should start being very aware of everything that comes in contact with your skin.

Little things that we may do, like wearing lipstick, can introduce toxins, both through our lips and through amounts we may ingest by accident.  Per Michael Greger, MD, most lipstick and lip gloss is loaded with lead and that lead can seep into our bodies.

That’s just one example.  Even the chemicals in body lotion or body wash, for example, are absorbed into our skin and into our bodies.  If you think about it, you probably come in contact with many products each day:

  • Makeup
  • Facial skin products
  • Body lotion
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Hair mousse/gel/spray
  • Perfume

Really anything that touches your skin is an issue.  (We’ll talk about cleaning products and pollution in another blog, but they are issues, too.)

Much of what we see on grocery and drug store shelves are loaded with chemicals.  Chemicals can make things feel creamy, turn a pretty color and smell nice, after all.  The worst offenders are often the “scented” lotions, body wash and bubble bath stuff.

The good news is that by cutting out all of these unnatural additives, you’re not burdening your lymphatic system (and other body systems) further with those additional chemicals.  If you’ve been using them for years, your body will likely benefit from reducing the toxic load.

Here’s an action list to help clean up your act:

  1. Stop buying chemical laden products. The first thing to do is to stop buying more commercial products and instead look for and buy natural ones.   One thing that helped me was doing research online. Natural products can either be really good or really bad, but the crowd usually figures it out.  So I advise doing some research first so you know what is worth trying.  Also the Environmental Working Group has a great website where you can check out the products you might buy or already have.
  1. Throw away (or use up) non-natural products. Some products like perfume are things we can live without.  If you value your health, you may want to just stop wearing it.  It’s an easy one. On other things, just use up what you have and replace it with something natural next time.
  1. Go after the biggest offenders. If use a lot of body lotion, and use it everywhere, that’s one to re-evaluate.  There are great natural body lotions you can get cheaply (I use Vitacost.com or iherb.com which are far cheaper than buying in health food or grocery stores).  Or you can use oils like jojoba oil.  Or simply minimize use of body lotion, unless you really need it.  There are interesting studies that many body lotions don’t even help your skin retain moisture, and some dermatologists claim that moisturizers are not even good for your skin.  I find I need to use it on my feet or the skin will crack, but otherwise I do fine without it.   Or, simply switch to natural products.
  1. Minimize the makeup.  This is a tough one, I know, but even reducing it will not only help your health, but your skin.  Too much makeup and the cleaning to remove it can cause premature aging.  So you may need to come up with a strategy you can live with.  Can you go without on weekends? That’s a start and will give your skin a break.  Can you just use eye makeup?  Or if you need to, look for makeup that is natural and without chemicals.
  1. Revisit lipstick/gloss/balm.  As stated earlier, lipstick and other products that you put on your lips are a double whammy…chemicals and additives can get absorbed through your lips and you’ll also likely ingest the product accidentally.  Fortunately, there are natural lip balms and lipsticks you can buy.  Or you can use olive oil and other natural products in place of a chemical-filled balm or stick.
  1. Minimize anti-perspirant use.  Anti-perspirants and deodorants have been controversial for awhile due to possible links to cancer.  Bottom line, you probably want to avoid those strong chemicals sitting on your skin for any reason…especially since your armpits are close to many lymph node sites.  Do you even need anti-perspirant?  Most people don’t.  Or use a splash of water or rubbing alcohol when you need it.  Or if you have a need, choose one of the natural products.
  1. No Tatoos.  Just say no to tattoos.  Recent research shows that tattoos can damage the lymph nodes severely in even healthy people.  That’s a big price to pay for something that is optional. If you’ve got lymphedema, don’t even think about it.  Your skin is part of your body’s defense.  It’s not healthy to damage it in ANY way.  Too much can go wrong.

Use these tips and over time you’ll find it easy to use natural products every day, and avoid those unwanted chemicals.  Your body will thank you!