‘Tis the season to be … bloated. Sigh. To help, we tapped Lisa Levitt Gainsley, author of The Book of Lymph, to share how to use massage to alleviate bloating.
Get her insight and the step-by-step instructions below.
People have been getting lymphatic massages to reduce swelling after surgery and shed water weight for decades. But the roots of lymphatic massage run deeper—its origins lie in boosting your immune system, clearing congestion, reducing stress and improving digestion, sleep, and more!
Not only does getting a lymphatic massage remove excess inflammation from your body, but it also absorbs fat in your gut and returns lipids to your bloodstream, where it becomes fuel.
First, a primer on the lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system is the circulatory system of your immune system, running like rivers through your body. Its network of vessels, capillaries, nodes, and organs play a pivotal role in your health. The job of your lymphatic system is to clear out excess inflammation by regulating your fluid balance while providing the first line of defense against disease. Your lymph fluid contains viruses and bacteria which get filtered out in your lymph nodes, but the system moves slowly. It needs you to encourage the release of daily toxins. That’s where exercise, breathing, and lymphatic massage come in!
Lymphatic massage accelerates the release of stagnant toxins that may be making you lethargic, heavy, achy, bloated, slow to heal, and prone to common colds and illness.
Lymph massage has been known to:
– Improve digestion
– Reduce bloating
– Boost metabolism
– Circulate virus-fighting white blood cells
– Remove excess built-up toxins from your tissues
– Boost your immune system response
– Give you glowing skin
– Increase energy
– Reduce brain fog
– Improve the appearance of pesky cellulite (when done on a regular basis)
– Clear ear congestion
– Reduce headaches
– Reduce eczema
– Speed up recovery from athletic injury and wound healing
Massaging your belly is easy and has a ton of benefits! It can improve your digestion (because you’re increasing the movement of your vital organs, a process called peristalsis), calm your nervous system (because it helps you drop into the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest state), help you get better sleep (lymph techniques are soothing to the nervous system), and reduce menstrual cramps (your lymph system absorbs excess hormones) and any emotional stress you may be storing in your belly without realizing it (cells hold memory).
With a few minutes of lymphatic self-massage around your colon, you can shed some water retention, reduce belly fat, and increase your energy.
Ready to try it? Here’s how to do an abdominal self-massage:
- Lie down so you’re comfortable.
- Begin with deep, diaphragmatic breathing. Place your hands on your abdomen and take a few long, deep breaths. Expand your belly as you inhale, and relax your stomach as you exhale. With each inhale, move the breath higher up, into your lungs and heart. With each exhale, soften your rib cage a little more. Repeat five times. When you breathe deeply, the chest pressure acts as an external pump on your largest lymph vessel, the thoracic duct, which brings lymph fluid from the lower half of the body and limbs back to the heart.
- With a small amount of oil or lotion, gently massage clockwise all around your abdomen.
- Massage your colon in the direction of drainage: massage up your right side, then across your abdomen to your left side, then down to your left hip, and finally from your navel downward. This follows the elimination pattern of your ascending, transverse and descending colon.
- Massage small circles clockwise around your belly button.
- Make small circles, scooping the four corners of your abdomen. Use your palm to scoop from the front of your right hip toward your navel (this is the beginning of your large/ascending colon). Next, scoop under your right rib cage toward your navel (this is where your liver and gallbladder are located). Next, scoop under your left rib cage to your navel (your stomach and spleen are located here). Then, scoop from your left hip bone toward your navel (your descending colon).
- Massage clockwise around your navel again.
- Use the palms of both hands to make light brush strokes down the center of your body, from where your ribs meet toward your navel.
- Massage small circles just below your xiphoid process (at the bottom of your sternum). This is helpful for acid reflux.
- Make wide brushstokes from your “love handles” toward your hips.
- Finish by massaging clockwise all around your abdomen again. End with five deep, cleansing breaths.
For best results: cut processed foods, refined sugar, alcohol, gluten, and inflammatory foods out of your diet.
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