For the last two months, I have been learning a whole lot about the human body (and OH what a body it is) through the tutelage of Carnegie Mellon University. No, I’m not a full-time student again (I wish). But I am working on becoming a certified health coach (Drop the mic – I know).
Lucky for me, my program has partnered with CMU for the science portion of the material. Which I LOVE because I know I'm getting a top notch education.
My time spent with this program is the same reason I haven’t been quite as consistent with my posts as I'd like to be. But DON’T WORRY. It’s only because I want to be a better blogger for you all. And maybe, eventually, a health coach to some of you. [Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.]
Our most recent lesson was on all of the body’s wonderfully marvelous I-can't-believe-we-were-born-this-way systems. But for whatever reason, the one that intrigued me the most was the Lymphatic System.
What is the Lymphatic System, you ask?
Short answer: The Lymphatic System is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials.
Long answer: Our bodies don't function without our environment. Breathing, eating, pogo-sticking – we need our environment to do all of that. However, in those exchanges, we have to be careful of foreign invaders that might enter the body during such activites. And sometimes, we have to remove them before they cause any real damage.
That's where the lymphatic system comes in. It works together with the cardiovascular system to transport excess fluids away from body tissues. Once fluid enters the lymphatic system it is called lymph. Lymph travels through lymph vessels and passes through these neat pockets called lymph nodes which filter and clean the lymph. On top of that, the lymph ALSO transports absorbed fat from the digestive system to the body cells.
Okay, now we got the definition down, let's get to why I thought it was so interesting.
When the lymphatic system gets congested, it can't eliminate waste efficiently. If it can't eliminate waste efficiently, your body doesn't respond well. It can become inflamed (soreness, stiffness, bloating, excess water weight, breast swelling or soreness with cycles, swollen glands, extra belly fat, headaches, constipation), and sometimes, if it's serious enough, lead to disease.
On the other side, though, when things are working as they should, we’ve got smoother softer skin, better digestion, increased circulation and hard-working kidneys. Woohoo!
I was curious. What can we do to make sure our lymphatic system is working at its best so we can not only avoid inflammation, but so that we can have the increased benefits of an ideal system?
Low and behold, near the end of the unit, I saw this:
The lymph doesn’t move on it’s own. You must move it through activities like exercise, massage and dry body brushing.
Huh? What’s dry brushing? Is it expensive? Is it time consuming? How do I do it? I want one!
The answers…are below.
What is dry body brushing?
Dry body brushing is exactly as it sounds. It literally consists of taking a brush (a natural one; not a synthetic one) to your body, and brushing it towards the heart in long stroking motions, stimulating the process of lymph circulation. One third of your body's toxins are excreted through the skin. Dry brushing, therefore, helps to unclog pores and excrete toxins that become trapped in the skin.
Is it expensive?
NO. It’s the cost of a natural bristle brush with a long handle (so you can really get back there). I bought mine at Whole Foods for $6.
Is it time consuming?
No. You can do it really quick – like 5 minutes quick. Or, if you have a little more time, you can spend a leisurly 20 minutes brushing your entire body. I highly reccommend doing it in the morning before you shower, as it can be pretty invigorating to the skin and the entire body. Whoo. What a rush.
How do I do it?
I took my lesson from reading a few different blogs, and watching this Youtube video. Here's the gist:
1. Starting at the feet, brush up in long strokes, brushing a few times with each section of skin. With every stroke of the brush, follow with the other hand to keep the lymph flowing up.
2. THIS IS KEY: Always brush up towards the heart/chest where the lymph system drains.
3. Next, go to your arms. Start at your hands, brushing towards your heart/chest. Pay close attention when you get to your armpit, as there are more lymph nodes in your armpit than in other areas of your body.
4. Tummy, next. This time do circular movements. This is where it's really going to help your digestion.
5. Lastly – and my personal favorite – your back. Brush upwards towards your heart and love every moment of that scratch-my-own-back experience. Feels aaahmazing.
As of this writing, I've only been doing dry brushing for about a week. But I can say, without a doubt, that my skin is already so much smoother and softer. Which, at this time of the year, is a miracle for my dry-as-a-bone skin. Secondly, I have started to notice a difference in my KP – a skin condition called Keratosis Pilaris that causes rough patches and dry red acne-like bumps on the skin. I've lived with this ugly thing forever and tried EVERYTHING to eliminate it but nothing works. If this dry brushing thing does the trick, it is TOTALLY worth it for that alone. Lastly, I notice an immediate burst of energy after I do it – which is why it's ideal to do first thing in the morning. Oh, and I almost forgot, it just feels so damn good.
Interested in giving it a try with me? Awesome. Dry body brushing buddies! (high five)
Or maybe you just think somebody else might benefit from Dry Body Brushing. See those cute little social shapes underneath this post? They're for sharing! Click one to post to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, or comment right here on the blog. I would love to hear from you.
Can't get enough of all this healthy stuff? Then sign up for the newsletter where it says "Enter Your Email" at the top of this page. Too much of a commitment? That's cool. I also have a sweet Facebook page, deep-thoughted Twitter page, food-pornish Instagram handle, and recipe-filled Pinterest page.