The lymphatic system includes organs and tissues, like lymph which is a fluid that contains white blood cells, lymph vessels that carry this fluid around the body, and lymph nodes which are glands. These nodes, along with your spleen, are where white blood cells work to fight infections. The bone marrow and thymus produce the cells in lymph, so they’re also part of the system. 

If someone’s lymphatic system isn’t working properly, it can lead to a buildup of fluid in the tissues, as well as swelling, known as lymphedema. This can occur for a variety of reasons, including breast cancer surgeries and other cancer surgeries that involve the removal of lymph nodes. 

Lymphedema is characterized as being primary or secondary. Primary lymphedema is the result of mutations in the genes that play a role in the development of the lymphatic system. Secondary lymphedema occurs in people who experience damage to their lymphatic system through injuries, inflammation, or, as mentioned, cancer treatment. 

Regardless of the underlying reasons for problems with lymphatic flow, there are certain things to promote the movement of fluids and lymph through your body as they’re meant to. 

The following are some ways to promote lymphatic flow :

Diaphragmatic Breathing

The way you breathe can actually improve your lymphatic system. Diaphragmatic breathing is when you’re using your diaphragm to create a pumping mechanism that can help pump lymph. Breathing deeply and from your diaphragm can promote an overall healthy lymph system. 

Our bodies have around three times more lymph fluid than they do blood, but there’s not an organ that pumps it. Deep breathing again can create that pumping action so your lymphatic system can better do its job to move toxins into your blood, where they can then be detoxified by your liver. 

Dry Brushing

Dry brushing is a form of Ayurvedic medicine that’s been used for centuries. Proponents of dry brushing say that it can stimulate the lymphatic system, as well as exfoliate the skin, and increase circulation. 

There’s not a lot of data to show whether or not dry brushing is truly effective for promoting lymph health, but there’s little harm in trying it, and some people find it relaxing at a minimum. 

Drink a Lot of Filtered Water

One reason that some people experience congestion of the lymphatic system is because of dehydration. You want to drink plenty of filtered water throughout the day, which will encourage a healthy flow of fluids in your body and will also reduce water retention. 

Adding lemon to your water can also be especially helpful. 

Alternating Hot and Cold Showers

Some people like to alternate hot and cold water when they shower. The hot water dilates blood vessels, while the cold water shrinks them. Some health practitioners feel this can create a pumping action to help force some of the fluids through the body. 

If you’re pregnant or you have heart disease, you shouldn’t use alternating hot and cold showers. 


There’s not much when it comes to our health and wellness that physical activity can’t help with, and encouraging healthy lymphatic flow is no exception. Regularly exercising is critical for a healthy lymphatic system. Rebounding on a small trampoline is a type of exercise that tends to be especially good for lymphatic flow. 

Manual Drainage

Often after someone undergoes cancer surgery or other treatments affecting their lymph system, their healthcare provider may recommend things like manual drainage exercises or lymphatic drainage massages. 

Lymphatic drainage massage is a type of gentle massage where the provider is specifically trained to help encourage the movement of lymphatic fluid around your body. If you have lymphedema or related conditions, you might benefit from lymphatic massage. 

Lymphatic massage is also sometimes just called lymphatic drainage. This type of medical massage can reduce swelling. 

There are technically two types of lymphatic drainage which are manual and simple. 

Manual lymphatic drainage is what’s technically done by a therapist who’s qualified, while simple drainage is something you can do at home. 

If you’re doing simple drainage at home, you should only massage the skin gently. You wouldn’t press hard enough to feel your muscles. You should also make sure that you’re drinking a lot of fluids to flush the body, and you shouldn’t feel any type of pain or experience reddening of the skin in any manual lymphatic drainage. 

Bottom Line

Overall, there are things you can do at home and also with the help of a professional to promote a healthy lymph system, but any time you have concerns, you should always speak to your healthcare provider.