Hydration and lymphatics

The lymphatic system is often forgotten about as people focus more acutely on their digestive system, immune system, and nervous system. But your lymphatic system plays an equally important role in your overall health, particularly in terms of your skin and immune function. 

Your lymphatic system is a network of organs, vessels, and special fluids. It’s responsible for removing toxins and other waste products from your organs and tissues, along with fighting pathogens, absorbing fats from the digestive tract, and maintaining the balance of fluid. 

These activities are crucial for proper immune function as well as maintaining the health of your skin. 

A sluggish lymphatic system can lead to an imbalance of fluid, edema (swelling), and congestion. 

Here’s a quick overview of your lymphatic system:  

Your lymphatic system is made up of tubular structures called lymph vessels. “Lymph” is a clear liquid that flows through these vessels, carrying proteins, fats, bacteria, excess fluid, and damaged cells around the body.

Role of the lymphatic system

The lymphatic system has three main functions. 

Maintaining the balance of fluid in the body

  • Your lymphatic system returns around 90 percent of the fluid that leaves your capillaries back to the blood. The remaining 10 percent becomes part of the interstitial fluid that surrounds your tissue cells.
    Fluid retention can occur when your capillaries leak fluid, causing it to build up in surrounding tissues. This results in edema (swelling in the tissues). Your lymph capillaries then try to reduce this excess fluid and restore healthy balance. Mild cases of edema can occur when you’ve been sitting down for too long, or when you’re under stress. 

Absorption of dietary fats

Immune defence

  • As a key player in your immune system, your lymphatic system protects your body from invading microorganisms and diseases. Along with producing and releasing lymphocytes (white blood cells), lymph passes through your lymph nodes, where it is processed and cleaned. Lymphocytes and other immune cells monitor and destroy foreign invaders.

You might notice that the lymph nodes in your neck swell up when you have a cold: a sign that they are working hard. There are around 700 lymph nodes in your body, which shows just how important your lymphatic system is to your overall health. 

Hydration

Unlike the circulatory system, which is pumped by your heart, the lymphatic system has no pump – so it can only move upward and away from gravity. This means it can become congested quite easily. 

 

Like any good transport network, your lymphatic system works best when it’s flowing smoothly. Much of this comes down to a very simple thing: hydration. 

 

Around 96% of your lymph is water. The remaining four percent is made up of proteins, cell debris, toxins, and bacteria that are to be flushed out of the body. 

In fact, your whole body is mostly water – around 55-75%. Your brain and heart are 73% water, your lungs are about 83%, and your skin 64% water. Water is constantly being eliminated from your skin throughout the day in the form of sweat, urine, and in your stools. As you’d expect, this water loss needs to be topped up regularly to prevent dehydration.

 

Even mild dehydration can have a significant effect on how well your lymphatic system works. 

Less water in your body means lymph can’t flow as quickly. You might first experience the typical symptoms of dehydration – such as headaches, fatigue, and lightheadedness. But worse damage is occurring beneath your skin: toxins can’t be flushed out at the rate they should be, causing lymph to become congested and stagnant.  

 

Besides dehydration, lymphatic congestion can be caused by overexposure to toxins in food and the environment. Poor sleeping patterns, stress, emotional issues, and low physical activity can also slow down the lymph flow. 

Lymphatic congestion

A sluggish lymphatic system can lead to problems in all areas of the body. Your body’s main means of fighting and eliminating toxins and waste products will slow down, which means these harmful products stay in your body. This compromises your immune system, potentially leading to edema and inflammation. Your cells won’t be able to do their job properly, increasing your risk of infection and disease. 

If untreated, chronic lymphatic congestion can even contribute to autoimmune conditions.

Because your lymphatic system is directly under your skin, this is where signs of congestion will often show up. Dull, dehydrated skin, spots, acne, and skin rashes can all be signs of toxins building up in the blood and tissues. These toxins are released onto your skin through sweat, where they cause irritation. 

The increase in local inflammatory mediators and swelling is also thought to be an underlying cause of eczema and psoriasis

Signs of lymphatic congestion

  • Digestive issues: bloating, gas, constipation
  • Swollen fingers 
  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Sinus infections
  • Skin rashes and/or dry, itchy skin
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Soreness or stiffness upon rising 
  • Unexplained weight gain 
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Allergies and/or food sensitivities
  • Increased bouts of colds and flu

Treating lymphatic congestion

One of the best ways to get your lymphatic system back up and running again is to see a naturopath. 

I’m a Toowoomba naturopath and nutritionist who can help you on your personal journey to good health. When it comes to lymphatic congestion, I can design a holistic treatment programme to get your lymphatic system flowing again and your body eliminating toxins as it should. Depending on your personal needs, your programme may include exercise routines, herbal tonics, and dietary advice. I can also prescribe specific products that help to relieve skin inflammation while supporting normal detoxification. If you are not quite ready for an appointment, try my Wellbeing Blend herbal tea, designed to gently detoxify the lymph and skin. 

If you’ve been suffering the effects of a sluggish lymphatic system, don’t wait for it to get worse! Call me or drop me a message, and I’ll be in touch. 

The Link Between Stress and Acne

Spots and pimples are usually associated with those awkward teenage years when hormones are running rife. 

But when persists throughout adulthood, there could be another factor at play: stress. 

Stress and modern life go hand-in-hand. The worst part about being stressed is that it’s a perfect recipe for a breakout! 

The stress response

When you’re under stress, your body responds by releasing certain hormones into your bloodstream. This is an evolutionary trait called the ‘fight or flight’ response, which is designed to activate certain bodily systems that would help you to ‘run away’ from a potential threat. Some of these hormones include glucocorticoids, catecholamines, growth hormone, and prolactin.

Although stress is not a direct cause of breakouts, the release of all these hormones can trigger all sorts of imbalances in your body. If you’ve been prone to acne in the past, you may be even more susceptible to these imbalances. 

Cortisol is a glucocorticoid and the primary stress hormone. It’s made in your adrenal glands and released into your bloodstream when your body senses a stressful situation. Cortisol causes your body to go into alert mode by increasing your heart rate and temporarily shutting down a number of other bodily systems, including your digestion, reproduction, and immune system. 

Normally, your cortisol levels are regulated by your internal body clock, so they peak when you wake up in the morning and when you exercise, and then they drop off at night. But if you’re constantly under stress, your cortisol levels remain elevated for far longer than they should. This can lead to serious health issues such as high blood pressure, overworked adrenals, a weakened immune system – and also acne. In fact, scientists now believe that teenage acne is linked to the huge changes in hormones that occur during puberty, which often lead to increased levels of cortisol.  

Let’s explain how cortisol and other stress hormones can lead to a breakout. 

Stress and your skin

Acne is one of the most common skin conditions. It can be blamed on many different things, from genes and skin composition to medication and hormones. It’s only recently that scientists have learned just how much of an influence your endocrine system has on the severity of acne. They now know that your skin can both perceive stress and be a target of the stress response

For a start, increased cortisol triggers the production of sebum, the oily substance naturally produced by glands near skin hair follicles. This increase in oil production leads to oily skin and clogged pores, which in turn encourages inflammation and bacteria to fester. The result? A breakout. Even people who are not normally affected by acne may experience breakouts due to stress-related oil production.

Spikes in adrenaline caused by stress also negatively impact your skin’s normal barrier function, causing it to lose moisture. This is known as transdermal water loss, and can lead to your skin becoming more dry and sensitive. Studies have shown that this water loss also inhibits the skin’s ability to repair itself.

Prolactin can also have an influence on acne. Prolactin is the hormone involved in lactation and reproduction, but research suggests that psychological stress may cause prolactin to stimulate sebum production in sebaceous glands. That means even more oil!

Increased oil production can also upset your body’s natural wound healing process, which means your skin can’t repair itself as easily. This not only results in more acne, but can eventually lead to scarring and even premature aging.

But that’s not all stress can do to your skin. Cortisol is also immunosuppressive, which means it can have a major impact on your immune system. Constant exposure to stress results in an increase of cytokines and antibodies, which sets off chronic inflammation. Inflammation is your skin’s worst enemy. It gets in the way of normal healing and can also worsen skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea.

A heightened stress response puts a lot of strain on your stress organs and immune system. To cope, your body will turn its attention to sending important nutrients and resources to these areas instead of to your skin, hair, and nails. This can mean that your skin cells aren’t able to renew themselves properly, which in turn can mean that any infections or inflammation won’t be taken care of. The more stressed you are, the longer it can take for acne breakouts to heal. 

Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse, stress also affects the ‘friendly’ bacteria in your gut microbiome. These play an important role in your overall immune function, which can worsen acne.

What makes stress and acne worse?

One of the worst things you can do when feeling stressed is to drink coffee. Coffee is a stimulant, so while it ‘wakes you up’, it also triggers the stress response. Studies have shown that caffeine can cause your body to ramp up the production of epinephrine and cortisol to more than double its normal levels. These effects have been noted in both habitual and light coffee drinkers. 

Caffeine is also a diuretic, which means it increases moisture loss.

Other foods that can worsen stress include those made with refined carbohydrates and high amounts of sugar. These foods are digested quickly, causing blood sugar levels to spike. High blood sugar triggers the release of cortisol, and subsequent stress response. 

Is your skin affected by stress?

If you’ve noticed that your skin tends to break out during times of stress, then it may be time to start thinking about how to minimise stress in your life. Although it’s impossible to avoid stress completely, there are plenty of ways to reduce its impact on your body – and your skin. 

To start with, consider any habits that may be increasing your body’s cortisol levels. Coffee, refined carbs, sugar, and poor hydration are all major triggers. 

There are many factors involved in acne, and stress may be just one part of the puzzle. That’s where the best course of action may be seeing a qualified naturopath. A naturopath can help figure out what may be triggering your breakouts, and create a comprehensive treatment plan to restore your skin health. This can involve dietary analysis, functional testing, herbal tonics, and a thorough examination of your specific nutritional needs.

Want to know more? Contact me here for a chat about how stress might be affecting your skin. 

Soothing reflux and colic in babies naturally

Is your baby in pain every time they are lying on their backs? Vomiting after meals and an unhappy camper when it comes to digesting food? Your baby may also be showing signs of atopic conditions, such as dermatitis and asthma. Due to immature digestive systems, food can be more difficult to digest for your bub in the first year. Colic, reflux, and food allergies are all separate conditions linked to digestive disturbances in babies. However, there are a few things you can try which may help reduce the symptoms you are seeing.

Keep your baby sitting upright for at least 10 minutes after feeding

This is a pretty simple and effective way to help prevent your baby from experiencing reflux at its worst. By keeping your bubba upright for 10 to 15 minutes, you help gravity keep stomach acid in place down where it belongs. While true gastroesophageal reflux is rare in babies, slow digestive transit time may create some reflux in babies. Feeding your bub in small amounts will also help to improve this issue. This was a tried and true method that my parents used for me! By propping my baby self upright all night long, it prevented reflux and allowed me to sleep at least for a little while!

Eliminate dairy and soy in mothers’ diet if breast feeding

If you are breastfeeding, you are passing the proteins of the foods you eat to your baby. Cows milk proteins (casein) and soy are some of the most common reactive foods to adults and babies alike. Food allergies, in general, are thought to affect up to 10% of children. Therefore, eliminating all cow’s milk dairy and soy foods from the mother’s diet should be a consideration to help reduce your baby’s symptoms. I suggest maintaining the elimination diet for 6 weeks of these foods to see if it’s right for your baby.

Drink herbal tea

Studies show that a mixture of chamomile, fennel, and lemon balm extracts help soothe babies’ tummies. While I don’t recommend self-prescribing these extracts, if breastfeeding, drink these teas yourself to pass the diluted phytochemical constituents of these herbs directly through your breast milk. Chamomile on its own can be very soothing for digestion and nervous tension. Unless there are allergies present, these herbs are all considered to be safe herb for children. Additionally, fennel can be used by mothers experiencing poor breast milk production. So maybe useful to help improve milk flow, making it a win-win for you and your baby. While safe to enjoy for both you and bub, excessive tea drinking is not recommended. If diarrhoea occurs in your baby after drinking herbal teas please discontinue and investigate the possibility of an allergy.

I recommend buying organic loose leaf tea if possible. If you are having trouble finding them locally, you can buy them online through the shop.

Probiotics for colic in babies

Gut bacteria play a crucial role in digestion in all people. Now research shows that they can help reduce symptoms of colic in babies too! If your baby has been sick and has had to take antibiotics, or experiences dermatitis, reflux, and/or has allergies, there is a good chance probiotics are in order. Interestingly, another study shows the use of probiotics even helps family’s save money by reducing health expenses. Use a dairy-free infant probiotic if you are considering giving this a go for your unsettled bub.

Infant massage

To help improve digestion, relieve wind, and reduce colic in babies, massaging your baby is a wonderful soothing tool to implement. Important to note, you should always wait at least 45 minutes after your baby has finished feeding, to prevent reflux and vomiting. Additionally, when massaging your baby’s belly, move your hands in a clockwise motion. This encourages digestive movement in the correct direction to promote healthy bowel movement and intestinal function.

Go here or here for pictures and tips on how to soothe your bubba using massage.

Essential oils

Essential oils can be soothing, especially for us older folk. But please do not use essential oils directly onto your baby’s skin. Especially if they are also experiencing dermatitis or eczema. It can take up until your baby is 24 months old to have a fully developed liver that could even begin to start to process essential oils. Even then, I still would never recommend using them directly onto your skin due to the highly concentrated plant photochemical content that are essential oils. At maximum for babies, we want to have only 0.5-1% of essential oil in a carrier oil before applying to the skin. This means 10 to 20 drops of essential oil to 100ml of carrier oil.

Book a naturopath consultation!

If you are still having trouble settling your bub, book a consult either in clinic or online with me to discuss further options.

What is Naturopathic Treatment?

If you have never seen a naturopath before, it is common to think that a whole range of complementary medicines are ‘naturopathic’ this such as massage, homeopathy, and aromatherapy. These areas are not naturopathy. While some naturopaths may provide these services, it’s due to their additional training in these modalities. Modern naturopaths are trained in four-year Bachelor of Health Science, focusing on human biology, pharmacology, disease pathology, nutrition, and herbal medicines. As such, we are able to create treatment plans for your health, in combination with any medicines your doctor prescribes. This bachelor qualification ensures that your naturopath is well versed in the best traditional and scientific natural medicine treatment techniques and has the skills and training to keep up with all of the scientific advances in research.

What does a naturopath do?

The naturopathic philosophy is vis medicatrix naturae, the ‘healing power of nature’. So it is in our core training to help individuals achieve health through personalised natural and holistic interventions. A naturopath aims to treat the root cause of your concerns so that you have sustained health long after having ceased consulting with the naturopath. A naturopathy treatment may include lifestyle changes, dietary modifications, herbal medicines, nutritional supplementation, and naturopathic hydrotherapy. In my clinic, I prescribe supplements, in addition to also creating customised liquid herbal medicines, herbal teas, and personalised nutritional compound formulas. This way I know exactly what you are taking, which allows us to be sure that these treatments are safe for your condition and any medications that you are prescribed.

One important point to note is that Naturopathic Treatments DO NOT use any products from multilevel marketing (MLM) companies. This is specifically not allowed in Australia. So you can rest assured that you’re never going to be advised to pay for something that is essentially a whole lot of marketing of on-trend ingredients. Only products that are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration are ever going to be prescribed.

What will the first appointment look like?

When starting out on your health journey together, it is important to gain a thorough understanding of your health through an initial consultation together. This is a moment where we meet to thoroughly discuss your health, including diet and taking your blood pressure etc. In addition, this is more often than not combined with gaining further supporting data through blood, urine, or saliva testing. By further pathology testing through services such as QML, Food Detective Testing, the 500+ hair test, and using functional pathology testing such as DUTCH Hormone testing, Organic Acid Test, Complete Thyroid Profile, and Complete Microbiome Mapping. I personally like to use these tests with thorough case taking before going down the supplemental route.

Once we have gathered enough data, we then proceed with a treatment plan personalised to your treatment goals.

Key take-away

Naturopathic Treatment is a personalised holistic treatment for you. Focused on helping to reduce your symptoms and eliminating the cause of the problem from the root of the disease.