Your lymphatic system is your body’s biggest drain, says US physician John Douillard. And yet we rarely consider what it does and how our diet affects the way it works. Understand your lymphatic system and how to keep it “unclogged” and “free-flowing”.

What is your lymphatic system?

Your lymphatic system is a large and integral part of your immune system. It consists of a network of tubes – lymph vessels – that crisscross your body. They carry a fluid called lymph, which cleans the cells and carries the waste away from the tissues via the spleen, thymus and lymph nodes (some 500 to 700 of them) and returns it to your bloodstream. Lymph is filled with infection-fighting B-cells and T-cells. Once in the bloodstream, the waste is transferred to two of the body’s main detoxification organs – the liver and kidneys – to be filtered.

This unwanted waste material is created as byproducts of our bodily processes and by stress (the cause of so many diseases), over-the-counter and prescription medications, illicit drugs, cigarette smoke and other airborne pollutants, food additives, pesticides and other toxins.

However, your lymphatic system could become clogged and lacklustre if your lifestyle is consistently unhealthy, if you are deficient in iodine (essential to help the body offset the effects of a toxic environment) or if your digestive system is out of balance. (The majority of the lymph in your body surrounds the gut.)

Is your lymphatic system clogged?

US physician John Douillard explains it clearly: ‘The lymphatic system is like the drains in your house and the blood is like the taps. If the drains are clogged in your sink or toilet, do you only clean out the taps? Of course not! You would clean the drains. The biggest drain we have in the body is the lymphatic system, which can stay clogged for many years. This forces us to adapt to an environment of toxins that stress and weaken immunity and other important pathways of detoxification.’

Remember, if your lymphatic system is congested, your immune system may also be compromised. You should visit your health practitioner to check your lymphatic system if you’re suffer with the following symptoms:

  • Swollen fingers or feet.
  • Bloating.
  • Constant tiredness.
  • Soreness or stiffness in the morning.
  • Dry or itchy skin.
  • Cold hands and feet.
  • Uncomfortably swollen or sore breasts with each cycle.

9 foods to support your lymphatic system

According to scientists, your body, including your lymphatic system, functions best on a diet that yields more alkali and less acid. What kind of diet is that? One that contains lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and, as always, plenty of water. Include these foods to feel the rush of a free-flowing lymphatic system:

1. Raw, unsalted nuts and seeds.. The essential fatty acids in walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamias, Brazil nuts, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds power up your lymphatic system. Olive oil, avocado, and coconut and coconut oil are also good sources of fatty acids.

2. Don’t stint on water. Without sufficient water, lymph fluid cannot flow properly. Sipping hot water every 10–15 minutes throughout the day is a great lymph-moving technique, along with two litres of good-quality cool water. Don’t overdo the water or drink your quota at one sitting – too much can also cause problems – see last week’s article “How much water should you drink per day?
3. Fresh fruits will jumpstart your lymphatic system, especially when your stomach is empty. The enzymes in fruit are powerful lymph cleansers. Cranberries help break down excess fat for the lymphatic vessels to carry away – take them fresh, frozen or as juice. Watermelon is great for cleansing the lymphatic system too. 

4. Dried fruits, especially dried figs, raisins and dates, are very high in potassium, which improves function and drainage of your lymphatic system. Potassium appears to help the lymph fluids circulate more efficiently. 

5. Green vegetables contain chlorophyll, which has powerful cleansing properties that benefit the blood and lymph fluid. Dark green veggies are best – go for kale, spinach, wheat grass, broccoli, and mustard greens.
6. Red foods. According to John Douillard, ‘all red-staining foods tend to be great lymph movers.’ That includes berries, cherries, pomegranate and cranberries. And, he adds, ‘A fresh beetroot every day is your lymph’s best friend. Beetroot thins the bile, which is responsible for about 80 percent of the immune response in the gut, and also scrubs the villi in the gut, which is where digestive lymph originates.’

7. Garlic boosts immune function and attacks harmful microbes. It improves circulation and helps get rid of toxins. 

8. Turmeric is related to ginger. It helps reduce inflammation, thins blood and improves circulation. If you’re not keen on the flavour, supplement your diet with Flora Force Turmerynne™

[LIVE LINK TO] or Turmericcapsules. You’ll definitely feel the difference. 

9. Seaweed helps the body detox and eliminate excess fluid that can build up in tissues and slow the lymphatic system down. You may not have access to seaweed, so Flora Force West Coast Kelp tablets will give you that feel-good glow.

Also read our article on ‘10 Natural ways to boost your lymphatic system’.


Acknowledgements & Photo credits

Article compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer.


  1. Douillard, J. The Miracle of Lymph. 2014, Feb.
  2. Zimmerman, Kim A. Lymphatic System: Facts, Functions & Diseases. Live Science. 2013, Feb.