The Essential Lymphatic Health Guide

I recently wrote an article for The Fullest Magazine on lymphatic health. I included my favorite tips to caring for your lymphatic and immune system during the holidays- I hope you enjoy it!

It is especially important to take care of the lymphatic system during the holidays. It’s a time where most of us indulge in food and drinks (which can lead to extra inflammation), travel frequently (which can cause swelling and overexposure to germs), and experience heightened stress levels (that may or may not stem from visiting certain family members). These factors combined are reason enough to take extra measures to support the lymphatic and immune systems.

We recently caught up with Lymphatic Health expert Lisa Gainsley to get some of her best tips to boosting immunity and improving lymphatic health throughout the holiday season. This is what she recommends…

1 | Lymphatic drainage massage, lymphatic self-massage, and lymphatic facials —

Meghan Markle made lymph facials famous during her wedding prep, but the power of a simple lymph massage must not be overlooked. They do for the entire body what facials do for the face. Manual lymph drainage uses gentle, rhythmic strokes, creating a wave-like sensation in the body that follows the paths towards the lymph nodes where toxins are then filtered out. The specific pumping strokes circulate immune cells through the body and can reduce inflammation. A simple lymphatic self-massage sequence a few nights a week can help reduce breast tenderness and improve digestion.

2 | Movement —

The lymph system depends on muscle movement to pump and decongest stagnant lymph fluid, acting as a natural lymph flush. In other words: exercise is key to lymphatic health. Yoga is a great way to get your movement on because it utilizes your entire muscle network, which pumps lymph through the one-way vessels. Additionally, inversions encourage lymph flow back to the heart and twists are terrific for moving lymph through the abdomen. Also great is jumping on a rebounder and swimming in a salt-water pool (the water pressure acts like a compressant to the lymph vessels).

3 | Use clean skincare, and reduce environmental and emotional toxins —

A large percentage of what you put on your body gets absorbed into the lymph system, and chemicals in household products should be avoided whenever possible. You can lighten the lymphatic processing load by choosing non-toxic, clean beauty products for your body and home. Check out The Fullest’s SHOP for some of the newest and cleanest products on the market.

4 | Make healthy food choices —

Gut health = lymph health! Eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in antioxidants and vegetables is optimal. Reduce salt and alcohol intake, find a healthy food plan you can maintain, avoid chemicals in diet foods, and consult with an herbalist about herbs and probiotics to boost your gut health and immunity. Holistic nutritionist and lifestyle cleanse expert Elissa Goodman is extremely knowledgeable on the highest grade supplements on the market.

5 | Hydrate —

Our bodies are aquariums. You can increase fluid flow and flush out toxins and pathogens by bathing fluids in antioxidants. Additionally, drinking plenty of water with lemon and electrolytes throughout the day will help circulate and nourish your lymph cells. Simples Tonics in Los Angeles has a gently brewed tea that’s specifically designed to support immunity and is super hydrating.

6 | Support the parasympathetic nervous system —

Infrared biomats offer light, heat, and crystal therapy designed to be a natural detox and pain reliever. The deep cellular relaxation received from lying on a biomat set to your own body temperature supports the body to drop into the parasympathetic system where healing occurs. Meditation, deep breathing, breathwork, and laughter can also help counter stress and support the nervous system.

7 | Dry brushing —

Dry brushing is an excellent way to remove dead cells from the surface of your skin so your lymph system doesn’t have to process the extra cellular waste. Brush lightly and towards your heart, but if you have radiated skin or open wounds, avoid the area completely until you’ve consulted with a trained lymphatic practitioner.

To learn more about Lymphedema, visit these sites: LE&RN (Lymphatic Education & Research Network) and the NLN (National Lymphedema Network). These organizations are the backbone of the lymphatic community and work to support legislation, raise awareness, and fund current scientific breakthroughs on the lymphatic system.

The information in this article is intended for educational use only; it’s not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with questions you have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.

Lisa Gainsley is a certified lymphedema therapist, holding a double certification in Lymphedema Therapy. She utilizes her 25 years of vast knowledge of the lymphatic system to address the specific needs of her clientele, whether they are interested in maintaining health, reducing inflammation in their body, are at risk for lymphedema after cancer treatment, or are recovering from an injury or surgery. Her mission is to spread “The Lymphatic Message” and properly educate people on the importance of lymphatic health. She hopes that someday lymphatic practitioners will be as commonplace as acupuncturists, chiropractors, and dentists.

This Wellness Practice Will Change Everything


Lisa is a Certified Lymphedema Therapist with a double certification in Complete Decongestive Therapy and Manual Lymphatic Drainage. We sat down with the lymphatic drainage expert to talk about how fascia connects more than just your muscles and how flushing your lymph system can prolong your life.


Rip & Tan: What does the lymphatic system do and why is it important to the body’s functions?

Lisa Gainsley: The lymphatic system is our first line of defense against disease and foreign particles. It helps circulate immune cells throughout our bodies and is integral to the immune system. The lymphatic system runs like a network of rivers, similar to the bloodstream. It absorbs, transports and filters our body’s waste through the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes, which are located mostly located in the neck, armpits, spleen, abdomen, top of the thigh, and behind the knees and elbows, contain white blood cells, macrophages and lymphocytes that act as detectors that signal to the immune system to destroy unwanted invaders. The nodes filter out toxic debris, then the lymph fluid enters to the bloodstream. I often refer to it as the body’s Great Recycling System. Excess waste accumulated in the tissues move through a network of pathways, vessels and ducts, like strands of pearls on a necklace cleaning out the body’s waste. The lymph system doesn’t have a central pump to move the fluid like the way the heart pumps the blood. Lymph depends on intrinsic muscle motility to move the fluid. Exercise and manual lymph drainage (MLD) increases the body’s ability to pump lymph fluid towards their drain sites. By enhancing lymphatic flow, you can directly improve your immune response to disease and other ailments. Eliminating excess waste removes congestion and reduces inflammation in the body.


Rip & Tan: What is Lymphedema?

Lisa Gainsley: Lymphedema is an abnormal accumulation of protein-rich fluid, which is the result of a malfunctioning lymphatic system. This swelling typically occurs in the arms or legs but can occur in other body parts as well. There are two types of lymphedema, primary and secondary. Primary lymphedema is the hereditary result of a malformed lymphatic system. Symptoms can be present at birth, during puberty or later in life without any obvious cause.

Secondary lymphedema is much more common and occurs when the lymphatic system is damaged due to factors such as side effects of cancer treatment, radiation, lymph node removal, infections, scarring and trauma.  Filariasis is another leading cause of lymphedema. Lymphatic filariasis occurs mainly in tropical climates where parasitic worms are transmitted to humans, damaging the lymphatic system. 

Symptoms of lymphedema include achiness, heaviness or swelling of a limb. People often feel tingling, numbness and limited range of motion. Chronic fluid accumulation in an area can lead to discoloration of the skin, or weeping wounds that don’t heal properly. The lymphatic system will swell many times over before symptoms are visible to the eye. There is no current cure for lymphedema, but with proper treatment it can be managed. Early detection and knowledge of signs and symptoms can help prevent lymphedema from progressing. Clinical trials and micro-surgeries are advancing treatment options to improve quality of life for those afflicted with lymphedema.


Rip & Tan: Can you describe the process of Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) and how it heals the body?

Lisa Gainsley: MLD is a therapeutic modality based on the strokes and techniques developed by Dr. Emil Vodder in Europe in the 1930’s. It’s designed to optimize the lymphatic and immune system by reducing metabolic waste and accumulated toxins from the body.  An MLD therapist uses specific gentle, rhythmic strokes that mimic the action of the lymphatic system. The precise pressure and direction pumps like a wave through the entire lymph system to the deepest layers of the body, stimulating lymph vessel contraction which moves fluid towards lymph nodes. As we discussed earlier, the white blood cells inside lymph nodes then filter out the body’s toxins. While the gentle touch of MLD is soothing and relaxing, it is also deeply therapeutic. MLD has a number of important functions, which include distributing immune cells throughout the body to defend against disease, ridding the body of excess proteins and toxins and helping to repair damage to injured tissues. Regular lymphatic treatments reduce inflammation and bloating. MLD accelerates recovery time from surgeries and injury, improve the appearance of skin, scar tissue and often cellulite. It’s a relaxing treatment that calms your nervous system, promotes healing and feels rejuvenating.

Rip & Tan: Who would you recommend for this treatment and how can it prevent or treat symptoms?

Lisa Gainsley: Everyone can benefit from lymphatic drainage. We all have inflammation in our bodies. Studies show inflammation is at the root of disease. Lymphatic treatments cleanse the body and boost the immune system. The lymphatic system is continuously flushing toxins from the body. We are only using 10% of our lymph system- that means we have a 90% functional reserve that can be enhanced to help the body flush out impurities and pathogens more efficiently.

Some people seek MLD because they’ve heard of its health benefits. There are also those who come because their stress, digestion, hormonal in-balances, surgical procedures or other symptoms cause inflammatory responses in their bodies.  Treatments can benefit the symptoms of acne, arthritis, athletic injury, bloating, indigestion, cancer treatment side effects, as well as recovery from radiation, mastectomies, lumpectomies, lymph node removal, neuropathy cellulite appearance, chronic fatigue, eczema, lymphatic pooling (swelling) in the ankles and feet, pre- & post-surgical procedures including face-lifts, rhinoplasty, brow lifts, chin tucks, tummy tucks and breast implants. It’s important to note that treatments are not meant to be a one-time fix. Continued maintenance of the lymph system will have a cumulative effect on the body- and people seeking treatments should understand that we recommend several sessions in order to reap the benefits.



Rip & Tan: Are there any at-home remedies one can employ to reduce inflammation? When should one see a doctor? 

Lisa Gainsley: First of all, I recommend seeing a doctor if you feel a lump. Lymph nodes tend to swell when the body is fighting an infection, but it’s important to see a physician if the lump persists to rule out a larger problem.

Here are some quick tips to better care for your lymphatic system:

Hydrate: Drinking water will promote lymphatic flow. Hydrating will bathe and nourish your cells and improve the appearance of your skin.

Exercise: Lymph fluid gets pumped when we move our bodies. Walking in nature, yoga, swimming, jumping on a trampoline or rebounder are all great for the lymph system as they increase the return rate of lymph fluid towards the heart. Inversions (going upside down) are also beneficial for the lymph system.

Proper Skin & Nail Care: Use non-toxic lotions so you don’t place a larger burden on the lymph system to filter out more chemicals. For people with lymphedema, it’s important to keep the skin hydrated and avoid dry cracked skin where bacteria can enter and spread infections. If your legs swell on airplanes, or from standing too long. compression stockings will contain inflammation.

Diaphragmatic breathing: Deep belly breathing and laughing helps pump the fluid from the lower half of our bodies up the thoracic duct. You can practice deep belly breathing at home. Lie down so you’re comfortable. Place your hands on your belly. Inhale and balloon your breath into your hands. On your exhale, let your belly recede back down. Repeat this a few times and feel how relaxing your whole body becomes.

Lymphatic self-massage: Learning how to perform lymphatic drainage on yourself is a great way to give your immune system a boost. I host salons and seminars if anyone is interested we can put you on our newsletter for upcoming events.

Rest: Getting proper sleep promotes healing. We are often in the sympathetic “fight or flight” dynamic which is stressful and agitating to our bodies. Calming the nervous system with proper sleep shifts the body into the parasympathetic state where healing occurs.

Dry Brushing: This helps eliminate toxic build up on the surface of the skin and reduces the lymphatic load. Try it before your shower so you can rinse off any dead cells afterwards. Purchase a dry brush with natural bristles. Brush towards your heart where your lymph fluid will ultimately return to your bloodstream. Dry brushing 2-3 times a week is plenty.  If you have had lymph nodes removed, radiated skin or open wounds please consult with a lymphedema therapist before you begin. 


Touch your pits campaign & Interview with Fat and the Moon

I had the privilege of being interviewed by Rachel, the intrepid owner of natural skin care line, Fat and the Moon. Read below to learn more about this terrific company, their mission and read the full article...

Fat and the Moon: "Our ‘Show Us Your Pits’ campaign continues along with the taboo topic of touching your pits! I’ve had so many conversations with folks who want to make the change from their current chemy deo to a non toxic one until- record scratch- they hear they have to apply our Deo Cream by TOUCHING THEIR ARMPITS. The mutual head nodding of just a moment prior seems life times away.While troubled by the aversion many have to an easy to reach and seemingly friendly part of the bod, I’m simultaneously fascinated by how aversions are formed in the first place. We can see the power of advertisement, packaging and marketing in the way its messaging has mediated our relationships with our bodies. The packaging of body ‘care’ products tells us how much or how little contact we should have with our bodies. From tampon applicators, to deodorant sticks- we are creating mountains of waste while losing a sense of connection and intimacy with what our mama gave us. Here at Fat and the Moon, we are about intimacy. Intimacy is information, it is the bridge for love and for sharing. Intimacy is touching your pits. " 

Fat and the Moon teamed up with a professional Pit Toucher, Lisa Gainsley a Certified Lymphedema Therapist, practicing 23 years and founder of The Lymphatic Message. We asked Lisa a few questions on the subject of touching your pits.....

Voyage LA Interview

In October, 2017 Voyage LA ran a feature of Lisa Gainsley and the work she does with The Lymphatic Message in Los Angeles.

Lisa, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
In the late 80’s in college in San Francisco, I studied Cultural Anthropology. I was really interested in how different cultures approached healing. I was specifically drawn to how the west assimilated healing modalities from around the world. At that time even acupuncture wasn’t as widely accepted in this country as it is today.

After college, I enrolled in massage school in Marin County in 1993. Lymphatic massage was one of my required courses. I fell in love with the work! Receiving regular lymphatic massages helped my digestive issues and acne. It relived my bloating and congestion and calmed my nervous system. I had never felt anything like it before, I was aware of how my gut health related to my overall well-being, I enjoyed working on the lymph system- the precision of the strokes which are gentle, but intentional in their direction and cadence.

I was fascinated by the science and biology of our lymphatic system- how it runs like rivers similar to the blood stream, absorbing, transporting and filtering our bodies waste before returning it to the bloodstream.

One day, my teacher told the class that if we continued taking advanced courses we would be able to work with cancer patients. I suddenly flashed back to when I was a kid, lying next to my mom with the sound of lily ponds and waterfalls playing on her cassette tape – intent on relaxing her body to fight her disease. We learned visual imagery and guided meditation as a family to help my mom battle cancer and its side effects. Right then I knew I found what I was supposed to do.

After taking all the courses in lymphatic drainage, and assisting my teacher for years. I went on to get two certifications, join the team at UCLA medical center, and then eventually go into private practice here in Los Angeles.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
For the most part, my career has been a smooth road. I have continued to follow what I love to do and what I am passionate about. I believe that if you follow what you are interested in, then opportunities and success will follow if you work hard, are kind and compassionate.

One of the struggles we face in our field is bringing awareness to the importance of lymphatic health and how it is integral to your immunity. Over the last two decades I have seen great strides in how doctors and nurses advocate for Lymphedema prevention. Our government has passed legislation allowing some treatments to be covered by insurance. Research and grants are advancing breakthroughs in the field. There is more work to do. Spokespeople like Kathy Bates, bring attention to the importance of the lymph system in maintaining health.

But there is more to do. My goal is to make lymphatic health a household term and bring lymphatic treatments to the forefront of the wellness industry.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the The Lymphatic Message story. Tell us more about the business.
Lymphatic treatments are beneficial for everyone whether you are invested in obtaining optimal health or are experiencing a health issue. Benefits include boosting your immunity and detoxifying your body.

I am known in the community for helping people reduce inflammation in their bodies. A large percentage of my clients are seeking relief from the side effects of medical procedures or cancer treatments. Lymphatic drainage is a gentle, specific modality which relaxes your nervous system, manages swelling, repairs tissue post-surgery and prevents Lymphedema.

What sets me apart from others is that I work preventatively. My training is extensive. MLD (manual lymphatic drainage) and CDT (compete decongestive therapy) is more common once swelling becomes chronic and difficult to manage. Early intervention and education is key reversing inflammation.

My goal with each client is you support their healing response. MLD allows the body to connect to its natural state of wellness and balance by encouraging elimination of daily toxins to relieve sluggish congestion.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I am lucky to have good fortune on my side in many ways. I have wonderful clients who put their trust and faith in me. They spread the message of lymphatic health by sharing their healing journey with friends and family. My clientele is based on word of mouth. I am lucky to have such meaningful work. It’s so rewarding to bear witness to those who are creating balance and health in their lives.

On the flip side, it was damn rotten luck that my mother passed away when I was only 13. Cancer sucks. I don’t recommend it to anyone- but it did lead me to my life’s work…




REAL Podcast

Diane McDaniel's podcast, REAL started off as REAL CANCER intended to provide an honest conversation to those facing a cancer diagnosis. Diane started a community for those stories and resources of how people helped themselves through their treatment, and what they learned along the way.

The podcast is now called REAL. There are times when things get REAL. You know what she means...I'm sure you've been there too. REAL podcast are stories of adversity, resilience, creativity and transformation.

Diane's strength as an interviewer is refreshing, welcoming. Take a listen to the time I was on sharing my story about what lead me to work with the lymphatic system and cancer patients.

Lisa Gainsley: Facilitating the Healing Journey

Resource: Lymphatic Education & Action Network

World Lymphedema Day is March 6!

Kathy Bates has been vocal about her struggle with Lymphedema since her cancer recovery. She is the spokesperson for the Lymphedema, Education and Action Network, an organization which brings awareness to the battle against Lymphedema.  Today, I'd like to introduce you to the LE&RN organization. Not only are their members on the cutting edge of scientific breakthroughs, they are educating the world on the "lymphedemic" issues around the globe and taking action on solving them.

LE&RN's mission is see a world without lymphatic disease and lymphedema.
The organization raise awareness and grants for continued research, clinical trials and advancements in the field of lymphology. If you or someone you know has, or is at risk of developing lymphedema, then please direct them to LE&RN's website. They live-stream symposiums, publish journals on lymphatic research, and have features where you can Ask An Expert questions.

Finding answers and advocacy forums online can be daunting- so I always steer my clients to  this non-profit where I know they will be in trusted hands.

Join Judi Dench, Steve Ruttenberg, Andy Cohen and Patricia Clarkson as ambassadors for LE&RN.

To learn more, become a member, sign their petition and donate.


Dry-Bushing for your health

Dry-brushing is a simple, affordable way to boost your lymph system. It helps eliminate toxic build up on the surface of the skin and increases lymphatic drainage. Try it before your shower so you can rinse off any dead cells afterwards. 

Getting Started: Purchase a dry brush with natural bristles. I like one with a long handle, but a handle-less brush will do just fine too.

(Precaution: If you have Lymphedema, or are at risk for developing Lymphedema, please review the proper technique with your lymphatic therapist first. Newly radiated skin is a pre-caution.)

Important -before you start, know the direction you are going to brush. Brush slowly and gently! 

You want to guide your lymph fluid towards the juncture near your heart and collarbone. Your lymph fluid will ultimately return to your bloodstream there, so keep this in mind when you dry-brush. Set your intention to move the bristles towards your heart.

Start at your feet, brush up your legs towards the top of your thigh. Your inguinal lymph nodes are located at the top of your thigh. These inguinal nodes absorb the fluid from your legs. (If you've had cancer and lymph nodes removed in your inguinal nodes, please consult with your lymphatic therapist on whether you should "re-route" your dry brush technique.)

Next, brush your abdomen in a gathering pattern towards your navel, then up your mid-line past your sternum towards your heart.

Brush from your hands up your arm towards your armpit. Your axillary lymph nodes are located in your armpit. They take the fluid from most of your arm, your torso and breasts. 

Brush your breasts gently towards your armpit. (If you've had breast cancer and lymph nodes removed in your armpit, please consult with your lymphatic therapist on whether you should "re-route" your dry brush technique.)

Brushing the back of your torso is easiest if you have the brush with a long handle. The fluid from the back of your torso from your waist up wraps around towards your armpit where your axillary nodes are located.

Brushing your Face and neck- 

Gua-sha tools and specific face brushes are more gentle on the face. You want to roll your tool from your neck downwards towards your collarbone. Then, direct your brush from your face towards your ear on each side. (Think Nose-to-cheek-to ear) Then move from your chin, along your jaw-bone. Repeat the movement from your nose to your ears. Forehead towards your ears. Then move your tool behind your ear, down your neck to the right and left lymphatic ducts which are located just above your collarbone at the base of your neck.

I like the rose-quartz gua-sha tool for face lymph brushing. There are natural face brushes too. If you are enjoying dry-brushing, have a couple tools to switch off on different days. You don't need to get carried away with gadgets here. Keep it simple. This should be enjoyable. Dry-Brushing 3 times a week is a good plan that most people can maintain. Remember, caring for yourself is a form of self-love and self-respect.