To help our body’s function at their healthiest levels, it is essential to drink adequate amounts of water to make sure the lymph fluid flows easily and stays clean. Water naturally moves and circulates, both inside of us and outside as well. When it can flow freely and continuously, it stays fresh and clean. If it has difficulties moving, it becomes toxic and stagnant. Our Lymphatic system operates in the same way, so it’s very important that we nourish the quality and quantity of water in our systems.
Staying hydrated ensures that your lymphatic system has the lubrication needed to detoxify and drain impurities. Dehydration occurs when there’s more loss of water (through sweating, heat exposure and breathing for example) than intake in the body. Normally we replace these fluids with the water we drink or food we eat, but if we lose too much we can get dehydrated and not have sufficient amounts of fluid for proper metabolic processes.
The role of the lymphatic system and fluid balance.
One of the most common causes of lymph congestion is dehydration. In any human (with or without Lymphedema), lymph fluid becomes thicker and depletes when you become dehydrated. Our body’s simply cannot produce it without water and proper hydration!
Lymph fluid is composed of 95% water and interacts with every cell in your body. It helps get nutrients to different parts of your body and cleanses internally on a continual basis to restore balance in your cells. It also carries waste products and bacteria away for disposal, ensuring that the body processes stay in equilibrium.
When it stops flowing properly, waste and bacteria get stuck, the immune system struggles to cope and we become sick. In cases of Lymphedema, protein and wastes build up in the surrounding tissue, which further attracts excess water into the areas- creating additional swelling in that region. This can further exacerbate an already swollen lymphie limb and increase Lymphedema symptoms such as discomfort, a reduction in mobility and pain.
It may seem counterintuitive (particularly in the case of Lymphedema, when we have a fluid problem!), but drinking more water to stay hydrated is important because being dehydrated makes your body retain more water as a defence mechanism! Instead of moving liquid out of the body, it is reabsorbed into the tissues and leads to water retention. The only way to counteract this is to drink plenty of water to help cells carry out normal biological processes.
How much liquid do we need to drink to stay hydrated?
It’s difficult to give an exact figure on how much each individual should be consuming daily, but the general consensus in the medical community is 3.7 litres for men and 2.7 litres for women.
There are many ways you can get more water into your diet, particularly if you find consuming plain water difficult.
1Eating More Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source for water and there are so many delicious types to choose from. Look for foods that have high water content such as watermelon, cucumber, lettuce, oranges, broccoli, tomatoes, zucchini and spinach (just to name a few!) Aside from whole foods, there are plenty of hidden sources of water in your diet. Things like soups, smoothies, salads and homemade juices are all great ways of getting more liquids into your body.
2Incorporate Water into Your Daily Routine
Most of us have consistent morning routines: wake up, shower, drink coffee, brush teeth, go to work. We do these things almost without thinking, so why not include drinking more water into this routine? Get into the habit of drinking a glass of water at the same time and place every day. When you wake up, drink a glass of water.Keep drinking your morning coffee, but have a glass of water before it! Before you eat lunch, drink another glass of water. By doing this, you easily make drinking water part of your natural daily habits and before long, you won’t even have to think to do it!
3Mark Your Water-Bottle with Drinking Time Goals
This is a great way to help you stay on track of getting enough water during the day. Buy yourself a good quality 1-litre water bottle and use some stick-on labels to indicate the amount of water you want to drink at certain times of the day. Like this, you can visually see if you are hitting your goals or lagging behind.
4Make Your Drinking Water More Interesting
If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try adding some different ingredients to make it more palatable and interesting. For example, you could add a squeeze of fresh lemon or mint to your water bottle, sugar-free drink sachets (like Bolero flavours that are full of vitamins and sugar-free), diced up fresh fruits like berries, oranges and melon, or even freshly picked herbs from the garden. Herbal tea is also a very hydrating choice, particularly natural and organic herbal blends because they are typically caffeine free. Blends such as South African Rooibos, Chamomile or Mint are not only delicious but hold many healing properties as well.
Remember that water isn’t the only liquid you can consume that hydrates. Milk is a great choice as well as juices, sports drinks and coconut water. You can always lower the sugar content of store-bought beverages by diluting them with water.
Not only will your Lymphatic system love you, but your entire body will benefit from keeping hydrated- you will sleep better, your joints and muscles will work better, your skin will glow and you will digest easier. Drink up and welcome more water into your life!