There have been many articles on how lasers target the ink in tattoo removal but not on how the ink is moved through the body once the laser has done its job. Unknown to many people, the most effective tattoo removal requires a well-functioning lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is one of the most overlooked parts of your anatomy. It has been likened to drain pipes or to a street cleaner, cleaning all the corners, including the alleys and cul de sacs of our body working hard to not only fight infection but to destroy bad bacteria, viruses, parasites and other pathogens.
What Happens to The Ink?
The clear to whitish colour fluid of the lymph contains different types of immune fighting cells. The cells that are the most important with tattoo removal are macrophages, the scavengers of the immune system. They collect worn out cells and debris as well as creating an immune response when necessary to fight infection. The enzymes within it destroys the unfriendly pathogens.
Scientific articles have been published on ink particles collecting in lymph nodes in people who have tattoos. The collection of these particles is due to the large size of the ink molecule which is unable to be moved or processed by the lymphatic system and thereby lodges in these collections of lymphatic tissue. Q- switched laser procedures creates smaller particle sizes that are less likely to be trapped.
The tattoo removal laser creates micro-particles. As the ink is “released”, these micro-particles are small enough to be essentially mopped up by the macrophages travelling to the lymph nodes, where filtering occurs. As more ink will travel through the lymphatic system during the tattoo removal procedure, optimising the lymphatic system DOES mean optimising removal. Clients with a lot of ink to remove can potentially feel tired or fatigued as well as itchy as their body tries to process it. It is always good practice to break up a large tattoo and therefore treat in parts, and often schedule repeat treatments further apart.
Unlike the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system has no central pump. The volume of lymph is large and is therefore slow moving and sporadic due to its lack of any pump. 4 to 5 litres of lymph a day flows through the body so keeping your lymph healthy and moving is very important, not just for ink movement but the whole health of the body so that it is better able to fight disease. The lymphatic vessels are part of the circulatory system, all of which flows through the liver and kidneys for detoxification before bodily excretions result. So, yes, eventually you poop and pee that ink out!
Instead of ignoring this important part of your body, we’ve listed some great tips to clean your lymphatic system and get your body functioning at its best to help you remove that ink effectively.
1. EAT CLEAN, RED, RAW AND IN SEASON
Cleaning your diet can also clean your lymph system. Since the system wants to remove anything that is not supposed to be there, avoiding processed foods helps it to run more efficiently. Many processed foods contain chemicals, refined sugar, artificial flavourings, colours, additives, and preservatives. Eating too much of these will add more internal housework creating a greater metabolic burden for your body and therefore slowing the lymph. Processed foods are also likely to induce an acid pH which is an ideal environment for pathogenic micro-organisms as well as slowing down or congesting the lymph flow.
Many health experts espouse seasonal eating, preparing the body’s pH for the cycle of seasonal change. The food is also likely to contain fewer pesticides and have more anti-oxidants compared to unseasonal produce. Not only that, it can definitely be cheaper, more flavoursome and is supportive of the community and the environment. The naturally occurring enzymes in raw food promote the clearance of harmful substances from the body.
Eating fresh beetroot every day can really help too. Any of those good red foods are lymph movers, including berries, cherries, cranberries and pomegranate. Beetroot also thins the bile, important for fat digestion and the immune response.
2. DRINK WATER
60 % of our body is made up of water and approximately 95% of your lymph fluid is water. Clean, clear water is the best fluid to prevent dehydration. Dehydration only stresses the lymphatic system making it sluggish and less efficient. Water will help clean these drain pipes of ours. Adding a little lemon juice is also great to help alkalise the body.
Trampolining is not just for kids! Rebounding is actually an easy way to pump the lymph, helping not only to move the lymph but also to detoxify the lymphatic system. 10 to 30 minutes a day works really well. Moving the lymphatic fluid through the body gets it to the lymph nodes where it can be cleaned. It was one of those fads from the 80s that should definitely come back.
It gained popularity when NASA studied its benefits in trying to find an effective way to help astronauts recover and regain bone and muscle mass after being in space. Their study found that on the trampoline they could exercise the entire body without excess pressure to the feet and legs compared to running on the treadmill. The forces of acceleration and deceleration can work on every cell of the body. On leaving the surface of the trampoline or acceleration, the lymphatic valves open, on landing or deceleration there is an increased G-force causing a surge in lymph drainage, improving circulation and therefore may help detoxify your entire system.
Rebounding or trampolining has shown to be easy on the joints, build strength and proprioception (sense of position, orientation, location of a joint) in athletes, improve the lymph flow, strengthen the cardiovascular system, and help with balance. It can burn more calories than jogging or walking and due to the gravitational effects, oxygen is infused better throughout the body, and the lymph is detoxified and the lymphatic system boosted!
It is important to note that any form of exercise is good for getting the lymph flowing, so just get moving. Contraction of muscle and joints move the lymph. The rhythmic tensing and relaxing of the muscles during physical movement propel fluid through the lymphatic channels.
5. PRACTICE YOGA
Many Yoga poses (even head stands) move blood and lymph toward the heart speeding up the rate of filtering and cleaning of the lymphatic fluid. Twisting the abdomen squeezes the muscles forcing the lymph to move and the dynamic flow of yoga itself causes muscles in the body to contract and relax, a vital component to good lymph movement.
6. IMPROVE YOUR STRESS COPING MECHANISMS
Stress actually changes your body chemistry causing oxidation and lymph congestion. Meditation and mindfulness practices could help minimize this burden of stress. Yoga and tai chi which coordinate movement and the breath can be a great way of reducing the state of over arousal of your body’s stress response. If you feel “blocked” or “stuck” in your thought processes or within something you are doing or not doing with your life, this stagnation in emotions can mean stagnation in your lymph. Talking to a therapist or trusted friend could be something to consider.
7. RELAX IN A SAUNA
Sweating with sauna therapy is another way to increase circulation, sweat out toxins and improve lymphatic flow for cleaning. If the body is overburdened with stress, high levels of cardiovascular exercise to induce sweating can further promote the “flight-fright” response that stress creates. The sauna is a wonderful way of calmly removing toxins from your body without inducing a stress response.
8. GET A LYMPHATIC MASSAGE
Lymphatic drainage massage is a special form of massage that is used to manually flush and detoxify the body. It uses a specific form of pressure to gently push fluid towards the heart, helping mobilise toxins, making it better for the clearance of them. Lymphatic massage is also very helpful to treat lymphoedema, which is an accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the body after lymph nodes have been removed as seen in breast cancer mastectomy.
9. CONSIDER LOW LEVEL LASER THERAPY
One of the latest and greatest technologies for healing any cell can be used to help move the lymph and to therefore expedite the movement of ink. Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) has also been incorporated into treatments to help lymphoedema by many practitioners.
10. DEEP BREATHE AND HAVE A GOOD BELLY LAUGH
Deeply inhaling and laughing causes the movement of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles. The change in pressure in your chest forces lymphatic fluid upward from the extremities, where it can then be filtered and cleaned. Another suggestion is to learn the yoga form of breathing called Kapalabhati breath technique. It is known to help purify the body, boost the metabolism and increase energy.
I once heard a prescription of multiple episodes of Billy Connelly helped heal someone’s depression. It would certainly move the lymph too! Find your favourite comedian and enjoy a good laugh.
11. DRINK HERBAL TEA
Certain herbs are best for lymph cleansing and a relaxing herbal tea can do the trick. Mix burdock, cleavers and nettle in a tea to help safely remove toxins. Red Clover is good for the lymph as well as for reducing inflammation. Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine does have some help for the lymphatic system too. Manjistha, a red coloured root, is an Ayurvedic herb that is known also as a lymph mover and blood purifier. Rehmannia and Bupleurum from Chinese medicine are known to help naturally remove toxins.
12. DETOX YOUR ENVIRONMENT
As the lymph is responsible for the body’s “waste products”, decreasing its burden wherever possible can be greatly beneficial to how hard this immune system has to work. Using toxic chemical free skin care, hair care, house hold cleaning products, drinking purified water and wearing natural fibres against your skin can be useful ways of diminishing this burden. Putting chemicals and synthetic fibres on your skin is like wrapping your body in plastic, the toxic substances that the body is trying to expel can only be reabsorbed. Here is a guide to what chemical products should be avoided in skin care.
13. PERFORM DRY SKIN BRUSHING
Dry skin brushing is a technique commonly utilized in Ayurveda for assisting in lymphatic flow and boosting circulation. Using a dry brush with a coarse bristle, you brush the skin towards the heart. This stimulates the sweat glands, opens pores as well as getting rid of dead skin cells. It also encourages the movement of lymph and blood in underlying organs and tissues of the body. As a result, it can be beneficial in improving skin conditions and reducing cellulite. Avoid brushing over freshly treated tattoos or areas of skin injuries.
14. CHANGE YOUR DEODORANT
Sweat helps your body remove toxins so it is important for our health. Anti-perspirants stop this natural process of toxic relief for our body. Aluminium based deodorants are the basis for the anti-perspiration and are the majority found in our supermarket aisles. Look for pure deodorants only.
15. DO A NUTRITIONAL DETOX
Liver enzymes and super greens particularly spirulina and chlorella are wonderful detoxes. Oxidative stress from chemicals, metals and pathogens causes dis-ease within our bodies. Spirulina helps with toxic metal removal and chlorella with chemical removal. It is important to note that a congested lymphatic system can cause detox reactions, so, to start with, find a routine involving movement of the body first before proceeding with a detox.
16. GET FREE WITH YOUR CLOTHES
Underwire bras and tight fitting clothing can actually impede good lymphatic flow. The lymphatic drainage for breast tissue and the arm occurs in a large collection of lymph nodes in the armpit and the upper chest. It has been suggested that restriction in this area can lead to an array of conditions, not excluding breast cancer. Tight jeans and Spanx are other examples of lymph restrictive clothing. If you have an important event, just make sure any tight clothing comes off when you get home.
17. CASTOR OIL PACKS
Even though there are no conclusive studies on the use of castor oil packs for detoxification, there is a long history of use in many cultures. Castor oil packs are used by applying castor oil to a clean cotton fabric and placing them on the body in an area that needs cleansing. The area is wrapped in plastic and left in place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Most often the pack is applied to the abdomen for aiding the lymphatic system.
Do you have any bloating or are you prone to getting colds every season? Here are some signs of lymphatic congestion that might surprise you.
When lymph is flowing well, it will support the natural cleansing of the body. Stagnant lymph flow leads to the inability to remove toxins including foreign particles such as tattoo ink. Maximising this cleansing system will, therefore, create much greater outcomes for you as well as a healthier body.