by Vrinda Devani, MD
As the cold and dampness of winter melts away to the warmth of spring, our bodies so too mirror these changes in nature. The qualities of cold, wet, dense, and slow dominate the winter and holidays. Even in the most dry parts of the country, including Lubbock, there are at least spurts of snow, ice, or cold rain. (Although, this year we sure have had our share!) The Ayurveda principle of “like increases like” explains that our bodies undergo the same changes. And, as a result, we blow our nose and cough our way through winter. To top it off, we all tend to indulge (even just a little bit!) during the holiday season with sweet and savory dishes and, like our animal neighbors, we like to be less active and hibernate in our cozy homes during cold months and sleep more during longer nights.
These qualities of cold, wet, dense, stagnant, liquid, heavy all dominate one of the three primary energies in our body, called kapha. Thus, nature, our diet, and our lifestyle all build kapha and its like qualities within the body. But as spring rolls around, the warmth begins to melt the kapha. The kapha makes its way through the channels of the body and lingers around in our lymph and plasma. If we support its proper transformation and elimination at the dawn of spring, we can set our body up for optimal wellness in the seasons to come. On the contrary, a failure to do so can take us down a vicious cycle of constantly struggling to eliminate excess kapha, with issues such as allergies, weight gain, and fatigue and sluggishness.
7 Signs of Lymph Congestion
According to Ayurveda, almost everyone has some congestion and stagnation of lymph during this time of the year because of the above reasons. But here are a few stronger manifestations that you may see.
- Puffy and crusty eyes. Blocked sinuses and venous congestion results in waking up with a swollen and puffy face, and, for some, that appearance lasts throughout the day.
- Phlegm. Lingering phlegm in the back of the sinuses and throat can be quite bothersome and is particularly prominent in the morning.
- Repeated congestion and cough. Recurrence of congestion and cough without clear signs of infection is one manifestation of blocked kapha in the body.
- Poor appetite. The result of poor digestion can be a poor appetite. A stomach that is constantly satiated from high levels of kapha can cause both.
- Sluggishness. High kapha plus poor digestion leads to a drop in energy level. The higher levels of kapha coursing through our plasma can create a sensation of heaviness throughout the day.
- Swelling. Excess fluid throughout the body can appear as swelling, particularly in our legs and feet.
- Excessive salivation. High kapha can manifest in other fluid filled areas of the body, such as the mouth. Have you been drooling in your sleep or do you find that your mouth is excessively wet?
5 Action Steps Towards Lymph Decongestion
The basic principle that guides Ayurveda therapy is “treat with the opposite.” So in these therapies, you will see more hot, thin, light, and mobile qualities.
- Enjoy ginger tea! Ginger not only is great for cleansing lymph and plasma but also stimulates your digestive fire and metabolism. You can buy ginger tea bags (use a couple in a cup of hot water) or you can grate fresh ginger root and boil it in hot water. Use honey as the sweetener, as it is one of the few sweeteners that is actually heating (the opposite quality of kapha)!
- Alter your diet. Eat warm and well-cooked foods with lots of spices (such as cardamom, clove, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper). Avoid the sweet and salty flavors as these two build kapha. Avoid ice water and uncooked meals.
- Self-massage. Everyone loves getting a massage, but have you tried giving yourself a massage? It’s quick and easy. Take organic sesame oil (or try the Kapha Oil at the herb store) and massage your body beginning at the extremities and working towards your heart. Rough strokes on the skin stimulate lymph movement. If you have significant signs lymph congestion, do a dry massage with chickpea flour and wash it off with a hot shower.
- Move! Yoga, cycling, swimming, running- whatever gets you moving. Muscle contractions move lymph and increasing your heart rate moves and heats the circulation.
- Cleanse. There is no better time for a full detox and cleanse than this time of the year when kapha is ready to be mobilized and released.
Set yourself up for a year of health with these simple steps as the season turns. See if you notice any difference this year.