There's no doctor or dietitian-recommended lymph node detox diet. However, it is possible to consume certain foods to boost lymphatic system and immune system functions. These foods reduce inflammation in your body, making it easier for your lymphatic system to work as it should.
Lymphatic Systems and Detox Diets
According to an April 2012 study in Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine, your lymphatic system is the second major circulatory system in your body. Lymph — a fluid made of protein, fat lipids, immune cells and extracellular molecules — is one of the main components of your lymphatic system. The lymph runs from peripheral tissue to your blood's vascular system. It also moves immune system cells like lymphocytes and antigen-presenting cells throughout your body.
When too much lymph builds up, it accumulates in lymphatic vessels. These vessels are in almost every organ and tissue in your body — from your intestines to your neck.
Lymphedema is the condition that occurs when your limbs, face or body swell because of the accumulation of these fluids. This condition can occur for a variety of reasons, but may be inherited or happen after surgery, radiation, infection or other medical issues.
This should not be confused with swollen lymph nodes, which are often accompanied by standard signs of illness, like sore throats, fevers and night sweats. It's normal for your lymph nodes to swell when you've been exposed to allergens, bacteria and viruses.
Regardless of the reason for your lymphatic system issues, there's really no such thing as a lymph node detox diet. However, there are anti-inflammatory foods and diets that may be able to support the health of your lymphatic system. While they won't detox the lymph in your body, they also won't exacerbate and may even help reduce chronic inflammation.
Foods to Boost Lymphatic Systems
The best foods you can consume to support your lymphatic system are anti-inflammatory foods. According to the Cleveland Clinic, inflammation occurs when your body tries to remove toxins from your system. Excessive inflammation can cause discomfort and pain, and even lead to diseases like cardiovascular disease, strokes, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease and depression.
Be aware that not all vegetables are created equal. For instance, starchy foods like potatoes and very sweet vegetables like corn aren't exactly ideal. While you can consume these foods in moderation, they are still likely to exacerbate your inflammation compared to the average cruciferous or leafy vegetable.
The anti-inflammatory diet also allows you to consume moderate amounts of fruit, particularly berries and other antioxidant-rich foods. You can also eat small amounts of whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Legumes like lentils are recommended as protein. Fatty fish, which is full of anti-inflammatory polyunsaturated fatty acids, is also recommended, and skinless chicken is acceptable as well.
All of these foods should help support the health of your lymphatic system. The plant-based products you're mainly consuming are full of beneficial bioactive compounds like antioxidants, polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds.
Anti-Inflammatory Nutrients and Supplements
Anti-inflammatory foods aren't just foods, but can be essential nutrients that you're likely already consuming. For instance, according to a November 2012 study in Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), vitamin D and vitamin E all play important roles in modulating the immune system and regulating inflammatory responses in your body. Notably, these nutrients act as antioxidants too.
Certain supplements also have anti-inflammatory properties. For instance, echinacea, a herb used to prevent colds and other infections, can also help modulate your immune system. Although it's not an antioxidant like garlic and turmeric, this herb also has anticancer properties.
Inflammatory Foods to Avoid
If you're following an anti-inflammatory diet to support your lymphatic system, you'll have to eliminate all simple carbohydrates, refined grain products and flour-based products. You'll also have to stop consuming all dairy products and red meat.
Similarly, most sugars aren't ideal. This can include many sugar alcohols and sugar substitutes. However, plant-based sweeteners like lucuma powder or stevia may be alright to consume in moderation.
Anti-inflammatory diets can be extremely helpful in managing inflammation and its associated issues, but you should be aware that it takes some time — usually two to three weeks until you begin to see any effects if you're very strict about these dietary changes.
It's best to try the diet for at least six to 12 weeks. However, if you're following this diet over the long-term, you may not have to be so strict. The Cleveland Clinic says that there is some wiggle room in the anti-inflammatory diet — you can cheat a little on holidays and potentially incorporate some other foods into your diet if you're very active.
Diet and Swollen Lymph Nodes
There aren't too many foods to avoid to alleviate swollen lymph nodes. Most foods can be considered healthy in moderation, and while you may experience an increase in inflammation-based symptoms, you shouldn't find that your lymph nodes swell after eating something like cake or steak.
The only foods that may produce a rapid inflammatory response and make your lymph nodes swell are those you are allergic to. It should go without saying, but you should eliminate any of these products from your diet. If you're allergic to shellfish, gluten or any other foods, you'll need to avoid them, because allergies directly contribute to inflammation.
Of course, it's possible to not know all your allergies, which can change as you age. So you may need to get tested for new allergies. Similarly, you should also avoid consuming foods that you're sensitive to or intolerant of. It may be best to eliminate these from your diet, then reincorporate them one by one to see if they affect your health.
If you believe certain foods or beverages are making your lymph nodes swell, you should talk to your doctor about different swollen lymph nodes treatment options. Although certain foods may make inflammation worse, lymph node detox diets are unlikely to help because they're likely not the main cause of your lymphatic system problems. Regular swelling is usually a sign of a secondary issue that your doctor can help determine.
- Molecules: "Immunomodulators Inspired by Nature: A Review on Curcumin and Echinacea"
- Journal of Immunology Research: "Immunomodulation and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Garlic Compounds"
- Molecules: "Curcumin, Inflammation, and Chronic Diseases: How Are They Linked?"
- Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents: "Role of Vitamins D, E and C in Immunity and Inflammation"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Foods That Fight Inflammation"
- Cleveland Clinic: "How an Anti-Inflammatory Diet Can Relieve Pain as You Age"
- Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine: "The New Era of the Lymphatic System: No Longer Secondary to the Blood Vascular System"