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 from just a moment prior seem lifetimes 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...
Lisa, can you tell us a bit about your background and interest in lymphatic health?
Sure! Well, I suppose it began without me really being aware of it. When I was 10 my mom was diagnosed with Cancer. It was the late 70’s in Los Angeles. My mom was really ahead of her time- and she found a book about a hitchhiker who caught a ride with a trucker whose wife had cured herself from cancer with a macrobiotic diet. So my mom swapped out meatloaf and embarked on a journey to health with macrobiotic cooking. She would take us to this health food store in the valley and bought me and my brother carob and kefir while she loaded up on daikon, lotus root and loads of herbs and tonics. We learned Silva guided meditation as a family. My mom enrolled in ceramics classes at The Everywoman’s village. She got a place at the community garden where we would go on weekends to tend to her planted vegetables. We also went to MD Anderson cancer hospital in Texas to see what western medicine could do to help my mom. She ultimately passed away from the disease when I was 13.
Her passing at that tender age left certain gaps in my maturity. Thankfully she was alive for my first menstruation! I vividly remember screaming for her from the bathroom. She was so excited and proud of my puberty that she celebrated by buying me this cheap lucite bracelet that I swear, was so precious, it felt like solid gold.I tell you this because the years from high school to college I spent a lot of time at The Bodhi Tree bookstore with books by Kirkegaard and Buddhist and Hindu scholars. I read Shirley MacClaine, Tom Robbins, Edward Abbey and Ram Dass. I drank too much alcohol. I was struggling with this deep void while feeling like if I could just understand the meaning of life- maybe I could come to terms with my mother’s death. How can we live and die better and enjoy this life in between?
In college, I studied Cultural Anthropology with a Religious Studies minor. I was fascinated by the healing traditions of cultures around the world. I wanted to deepen this experience, but I was mindful that as a white woman, my observations may not always be welcome. So I decided to go to massage school. It was the early 90’s and I’d been living in San Francisco. I attended massage school amongst the redwoods in Marin County.
One of my required courses was lymphatic drainage. I’d never experienced anything like it. The wave like motion of the strokes was so profoundly different from my other courses. I felt like I was home again within myself. After several sessions, my digestion and bloating improved, even my acne healed! I loved my lymphatic courses because the strokes were like a moving meditation, like Tai Chi or Chi Gong. I also loved the science behind the lymph system. The biology and physiology, and the role the lymph system plays in immunity satisfied my inner geek! One day, during the Intermediate lymph course, my teacher told us that if we continued taking advanced courses, lymphatic drainage is beneficial for cancer patients. It all kind of came together for me at that moment- and I knew I found my life’s work.
How can touching your armpits play a role in lymphatic health?
I am proud to say I’ve been touching armpits since 1993! Touching your armpits stimulates the initial lymphatic capillaries and vessels underneath your skin whose job it is to absorb and transport lymphatic fluid to lymph nodes. The lymph system drains impurities from your body. You have clusters of lymph nodes under your armpit in what are called axillary lymph nodes. (You also have lymph nodes in your neck, in your abdomen, at the top of your thigh, behind your elbows and behind your knees.)
Lymph nodes contain white blood cells, macrophages, and lymphocytes that filter out bacteria, viruses, toxic build up, fat and pathogens in your interstitial fluid. Lymphatic fluid runs like rivers throughout your body similar to the bloodstream. It contains the body’s waste products that the blood doesn’t pick up. When lymph is congested it cannot move the waste efficiently. The bloodstream gets pumped by the heart. The lymphatic system doesn’t have a central pump to move the fluid. It depends on muscle contraction, movement (exercise) and manual lymphatic drainage, such as touching your armpit!
By learning some simple lymphatic self- massage techniques, you can reduce inflammation and improve your immune response. It’s your body’s natural waste removal system. I call it the Great Recycling System because once your lymph fluid has been filtered by lymph nodes, the fluid rejoins your bloodstream toxin-free. A healthy functioning lymphatic system will strengthen your immune system. Maintaining lymphatic health by including self- massage in areas like your armpit can enhance the appearance of your skin, reduce inflammation, produce glowing skin and allow healing from the inside out.
Why is non-toxic deodorant important for lymphatic health?
I have been yelling this from the mountaintop for two decades! My brother always makes fun of me because I would rather smell bad than wear deodorant with toxins in it. I was so happy when I found your line, Fat and the Moon. I love your ethos, and your commitment to crafting products with natural, organic ingredients. Your Deodorant Cream and Sensitive Pit Cream are the best ones I have found on the market. No more stinky pits! I tell all my clients about your skincare line. The beauty industry is finally coming around to understand that 60% of what we put on our skin (our largest lymphatic organ) gets absorbed into our lymph system.
By adding chemicals to deodorant we are putting added, unnecessary strain on our lymph to process all these toxins. Remember, your lymphatic system is integral to your immunity As I said earlier, we have a large cluster of lymph nodes, the axillary nodes, under our armpit right where we apply deodorant! Why shove chemicals on that vulnerable spot?
In my private practice, I have seen a lot of inflammation around the armpit area. I have also seen discolored armpits. You would be surprised at how many people have an accumulation of clogged fluid in that area. I’ve witnessed these symptoms subside when people switch to a natural, non-toxic deodorant in combination with manual lymphatic drainage treatments.
Can you give us any tips on how to best care for our lymphatic system?
Yes! I have many!
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. A simple walk in nature, yoga, swimming, jumping on a trampoline are all great for the lymph system as they increase the return rate of lymph fluid towards the heart. That’s why inversions and going upside down are beneficial.
Proper Skin & Nail Care- This is a big one--especially for people with lymphatic swelling. Lymphedema is a common side effect of cancer treatment when lymph nodes are removed. Some people are born with a mis-developed lymphatic system. This can occur at birth, during puberty, or later in life, even during pregnancy. I’ve seen clients who tell me their legs swell on airplanes, if they stand too long, or that they have always had swollen ankles and often can’t see their ankle bones. For people with lymphatic swelling, the skin can break down, become dry and cracked. Caring for your skin with non-toxic lotions are essential to prevent bacteria from entering the first layer of defense; your skin. 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.
Diaphragmatic breathing- Deep belly breathing and lots of laughter actually help 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.
Rest- Getting proper sleep promotes healing. Calming the nervous system shifts the body into the parasympathetic state where healing occurs. We are often in the sympathetic “fight or flight” nervous system which is stressful and agitating to our bodies. Finding ways to restore will help regenerate our cells improve immunity.
Dry brushing- This is an 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 afterward. Purchase a dry brush with natural bristles. I like one with a long handle. Important--before you start, know the direction you are going to brush. Brush slowly and gently! Always guide your brush towards your heart. Your lymph fluid will ultimately return to your bloodstream. Start at your feet, brush up your legs towards the top of your thigh. 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. 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.) Brush your back towards your armpit. Gua-sha tools and specific face brushes are more gentle on the face. Roll your tool from your neck downwards towards your collarbone. Then, direct the fluid from your face towards your ear on each side. (Think Nose-to-cheek-to ear) Then move chin to jaw-bone. Repeat the movement from nose to ears. Forehead to ears. Then move 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. Dry-Brushing 2-3 times a week is great.
There’s one more thing I’d like to mention about women’s health and the lymphatic system. From our periods to ovulation, the menstrual cycle has vast benefits. One of them includes the “sloughing off’ we experience each month. Many of us will get bloated and congested before our period. The relief we feel with bleeding helps the lymph system rid the body of debris. When we age and experience peri-menopause and menopause we lose that “sloughing off”. In my practice, I hear stories of women who mourn that “lighter” feeling that comes every month. I see an increase in fluid accumulation around women’s abdomen and breasts and armpits as they go through this change in life. I encourage my clients to begin a lymphatic self-massage practice. You too can empower yourself by playing an active role in eliminating inflammation and pass through this change of life with more grace and ease.
Thanks so much for reaching out, Rachel. Now everyone, GO TOUCH YOUR PITS! Be Proud, Be Happy and Bless your Lymph for its powerful, cleansing powers!