Do you know your blood type? Have you ever had your blood pressure taken? The great majority of us would answer yes to both those questions. Everyone knows that it’s important to keep our blood vessels, arteries and heart healthy. But the other side of our circulatory system – the lymphatic system – barely rates a mention. Your lymphatic system helps the body rid itself of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. If it isn’t working properly, the pile-up of waste in your body’s cells can kill them. The waste and fluid can cause tissues in the body to swell and can lead to cancer, painfully enlarged organs, or infections throughout the body.
Most women become aware of their lymphatic systems when they begin to get mammograms in their 40s. Although lymph nodes are found throughout your torso, swollen lymph nodes in the armpit are a sign of possible breast cancer. After reading the medical literature I decided against mammograms in favor of thermograms (personal choice – I have only an average risk of breast cancer). Instead of exposing the patient to the radiation of x-rays, thermography uses a digital camera to take thermal images of the body to reveal patterns of body temperature.
A person needs to have two thermograms six months apart to establish a baseline. The technician explained that the colors went from blue (coldest) to red (warmest). While some blotches of red are expected (some redness under the breasts, the armpits, and the side of the neck is normal), a solid red spot in an unexpected place may indicate a tumor. At that point the thermograph will refer the patient to a conventional doctor to have it checked out. While my technician told me my results looked average for a woman my age, she pointed out the orange and yellow splotches on my breasts (as indicated by the thermogram) and said that we would need to watch them. What were they? Warmer areas where part of my lymphatic system ran.
I was scheduled to return in six months (to establish a baseline), but researched what I could do to improve the health of my lymphatic system. All exercise is good, but apparently one of the best ones is to use a rebounder – a mini-trampoline. I had seen rebounders before, but considered them to be nothing more than toys for kids – toys that made annoying squeaking sounds and sometimes wobbled. I ended up purchasing an expensive JumpSport Fitness Trampoline (at least it was expensive for me – it cost $230.00). In the end I was happy to have paid the extra money, since it was quiet enough that I could watch a movie while I bounced and it was quite sturdy – I used it for between 20 and 30 minutes about 5 times a week..
Six months later I went in for my second thermogram. My technician was surprised at the results – the reddish spot on my breast now showed up as a cooler yellow, and the yellowish spots had turned light green. She urged me to keep doing whatever I was doing.
Two years later I went in for another thermogram. Even though I was now using my rebounder for only 10 minutes about three times a week, the results were even more striking – the cool blues and greens were the only colors. (Note: It was a new machine so it looks different.) Also – full disclosure – I retired from my job a year before the third thermogram was taken and discarded a bra in favor of a chemise at this time; this likely had some positive effect on my results. Here are views of my three thermograms where you can see the colors changing from green/yellow/orange to blue/green:
While this post focuses on breast exams (full body thermograms are available, but they are more expensive and health insurance doesn’t pay so I opted out), I would expect that my entire lymphatic system – not just the section located in my breasts – benefitted from rebounding. That means that my body is likely expelling toxins more efficiently and I am less likely to fall ill with infections or other sickness.
And here’s an unexpected but very welcome side affect: When I first started using the rebounder I had to wear a pad because I leaked even if I had just used the bathroom. After about three months of steady use I no longer leaked. To be able to laugh out loud and sneeze without fear – that alone was worth more than the price of the rebounder.
And Finally – My Point
While this post might have been TMI for some people, if we don’t share information we will be forced to rely only on the information that’s commonly available – information that encourages you to entrust someone else to tell you whether or not you’re ill and to look to expensive pharmaceuticals or surgery to improve your health. We are a society obsessed with health. We have gym memberships and fitbits. We know our resting heart rates and blood types. The media publishes an endless array of diets that promise to optimize our fitness and well being. But are we really any healthier as a population than we were 20 years ago?
When I moved to Wisconsin I was taken aback by just how prominent the medical industry is here. While Wisconsin is not healthier than other states (Health Magazine gave Wisconsin a solidly average 24th place in its health ranking of the states), clinics associated with specific HMOs are everywhere. And these clinics seem very aware of just what your health plan will pay for. If a health plan will reimburse the clinic for a specific procedure once every six months per patient, at that six month mark, the clinic is on the phone reminding its patients that it’s time to come in – whether they needed to or not. I was marveling about this with a neighbor (she’s in the health field) and she told me of a doctor in her practice who is well known as a “high performer” – not because he is the most skilled or is able to deliver the best results for patients, but because he is so knowledgeable about the HMO fee structure. The doctor continually orders unnecessary tests for his patients because he knows the HMO will pay for it. When my neighbor mentioned this to her supervisors they told her to ignore it – as long as the doctor wasn’t compromising patient health (admittedly a very low bar for someone in the medical field!), they were happy with the money he was bringing in.
My neighbor then mentioned that health care executives in Wisconsin are among the highest paid in the nation.
But here’s the point – I think that making people undergo medically unnecessary tests is compromising their health. When individuals are regularly subjected to medical tests without having any symptoms – ones that go beyond the regularly scheduled tests called for in the medical guidelines – they learn that listening to what their body tells them and paying attention to how they feel is not enough. It tells them that they need to place all their trust in knowledge and skill that is outside themselves because they themselves are weak and ignorant. They internalize that they have no responsibility in helping create reality.
I can’t think of a more effective way to disempower a population.
I’m picking on the medical industry here because I wanted to illustrate how individuals can take small steps (jump on a rebounder!) to change the course of their health. But the mindset of trusting outside authorities before you trust in yourself appears common throughout modern society. We have lost control of our lives when we turn to outside authorities to tell us what a successful life consists of or to interpret an event we ourselves have just witnessed. We are continually told how to feel, how to think and how to see – and that the true reality is different from the one which we perceive.
Taking responsibility for your health is a small thing to do in today’s society, but it’s a big step in taking back control of your life.