If you are on my mailing list (if you’re not, you can sign up for my mailing list here), then you know that I am currently doing a severe detox for SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). In addition to fasting, I will be doing detoxification methods like clay baths, Epsom salt baths, coffee enemas, and oil pulling. I will also be dry brushing my skin for detox.
Dry brushing has become super trendy lately and there are tons of articles on the subject which talk about its benefits. Some of these benefits of dry brushing include:
- Exfoliating skin
- Increased circulation
- Removing toxins
- Improving digestion
- Balance hormones
- Reducing cellulite
- Treating keratosis pilaris (chicken skin)
The exfoliating and circulation benefits of dry brushing are rather self explanatory, but you’ll notice that none of the articles really talk about how dry brushing is supposed to detox the body. So, I figured it is time we take a look at the science behind dry brushing.
The Lymphatic System and Dry Brushing
The reason that dry brushing provides so many health benefits is because it supports the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of “tubes” that run throughout the body. You have as many lymph vessels and capillaries as blood vessels and capillaries. Virtually all of your cells are surrounded in lymph fluid!
You might think that your blood is responsible for delivering oxygen, nutrients and white blood cells to your cells. But, in actuality, your capillaries don’t come into contact with cells. Instead, your blood capillaries leak out the oxygen, nutrients, and immunity cells. Lymph fluid catches them and transfers them to your cells. The lymph also catches waste from the cells, toxins, and harmful organisms.
Unlike your circulatory system, your lymphatic system doesn’t have its own pump. But all of that lymph fluid needs to be moved around your body so it can be re-circulated. To move the lymph fluid, the body relies on muscle motion. The lymph fluid gets moved through lymph vessels and capillaries into the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes contain white blood cells. They filter the lymph fluid to remove waste and kill any disease-causing organisms – including toxins and pathogens. The filtered, clean lymph fluid then reenters the lymphatic system so it can be used again.
The lymphatic system is key for immunity, but it also works to protect other systems, including your digestive system and respiratory system — hence why dry brushing is said to have benefits like improving digestion and reducing asthma.
Signs of Poor Lymphatic Function
Your lymph system doesn’t have a pump like the circulatory system does (the heart). Instead, it has to rely on muscle movements to keep lymph fluid flowing through the valves. This is one reason that exercise is so good for immunity.
If your lymph fluid isn’t flowing through your body efficiently, then all that cellular waste will start to build up in your body. This can lead to a slew of problems. Remember that lymph fluid surrounds nearly every cell in your body! Some symptoms of poor-flowing lymph fluid include:
- Frequent colds and flu infections
- Headaches and migraines
- Menstrual cramps
- Mental fog
- Skin breakouts
In serious cases, poor lymph flow means that your body won’t be able to handle hazardous viruses, bacteria, diseased cells, or cancerous cells – which could mean cancer and deadly diseases. (Source)
How Dry Brushing Improves Lymph Flow
Aside from exercising, one of the easiest ways to get your lymph fluid flowing is to dry brush your skin. The process is similar to the “lymphatic drainage massage” which is a medical procedure performed on people with lymph flow problems.
Lymph fluid enters and leaves the lymph system through special capillaries. About ¾ of these capillaries are located near the surface of the skin (Source). So, it makes sense that dry brushing would be particularly good at getting your lymph fluid flowing.
Dry Brushing for Improving Skin Appearance
I actually first heard about dry brushing from the great book Skintervention Guide: Purely Paleo Skincare by Liz Wolfe as a way for curing keratosis pilaris (chicken skin). Chicken skin is a condition in which keratin builds up in your skin and blocks your pores, causing bumpy skin. Not pretty! Chicken skin is an internal problem that manifests externally, so it is best to attack it with diet. However, dry brushing can help cure chicken skin because it removes toxins from the skin which cause keratin buildup in the first place. (Source)
Because dry brushing is exfoliating, it can also do wonders for keeping your skin soft and supple looking, especially in winter months. Without all that dead skin to clog your pores, you can also prevent a lot of breakouts.
Other Benefits of Dry Brushing
In addition to getting your lymph fluid flowing so all those toxins and harmful organisms can be filtered out and making your skin look great, dry brushing is great for improving circulation. That means more nutrients are making it to your cells, so you will feel more energized and your skin will have a healthier glow. When you combine the benefit of better circulation with the exfoliating effect of dry brushing, then your skin will really look awesome. (Source)
Dry brushing can also be great for reducing stress. I find it is very zen to perform and can really calm me down – and we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of reducing stress for our health!
What about dry brushing to get rid of cellulite?
The scientific evidence on this one isn’t as clear. It is true that cellulite can be caused by poor blood flow. Since dry brushing improves circulation, it can be safe to assume that dry brushing might help cellulite. But I wouldn’t expect miracles. As I talk about in my eBook The Gelatin Secret, cellulite is more of a collagen problem. When your collagen becomes weak or gets holes in it, then the adipose tissue (fat) underneath can poke through causing lumps on your skin. We will always have some fat on our bodies, so the best way to get rid of cellulite isn’t to lose weight, but to improve collagen production. Gelatin is a good source of collagen that your body can absorb and use. I use this brand of gelatin to make treats like gelatin gummies, pumpkin pudding, and s’more muffins. You can also easily make bone broth to get your gelatin.
How to Dry Brush for Detox
Dry brushing is one of the easiest things you can do to detox your body, improve health, and make your skin look great. Dry brushing should be used as part of a comprehensive plan which includes real foods, exercise, and stress reduction. If detox is your goal, then you will also want to consider detox methods like enemas and detox baths.
The only thing you really need to dry brush is… a brush. The bristles need to be firm. Annet King, director of global education for Dermalogica and the International Dermal Institute, recommends using a dry brush made from cactus or vegetable bristles. There is no need to pay $50 for a fancy dry brush. I use this cheap dry brush.
Stand on a tile floor or in the bathtub. A lot of dead skin cells are going to come off your body (even if you don’t see them) and you don’t want these getting stuck in your carpet or bath mat!
Start at your feet and work your way up (front and back): thighs, mid-section, chest, and then arms (brushing towards your armpits). The idea is to always brush towards your heart to help the lymph fluid flow properly.
Your should dry brush firmly, but not so hard that it hurts. Your skin should be nice and pink after dry brushing, NOT red and irritated. There is no “right” amount of time for dry brushing. Dr. Mercola says an average dry brushing session lasts 2-20 minutes. I’d aim for at least 10 minutes to get your lymph fluid flowing and achieve the detox benefits.
Important: don’t dry brush after a day of laying by the pool, whether you’re sunburned or not. Give your skin that day, and maybe even the next day, to rest and take it up again when you feel it’s appropriate.
After you finish dry brushing, take shower to get those dead cells off! This would also be a good time to take an Epsom salt bath. Your pores will be open so they will absorb the magnesium really well. You can apply a natural moisturizer afterwards. I like anything as simple as coconut oil, or my favorite moisturizer which is tallow balm (make your own tallow balm with this easy recipe)
Most professionals recommend dry brushing in the morning as a way of energizing yourself for the day. For maximum benefits, you should dry brush twice daily. If this is too much to fit into your routine, don’t worry – any amount of dry brushing you do will give you benefits. My mornings are usually too busy with kid duties so I do it in the evening which is when I shower or take a bath after they’re all tucked in. If I’m really going for the gold (which, during my current SIBO protocol I really am) I’ll oil pull while I dry brush and shower.
Rebounding for Lymph Flow
To really improve lymphatic flow, you should also consider rebounding a few minutes per day. This basically means jumping (preferably on a trampoline). It is simple — and fun! — but the bouncing action does wonders for getting the lymphatic fluid circulating through your body. Remember, lymph fluid doesn’t have a pump like the heart to move it so it relies on movement to travel through our bodies.
You can buy trampolines for rebounding really cheaply. However, I recommend one that has a bar or strap like this rebounder. It is still cheap and your kids can use it too 🙂
Dry brushing has really done wonders for me in improving my health and my battle with leaky gut, histamine intolerance and H. pylori. Remember, it takes more than dry brushing to get your health in order! I use other detox protocols like clay baths, oil pulling and — of course — CLEAN EATING!
Have you tried dry brushing? What benefits have you seen? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!
Image credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Blausen_0623_LymphaticSystem_Female.png / CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)