Autumn is the perfect time to focus on preparing your immune system for the months ahead. Along with the traditional colds, flus, and viruses, recent wet weather and humidity has been ideal for mosquito breeding, potentially increasing infectious disease transfer from person to person. For example, were you aware of the escalated risk of Ross River Fever virus in the upper St George River basin? This is a nasty mosquito transferred virus, and can leave children and other vulnerable groups (e.g. pregnant women, the elderly, and immune compromised individuals) more exposed.
Holistic reflexology therapy for immune or lymphatic systems strengthens immunity. It improves functional ability to build up resilience in the body’s natural defences to resist and attack potential disease-causing invaders (e.g. viruses, organisms and substances).
What is the immune system and why is it so important?
The immune system consists of the lymphoid organs and zones: the thymus, spleen, bone marrow, and lymphatic network. It is important because it protects the body by identifying pathogens (e.g. viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites) and then produces white blood cells (Leukocytes) which attack and destroy foreign invaders.
The Lymphatic Network, made up of nodes and vessels, is the secondary circulation system, as it distributes lymph fluid around the body. This fluid helps to protect, cleanse, and to remove waste products. Lymph nodes are present throughout the body; but large groups can be found in the breast, armpit, and groin areas.
How can I use reflexology to boost my immune system?
Reflexes of the immune & lymphatic systems include tonsils, spleen, thymus, upper and lower lymphatics.
The Tonsil reflex point
Tonsils protect the entry of the digestive system and the lungs, from bacteria and viruses.
The Tonsil reflex is located on the neck area of both big toes and thumbs, as shown below. Using a thumb or finger tip - massage in small firm circles and hook into the soft tissue and creased area at the base of big toe and thumb (not bony area) to access these reflexes (One minute each)
The Thymus reflex point
The thymus is a lymphoid gland and consists of two lobes, located behind the breastbone, in front of the heart. The thymus gland is closely associated with the immune system, rather than the endocrine system. It designates and educates important white blood cells (T-lymphocytes or T-cells). T-cells defend against pathogens (bacteria, viruses, and fungi).
The Thymus reflex is positioned directly under the outer and inner area of the big toes and thumbs joints, as shown below. Hold these points in a pinching action and rotate in circular movements for one minute each. Be mindful, these areas can be sensitive!
The Spleen reflex point
The spleen acts as part of the immune system; it helps fight bacteria causing pneumonia and meningitis. Old red blood cells are recycled in the spleen, whilst platelets and white blood cells are stored there.
According to traditional Chinese physiology, the role of the spleen is nutrient assimilation and preserving physical strength. The Spleen makes nutrients and Qi (vital energy) from the digested food. So, the spleen is considered as a digestive organ.
The Spleen reflex is only found on the left foot and the left hand. You can locate this reflex point underneath the Diaphragm area (as shown below). Use small, firm circles and short strokes across the identified area for one minute each. Both foot and hand can be reflexed but the foot is more easily accessible.
The Lymphatic reflex areas (upper and lower)
The lymphatic system can be categorised into 'upper' and 'lower', and acts as part of the body’s immune system by:
1. Transporting White blood cells to the lymph nodes via lymph vessel network
2. Absorption of fatty acid
3. Interstitial fluid removal from the tissues
Lymphatics reflexology can be used to treat various conditions, including: arthritis, asthma, eczema, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, sinus issues, migraines, headaches, muscular tension, aches and pains, and premenstrual syndrome.
To reflex the upper lymphatic system: place thumb head flat between the big toe and second toe and push thumb towards ankle. Go no further than the bony ridge, as shown below, and stroke in one direction only. Repeat between all other toes. Same applies to the hands but here you can stroke to the wrist. Repeat each foot and hand 5 times.
To reflex the lower lymphatic system: place thumb flat in the hollow in front of the outside of the anklebone, then stroke across to the smaller dip in front of the inside ankle area, as shown below. To finish, hold four fingers together, then stroke from the outside edge of foot in a sweeping action across the top surface of the foot. Repeat this action 5 times. Please note, this area can be sensitive during menstruation.
The charts provided in this article should be used as a guide, but always remember to pay attention to the area you're reflexing. Following the contours of your feet or hands feels amazing, and you can't do any harm with reflexology, so try not to get caught up in the detail of being in the 'correct' spot. Depending on individual health circumstances, repeating these routines daily or more will produce benefits.
Everybody enjoys being helped and pampered, so why not try these reflex points on your loved ones? Feel good hormones are released when you connect with others, and these will further boost your immune system, and theirs!