THE INTERSTITIAL SYSTEM IS THE NEW FRONTIER FOR VITALITY AND DITCHING PUFFINESS—HERE, WE UNVEIL THE RITUALS THAT STIMULATE IT
Perhaps it was the extra glass of wine. Maybe it was the late-night takeout. Or an off-kilter sleep schedule. Regardless of the culprit, you’ve woken up swollen and puffy. Instead of hiding behind oversized sunglasses, tune in. Your body is flashing its check-engine light. When something feels off, whether it be uncomfortable bloat, a breakout, or the jittery aftermath of too many cocktails, those small cues are not to be ignored. Seize the opportunity to flood your body with nutrients; this inside-out healing approach will not only get you back on track, but actually ensure you’re better off than you were before. For our two-pronged strategy to de-puff the face, neck, and beyond through plant nutrition and loving rituals, read on.
STEP ONE: ON THE SURFACE
First, observe your face and neck—notice under-eye bags or a rounder face than usual? This pronounced puffiness could be the result of stagnant lymph fluid.
Also known as the interstitial system, the lymphatic system is a network of fluid, vessels, and nodes throughout the body. Its job is to filter toxins and waste from your blood to different “ports;” behind the knees, the armpits, the groin, and the terminus. The terminus is nestled right in the clavicle and is the place of two major vessels, called the subclavian veins.
While salty foods and wine don’t help, many elements can cause lymph stagnation. Stress and constant jaw tension can hold your muscles, creating a sticky fluid that pools around your lymph and inhibits flow, which could appear as jowls or double chin. Rest assured: it’s not overnight weight gain. It’s simply lymph fluid that needs stimulating. According to some experts, you can manually drain the lymph from your face and neck to relieve toxic buildup. Conti emphasizes the importance of delicately—the lymph is at the most superficial level, so skip the Shiatsu—beginning at your neck, coaxing the lymph down toward your heart. She explains the process just as you would brush your hair; starting at the bottom to de-tangle and then gradually working to the root, instead of a top-down approach which will ultimately leave your brush stuck in your hair. The lymph works just the same; stimulate the neck before you work the other areas of the face that need to de-swell. Repeat that dainty motion for 30 seconds to one minute, then, using your middle and ring fingers, find your terminus in the divots of your clavicle and create little half-moons for about one minute, which activates this important port to drain the fluid from your face. Once this pathway is open, you can effectively work on your chin and eyes. Remember to use a super-light touch.
While the heart is the pump that circulates blood, the lymph has no such organ. It moves through the body via muscle contraction (another reason to exercise!), deep breathing, compression, and manual stimulation (think dry brushing, lymphatic drainage). Once it is activated, you may experience your mouth watering or the need to swallow; this means that the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is turned on. The PNS is the “rest and digest” system, instructing the body to induce a sense of calm. Not only is tending to the lymphatic system important for reducing those visual cues of tiredness and overexertion, but internally, the body is decreasing inflammation, nurturing the brain, and balancing immunity.
After you’ve treated yourself to a restorative facial massage, get the rest of your body involved. Lie on your back with your legs extended up a wall. This position inverts circulation, stimulates lymph, and encourages internal movement. Ready to uplevel even further? Invest in a lymphatic drainage body tool that directly targets stagnation, using the curved edges to gently coax fluid to their "ports" where toxins are flushed. You'll likely notice a significant reduction in cellulite too, as the septa, or connective tissue, stays elastic and fluid. This makes it harder for it to trap fat cells and instead, encourages circulation, cell regeneration, and skin buoyancy.
STEP TWO: ADDRESSING THE ROOT CAUSE
While manual lymphatic drainage is an effective way to send puffiness packing (and practice some self-love while you're at it), it's even more effective if you pair it with plant medicine that supports deep hydration, detoxification, and gut health.
Alcoholic beverages, salty snacks, too much caffeine, and chronic stress pull water and mineral reserves from other parts of the body, forcing the liver and kidneys to intensify their efforts to metabolize toxins. A lack of minerals disrupts the electrolyte-to-water ratio in cells, creating an inflamed and dry inner ecosystem. Add in the issue of modern soil nutrient depletion (too much tilling, not enough seed diversity, abounding pesticides) and you can see why it’s vital to supplement your diet with a healthy dose of minerals. Alongside eating plenty of organic plants, adding ionic minerals to your water every day will ensure your organs are served the building blocks they need without borrowing from other places. An abundance of water and minerals will create proper flow and elimination on the inside—and a lifted, toned visage.
Eat More Greens
Though there’s no one silver bullet when it comes to health, eating six cups of fibrous, organic leafy greens every day works wonders for puffiness. Greens contain prebiotic fiber, which acts as fertilizer for all the healthy bacteria in your gut microbiome. A healthy gut enhances digestion and scrubs the G.I. tract of toxins, helping to de-bloat your system.
Nix Water Retention
Irksome water retention can manifest as swelling in the fingers, ankles, abdomen, face, and neck. If this is a persistent issue for you, your body could be reacting to processed and dehydrating foods that disrupt the colon, or ineffective circulation—and in turn, reserving fluid stores. Movement is life; any time the body is “holding on,” the buildup and stagnation hinders flow and internal movement. To combat this, make sure you hydrate fully—not just by drinking water and herbal tea, but also by eating water-rich plant foods.