Announcing “Love Your Lymph” Month: Interview with Dr. Thomas Cowan on Lymphatic Health

Dr. Thomas Cowan is author of The Fourfold Path to Healing: Working with the Laws of Nutrition, Therapeutics, Movement and Meditation in the Art of Medicine. He is also a family physician with a private practice in San Francisco, CA.  You can meet Dr. Cowan at the annual Fourfold Path to Healing Conference, held this year on January 29-31 in Nashua, NH or sign up for his newsletter at

Dr. Thomas Cowan on Lymphatic Health

Dr. Tom Cowan is one of those rare physicians who understands the important role of nutrition in real healing.  Although he professes to know nothing about cellulite, his understanding of the intimate relationship between health and nutrition make him a prime source for the Cellulite Investigation.

In his book, Fourfold Path to Healing, Dr. Cowan explains how the cloudy fluids of the lymph are associated with the metabolic system.  Based on the teaching of Rudolph Steiner and Paracelsus, Cowan describes the function of the metabolic system as anabolism (building up). Too much or too little activity in the metabolic system can throw off the balance of the whole organism, leading to symptoms of dis-ease.

Nutrition and Your Lymphatic System

As you recall, the lymphatic system is often described as “the sewage disposal system” for your cells. This is why the raw material we put into our bodies (and therefore, our cells) is of the utmost importance for lymphatic health.

According to Dr. Cowan, any substance that is not properly digested can end up in the lymph. Eliminating toxic additives, preservatives, and other hard-to-digest materials from your diet will help lymph flow more freely.

Dr. Cowan mentions one food that is particularly damaging to lymphatic health: trans fat.  According to the American Heart Association, trans fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.  Another name for trans fats is “partially hydrogentated oils.” If you are cellulite-conscious, keep an eye out for the word “hydrogenated” on any ingredient label.

Here’s why trans fats are so detrimental to the lymphatic system. Fat digestion usually begins in the small intestine, where bile acids and lipases (a type of enzyme) break up the fat into smaller elements.  These fatty elements are then absorbed through the intestine wall and carried into the body through… you guessed it, lymph!

Fast food companies like using trans fats because they are cheap and they have a long shelf life.  Unfortunately, your lymph doesn’t appreciate these same qualities.  According to Dr. Cowan, a diet that includes trans fats will contribute to a sluggish lymph flow while a diet replete with healthy fats and healthy fat digestion is crucial to maintaining a robust lymphatic system.

Lymphatic Healing

Lymph congestion is manifest in a variety of symptoms.  Dr. Cowan points out that when the lymphatic system is impaired, people tend to get sick in the upper respiratory region –often with a sore throat –or they experience edema in the lower legs. [Analyst’s note: or perhaps, cellulite?? Dr. Cowan admits the lymph theory of cellulite makes sense.]

A late sign of lymphatic problems is cancer.  Cancer isn’t caused by lymphatic congestion –they are both caused by something else –but it is a sign that the lymphatic system is impaired.

The most effective step in healing the lymphatic system is to eliminate industrial foods from the diet and replace them with traditional, nutrient-dense fare. If you suffer from impaired lymph flow, Dr. Cowan notes, you might experience some nausea or sickness when you start to improve your diet. This is a sign that the lymphatic congestion is breaking up and lymph flow is improving.

Love Your Lymph!

Since the lymphatic system is such a crucial aspect of cellulite (and since few of us know much about it), I hereby declare February as “Love Your Lymph” month at the Cellulite Investigation! Here are some of the topics you can look forward to this coming month:

  • The lymph theory of cellulite: We’ll take a closer look at this alternative interpretation of the root cause of cellulite. What is it? Who supports it? Who doesn’t? What research has been done on it? etc.
  • Interview with Dr. Bruno Chikly: Dr. Chikly is regarded at the word’s foremost expert on the lymphatic system. Dr. Oz called his work “the next frontier of discovery in human disease.” We’ll talk to him about the lymph theory of cellulite and learn how to treat the dreaded blight.
  • Lymph-Friendly Foods: Which foods enhance lymphatic health and what are the top dietary contributors to lymphatic congestion? Savvy cellulite-sufferers want to know.
  • Interview with Mya Breman (LCSW, LMT, CST-D): Mya is a lymph drainage therapist, instructor, and international lecturer. We’ll talk to her about her experience treating various lymphatic conditions and how we can implement our own lymph drainage program at home.

*This post is part of Real Food Wednesday hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop and Fight Back Friday hosted at FoodRenegade.

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Laurie says:

Thanks so much for hunting down and sharing this information! I was just thinking that I need to hunt down more information on the lymphatic system, and here's your post. Since the beginning of December when I starting dry brushing faithfully (also due to your posts) and eating more fat (especially coconut oil), I've dropped around ten pounds. I may still have cellulite, but there's less of it. 🙂 Frankly, I'm more interested in the health aspects than the vanity aspects, but who doesn't appreciate a firmer bum?


Laurie, your comment makes my day! Ten pounds in less than two months is so impressive, not to mention that you accomplished this feat over the holidays. It's a Christmas miracle! Don't tell anyone, but I'm more interested in the health aspects, too 😉 But I won't complain about the "side effects."

I would love to include your experience in our Cellulite Stories column. Let me know if you are interested. Thanks for your inspiring comment!

Cameron says:

I didn't know that trans fat was synonmonous with hydrogenated oils, something that probably a majority of people in the U.S. cook with regularly. Why are these big food conglomerates trying to kill us? Oh yeah, hydrogenated oils are cheap, so they could increase their $$$ intake. We should make them pay for our medical bills. I guess though I'm the blame for not educating myself more about it. Now I'll definitely be looking at labels beyond just fat, carbs, and protein breakdowns. Thanks for your research!


Cameron, you seem fired up this morning. I like it! You are right, self-education is key. Those companies are just trying to give us what we want. If enough of us want healthier products and are willing to pay for them, they will follow the money. It's up to us.


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