A Sluggish Lymph System Causes Snoring & Sleep Apnea

Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

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A Sluggish Lymph System Causes Snoring & Sleep Apnea
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Snoring is the main symptom of sleep apnea or its precursor condition, hypopnea, which involves the reduction of airflow. While it is disturbing to one’s sleep partner, it is also a sign of a health problem that should be improved to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and significantly improve energy. A new study by Italian researchers confirms a clinical observation I have made for years and opens the door to a solution for millions of Americans struggling with this problem.

Fluid Retention and Snoring


To prevent or reduce snoring, the solutions will center on daytime issues as opposed to something done at bedtime. The rational for this approach is supported by a study of patients with chronic venous insufficiency. These subjects experienced significantly reduced apnea and hypopnea when they used support stockings during the day. By preventing fluid accumulation during the day, much less fluid pooled around their necks at night, resulting in improved breathing during sleep.

The rationale is applicable to just about anyone who snores. Just about everyone notices they weigh more at night than they do in the morning. The extra weight at night is primarily water weight. As your body recovers during sleep from the wear and tear of the day, inflamed tissues release their water. If inflammation is significant you may have to use the restroom several times during the night to get rid of the water. Otherwise, you wake up in the morning, use the restroom, stand on the scale, and you are hopefully no heavier than the day before.

Lymph Stagnation and Snoring


I believe that problems with snoring develop when there is overload or malfunction in the way your body processes water, especially relating to your lymphatic system and veins. For many, the first medical sign of this issue, along with snoring, will be elevated blood pressure. Ironically, taking blood pressure medication will make the problem worse by depressurizing the “push” on your lymph system that comes naturally from your cardiovascular system. In this common situation, blood pressure medication actually adds to the risk of cardiovascular disease by contributing to a lack of oxygen circulating at night. Ironically, diuretic-type blood pressure medication, which flushes out water, also causes potassium-related disturbances that are highly inflammatory to cells and metabolic function, thus locking in ongoing fluid retention—the very problem it is trying to treat.

Your lymphatic fluid is the fluid between every cell of your body. It helps remove large particles of trash from your body by flowing through a system of “rivers” and lymph glands, ending at either of two major thoracic ducts by your upper shoulders. This is why fluid heads towards your neck as you are sleeping. It is the major house cleaning time of your body and your body is simply trying to “take out the trash.” Of course, exactly how you feel when you wake up in the morning is indicative of how well of a job you did. The same lymph system is also crucial for how your body absorbs and transports dietary fat, and as a result, is also subject to toxic overload from your own digestive tract.

Causes of Lymph Stagnation


Some variables that contribute to an overload of your lymph system include the following: eating a high fat dinner, eating almost anything after dinner, an acute infection, a chronic low-grade infection in your digestive tract (bacterial or Candida imbalance), a high stress day, or a physically exhausting day. Any of these factors or any combination of these factors requires your lymph system to deal with a higher-than-desired amount of stuff, all of which promote fluid stagnation and an excess build up of fluids during the day. Simply being overweight is a symptom of an overloaded lymph system.

As you get older, the integrity of your lymphatic system and veins starts to weaken, causing them to become leaky. This causes fluid to pool in connective tissues, rather than properly staying in the “rivers” that make up your lymph system. This is aggravated by diets that are too high in carbohydrates, as carbohydrates naturally attract water. It is also aggravated by a diet that is too high in salt and lacking in magnesium and potassium. Alcohol in any amount is likely to aggravate such an issue, as alcohol induces vascular permeability. And it is also further aggravated by the aging-associated loss of collagen tissue integrity in veins, lymph vessels and the connective tissue matrix holding cells together. This latter issue is why the lymph-strengthening herb, horse chestnut, is as effective as support stockings in moving fluid out of the legs.

Once a lymph overload and a weakened ability of your body to handle the overload takes hold, you accumulate and retain more water during the course of the day—two or more pounds worth. It is normal to be one pound heavier at night than you are in the morning. At night, your body tries to dump all of this stagnant water as part of house cleaning, moving it towards your shoulder and neck area. This causes fluid to accumulate in your neck area, putting pressure on your breathing system and causing snoring and other potentially more serious problems such as sleep apnea.

How to Improve Lymph Function


The solution is to reduce factors of overload during the day so that you retain less fluid during the day. Additionally, taking steps to repair the weakened and aging lymph system and connective tissue matrix can promote a return of fitness to your body, meaning your body is more able to naturally process water-related issues.

This means doing the opposite of all the potentially stressful factors I listed above, as well as eliminating any other form of lifestyle abuse or factor that could be adding to the wear and tear issue. It certainly means eating better and following the 5 Rules of The Leptin Diet, and also reducing fat intake at dinner. Exercise will help move and eliminate the stagnant fluids, as long as you are not excessively exercising for your level of fitness, which would only promote fluid retention as a result of exercise-induced inflammation.

Nutrients that strengthen connective tissue, circulatory, and lymph integrity, such as horse chestnut and grape seed extract. are top choices to remedy this problem. Boosting up magnesium and potassium will also help. Some may require nutrients that help move the lymph along, such as arabinogalactan or other immune support nutrients. Natural diuretics like cranberry can help remove water without causing an imbalance to potassium levels and adding to inflammation. And other compounds that help dissolve lymph sludge such as oregano oil or bromelain may also come in handy. While some of these can certainly be taken before bed, if you can tell they help reduce snoring and improve sleep, you should move toward using these nutrients during the day, along with improving diet, exercising and improving stress and lifestyle management. Find a combination of strategies from those listed above so you are consistently not more than one pound heavier at night than you are in the morning.

I can tell you right now, to find such a strategy you will have to implement changes that will make you healthier—a small sacrifice for sleeping better, letting your partner sleep better, and improving cardiovascular health.

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