The lymphatic system is something that is frequently mentioned, but many people never really understand what it is and why it matters. So let’s explore this a little more, in an effort to understand why you should care about your overall lymphatic health.
The lymph system is part of the body’s overall immune system. The lymph system is made up of many components. Here is the list of all the parts of the lymph system and their individual functions.
- Lymphatic vessels – a system of vessels distributed all over the body, gathering clear lymphatic fluid, which surrounds the cells.
- Lymphatic fluid – collects and takes metabolic cellular waste, dead cells and toxins towards the subclavian veins at the base of the neck, to be eventually eliminated through sweat, urine and the bowels.
- Lymphocytes – the primary cells of the lymphatic system. There are two major classes of lymphocytes: T cells and B cells. The T cells mature in the thymus, kill invaders, destroy abnormal cells and direct the actions of other lymphocytes. The B cells mature in the bone marrow and produce antibodies that combine with antigens of foreign cells, labeling those cells for destruction.
- Lymph nodes – filtering stations where lymphocytes along with macrophages (another type of white blood cell) engulf and destroy bacteria and other foreign substances in the lymphatic fluid.
- Tonsils, Adenoids, Appendix, and Peyer’s patches – small masses of lymphatic tissue that prevent infection in areas where bacteria is abundant.
- Thymus – a small gland under your breastbone that helps produce white blood cells.
- Spleen – the organ connected with lymph system that produces lymphocytes.
- Bone marrow – where lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) are born.
Now that you know what the lymph system is comprised of, it’s time to learn how it works and why it’s so important. A peak functioning lymphatic system is key to health and vitality, but this critically important part of the body is one that most people don’t appreciate or care much about. Your lymphatic system is your body’s built-in sanitation center, the plumbing that carries away and filters out poisonous waste products from every cell, tissue, and organ. It absorbs fats and fat-soluble vitamins from the digestive tract and delivers them to the cells of the body. It is also an essential part of the immune system that maintains fluid levels, fights infection and produces disease-fighting white blood cells. Twice as extensive as the arterial blood supply system which brings oxygen and nutrients to the cells, the lymph is the takeaway garbage collector and is the largest circulatory system in the body. But, the lymphatic system needs your help to move the fluid through the body because it doesn’t have an automatic pump like the heart, which moves the blood in the circulatory system.
Unfortunately, our sedentary lifestyle, instant gratification way of living, and the chemical-laden foods we eat and drink, all contribute to our lymph system being sluggish and not working so well. Here are some lifestyle choices that can potentially impede our lymphatic system’s ability to function properly.
- Lack of Movement: Proper lymphatic flow requires deep breathing and body movement – the contraction of skeletal muscles force tiny one way valves of the lymph system to open and close and push the fluid to the subclavian veins.
- Dehydration: Being dehydrated can contribute to poor lymphatic drainage and cause lymphatic stagnation.
- Stress: The waste products of stress fighting hormones are acidic and an acidic body leads to lymph congestion.
- Chronic Digestive Imbalance: Chronic constipation or diarrhea due to damaged intestinal villi promotes lymph congestion.
- Processed Foods: An unhealthy diet, particularly one containing processed foods and bad fats, will lead to a sluggish lymphatic system.
- Chemical Exposures: When your body is exposed to harmful chemicals in skin and body care products, cleaning products or pesticides, it may be unable to unload or detoxify immediately.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, it might be time to give your lymphatic system a little TLC because lymphatic congestion is a major factor leading to inflammation and disease. If the lymph is not flowing well, the cells are poisoned from their own waste and the lymph fluid becomes a toxic cesspool, resulting in fatigue, swelling, infection, inflammation, disease, and much more. Rapid improvements in the quality of the cells and blood occur once easy lifestyle changes are made so that the lymphatic system is activated and working efficiently.
The easy, most permanent way to keep your lymphatic system functioning properly is by incorporating daily habits that will help to prevent the problems from developing. Some of the things you can do include exercising, dry brushing your skin, alternating hot and cold showers, drinking lots of clean water, doing some deep breathing, meditating daily to relieve stress, eating foods that promote lymphatic fluid flow (fruits and vegetables), practicing yoga, getting regular massages and acupuncture treatments, avoid wearing underwire bras and tight-fitting clothing made from synthetic fibers and relaxing in an infrared sauna regularly.
So now that you know what your lymphatic system is and does, it’s time to make some choices. You only have one body and one life to live. You can choose to live in misery or health and happiness. Which will you choose?