What Is The Lymphatic System?
It is a network of tissues and organs (the spleen, thymus and tonsils) that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. Its primary function is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body
In addition, a vital component is the bone marrow where white cells are manufactured.
What Is Lymph?
It is largely water gathered from interstitial tissue spaces.
The lymphatic system scavenges this water and protein, ultimately returning it to the venous circulation. All lymph passes through at least one lymph node, where this potentially harmful foreign matter is mechanically sieved and neutralised by various types of immune cells including dendritic cells, macrophages and the T and B cells. There are some 500−600 lymph nodes in the human body!
What Is The Function Of The Lymphatic System?
The supply of oxygen and nutrients to tissues is performed by the blood system, and involves a net leakage of fluid outward at the capillary level.
Essentially, fluid appears in the interstitial spaces (the area that surrounds the cell) because blood capillary walls are somewhat leaky, admitting part of the aqueous component of blood, along with some proteins.
One of the principal functions of the lymphatic system is to gather this fluid and return it to the blood system to maintain overall fluid balance.
If fluid is not returned to the blood system at the same rate as it leaves, the painful and debilitating condition of œdema can develop. Also scavenged are particles, viruses and bacteria.
So the two main functions are:
- To manage fluid balance
- To help defend the body against infection by supplying disease-fighting cells called lymphocytes.
Diseases Related To Lymphatic System
Obesity, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and hypertension are fundamental clinical manifestations of the metabolic syndrome. Studies over the last few decades have implicated chronic inflammation…in the development of obesity and insulin resistance. Newer observations, however, suggest that dysregulation of the lymphatic system underlies the development of the metabolic syndrome.
- Cardiovascular disease
- Metabolic disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Neuro-inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease
How Can I Improve My Lymphatic System?
We can support our lymph health through:
- Breathing (!) – especially diaphragmatic breathing. Check out my blogs on breathwork for further information.
- Movement – The lymphatic system works best when you move your body
- Lymphatic massage
- Sauna therapy
- Red clover tea
- Dry skin brushing
- Limit toxic exposures by eating organic, and using natural cosmetics and household products
You might like to listen to my podcast with Dr. Perry Nickelston – click here.
If you are struggling with a chronic health issue then you may like to consider the health of the lymphatic system. When we consider the above factors which may improve lymph health – we can start to understand why this system is partly involved in so many chronic health conditions.
- James E. Moore Jr. and Christopher D. Bertram, Lymphatic System Flows, Annu Rev Fluid Mech. 2018 January ; 50: 459–482 (click here)
- The Glymphatic Pathway in Neurological Disorders (click here)
- Role of the LS in the Pathogenesis of Crohn’s Disease (click here)
- Lymph Circulation in the Liver (click here)
- The Intestinal LS: Functions and Metabolic Implications (click here)
- The LS: Integral Roles in Immunity (click here)
- A Vital Link Between Metabolic Syndrome and Inflammation (click here)
- Review Article: Lymphatic System and Associated Adipose Tissue in the Development of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (click here)