The lymphatic system is a network of blood vessels and lymph nodes that work together to carry fluid from tissues to blood and vice versa. In short, it is the drainage system of our body.
What is lymph and lymphatic system?
Lymph is a transparent yellowish liquid, which is one of the components of the internal environment of our body. It is formed like this: about 20 liters of blood plasma passes through our arteries, blood vessels and capillaries every day. After the blood delivers nutrients to the cells and tissues, and also takes away their waste products, about 17 liters of blood remain, which are returned to the bloodstream through the veins. The remaining three liters of fluid seep through the capillaries into the tissues of our body – this is the lymph. It is collected by the lymphatic system (a whole network of organs and tissues – we will talk about its composition a little later), moves through the body and eventually returns to the bloodstream.
The composition of the lymph as a whole is similar to the composition of the blood plasma, but is not identical to it: the lymph is much richer in white blood cells, especially lymphocytes – cells of the immune system (they are formed in the lymph nodes). The lymph that forms in the human digestive system is called chyle and is rich in triglycerides (fats).
The lymphatic system performs the following functions:
1. Maintains fluid levels in our body: As we said, it collects fluid that seeps from cells and tissues throughout the body and returns it to the bloodstream. 2. Takes away fats and some other substances absorbed from the digestive tract. The lymph transports them into the bloodstream. 3. Protects the body from infections. The lymphatic system is an essential part of the immune system because lymphocytes and other immune cells that detect and destroy bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi are produced in the organs that are parts of the lymphatic system. 4. Transports and removes waste products and abnormal cells.
Its’ main role is to maintain fluid balance in the body, protecting it from infections, bacteria, and other potential threats.
The lymphatic system resembles the blood circulatory system, but the lymph vessels are smaller than veins and carry a clear fluid called lymph, as well as protein molecules, glucose, salt, and other substances.
Lymph nodes are located in different parts of the body: throat, groin, armpits, and chest. They play a critical role in fighting infections, recovering from illness, and healing wounds because they create immune cells.
When we encounter microbes or bacteria, they enter the lymph. Further, into the lymph nodes, these organisms are “trapped”: an army of immune cells attacks and destroys them. But unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system does not have a pump in the form of a heart: the lymph moves slowly, and sometimes slows down and stagnation can form.
The Causes of Lymph Stagnation
Chronic stress is one of the main causes of most chronic health problems. It can also lead to the accumulation of lymph. When under stress, the body produces hormones that lead to the formation of free radicals. Their excess causes many health problems.
Chronic diseases can lead to the accumulation of lymph throughout the body. When the body fights chronic inflammation and germs, it makes more white blood cells to fight them. However, they can get into the lymph nodes and cause swelling.
Indigestion. Most of the lymphatic system envelops the gut in gut-associated lymphatic tissues (the GALT system). Therefore, gut health and the integrity of the intestinal villi are essential for lymphatic flow, detoxification, and immunity.
Inadequate water intake and lack of physical activity can slow down the flow of lymphatic fluid. The lymphatic system “accelerates” due to pressure from muscle movement and breathing. The lack of this pressure due to a sedentary lifestyle or dehydration can slow down the lymphatic system and lead to congestion.
Nutritional deficiencies can also lead to lymphatic congestion. For example, iodine, magnesium, and vitamin C are important in reducing the harmful effects of environmental toxins and in supporting the lymphatic system to protect the body.
Symptoms of Lymph Stagnation
muscle and joint pain
swelling and cellulite
itching and peeling of the skin
chronic sinusitis, colds, sore throat or ears
cold hands and feet
headache, “fog” in the head.
11 ways to help cleanse your lymphatic system and upgrade your health
Breathe deeply. Our body has three times more lymphatic fluid than blood. Lymph drainage relies on the pumping action of deep breathing. This speeds up the transport of toxins into the blood and promotes the speedy cleaning of the lymph. Breathe deeply and help your liver deal with toxins much faster.
Move more to improve lymph flow. Various physical exercises ensure the proper functioning of the lymphatic system. You can try trampolining or jumping rope, as well as stretching and aerobic exercises.
Cleansing the lymph with water – drink more. Without enough water in the body, the lymphatic fluid cannot flow normally. In addition to ordinary water, drink freshly squeezed juices or oxygen cocktails.
Soda, energy drinks, and juice drinks make you feel worse. They are high in sugar, which makes the lymphatic system difficult, so ditch them in favor of the sugar found in fruits.
Eat more fresh fruit on an empty stomach. The enzymes and acids in fruits are powerful lymph cleansers. Eating them on an empty stomach improves digestion and maximizes lymphatic drainage benefits. Most fruits are digested within 30 minutes and make you feel better quickly.
Greens do an excellent job of cleansing the lymph. The chlorophyll content in greens and green vegetables helps cleanse your blood and lymph.
Raw nuts and seeds improve lymph flow. Raw and unsalted are loaded with healthy fatty acids that nourish your lymph. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, flaxseeds, sunflower and pumpkin seeds – take your pick.
Buy special herbal teas for lymph cleansing at the pharmacy. Consult with a specialist to help you compose a complex of several types of herbs, taking into account your diseases and treatment courses, if any. Avoid taking herbs during pregnancy and lactation, and do not take the same type of herb for a long time without consulting a specialist.
Use a special brush to improve lymph flow. On dry skin before showering, from legs to torso, from toes to chest, work in the same direction as your lymphatic system (see attached instructions and diagrams for details).
Try hot-cold shower therapy. Within a few minutes, you first turn on hot water and the blood vessels expand, then turn on the cold water and the vessels begin to narrow, thereby accelerating the lymph outflow. Avoid this procedure if you have problems with the cardiovascular system, as well as during pregnancy.
Lymphatic drainage massage. Such a massage is called lymphatic drainage, as it displaces toxins and directs the lymph flow in the right direction. The main thing is that the massage should be gentle, because too much pressure, although it has a beneficial effect on the muscles, but not on the lymphatic system.
All these methods of improving lymph flow have repeatedly proven their effectiveness and deserve to be followed. After all, a healthy lymphatic system will not only help to cope with diseases and lose weight, but also improve the general condition of the body.
Zhanna Tarjeft, FNP is a certified Functional Medicine Practitioner and a founder of Sprouts Health Functional Medicine Practice in Gilbert, Arizona. Her articles are a matter of personal opinion and do not constitute direct medical advice. All conditions are unique and require the direct review and care of your own physician. To book an appointment with Zhanna Tarjeft contact her at (480) 550-9551
This does not constitute medical advice, always seek the direct advice of your Doctor or Medical Provider for your specific health care or needs.
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