WHAT IS A LYMPH SYSTEM?
The lymphatic system is an essential part of our immune system which helps to protect the body from disease and infections. It is a network of vessels, organs and tissues working together to move lymph fluid back into the bloodstream. The lymph system has several key functions starting with maintaining fluid levels in our body by collecting excess fluid and returning them back to the bloodstream. It absorbs fats from the digestive tract. It also protects the body against foreign invaders by producing white blood cells and other immune cells. Furthermore, it transports and removes waste products and abnormal cells from the lymph.
The lymphatic system is essential for healthy immune function and defense against possible harmful pathogens. It plays a major role in removing waste and toxins from the body. With close to 700 lymph nodes spread throughout the body, it’s no wonder the lymph system has such a powerful effect on our health.
HOW DOES THE LYMPH SYSTEM WORK?
Lymph fluid flows throughout the body through a network of lymph vessels. The vessels connect to lymph nodes which act as filters. These filters trap and destroy harmful substances that the body does not need. White blood cells are created in these lymph nodes which fight bacteria, viruses, damaged or cancer cells. The lymph fluid will then carry the waste product and destroyed cells back into the bloodstream. This waste will then be cleaned out of the system through the kidneys and liver and eliminated through our bowel movements or urine.
Sometimes lymph nodes will trap bacteria or viruses that it is unable to deal with at that time. This is where we get swollen lymph nodes that are tender to the touch. Cancer cells can sometimes spread by traveling through the lymph system. Cancer can also start in a lymph node, which will usually swell but not be painful. If you notice a painless, swollen lymph node, it would be advisable to have your general practitioner check it out, as soon as possible.
DYSFUNCTION IN THE LYMPH SYSTEM?
Many conditions can affect the lymphatic system. Some conditions develop before birth, some during childhood and still others can develop as a result of disease or injury to the body. Here are some of the more common lymphatic disorders.
Lymphadenopathy is the enlargement of lymph nodes due to infection, inflammation or cancer. Strep throat, mononucleosis, HIV infection and infected skin wounds all are common infections that can cause enlarged lymph nodes. Lymphadenitis is lymphadenopathy caused by an infection or inflammatory condition.
Lymphedema is the swelling or accumulation of lymph fluid. This can be the result of a blockage in the lymphatic system caused by scar tissue from damage to a lymph vessel or node. Lymphedema can also occur when lymph nodes are removed during surgery due to cancer. Lymphedema most often occurs in the legs and arms but can occur anywhere throughout the body. This condition can be mild or quite severe causing pain, disfiguring and disabling effects.
Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph nodes and occurs when lymphocytes grow and multiply uncontrollably. There are several different types of lymphoma. Cancerous tumors can also block lymph nodes interfering with lymph flow and causing swelling.
KEEPING YOUR LYMPHATIC SYSTEM HEALTHY
Although often overlooked, the lymphatic system is indeed a very important and critical system in our health and well being. So, how can we support our lymphatic system and keep it healthy? One of the simplest ways is deep breathing. The lymphatic system has no pump of its own like the circulatory system so movement and deep breathing help to keep it functioning well. Deep diaphragmatic breathing as well as exercise stimulates lymph flow.
Another simple way to support your lymph system is to drink plenty of water. Dehydration allows for very little fluid to flow through your tissues and things can become stagnant. Keep the fluids flowing through your system to filter out toxins and build up. It is suggested by some that you should drink half your body weight of water a day.
A few other suggestions would be to wear loose non-restrictive clothing to allow both the circulatory and the lymphatic system to flow freely. Dry brushing before a shower helps to stimulate lymph flow. Eating a nutrient rich diet and avoiding processed foods can improve overall health by supporting the immune system and promoting optional lymph function. There are also many herbal teas that can be very helpful to the lymphatic system, including Echinacea and Goldenseal.
You can see how the lymphatic system is essential for healthy immune function and defense against possible harmful pathogens. A healthy lymphatic system helps to maintain a healthy body.
Disclaimer – This blog is for general information purposes only. Furthermore, information contained in this blog is not a substitute for medical advice – always consult a licensed healthcare professional about lymphatic health.