The lymphatic system is really the sewer system of our body and an under-recognized part of our health; it cleans up tissues and moves toxins out. It’s our secondary circulatory system and plays an important role in supporting our immune system and treating inflammation. But, most of us haven’t been taught it’s vital importance in our health and wellness.
Its viscosity should be the consistency of water. When its congested, it becomes more like the thickness of sludge. A congested lymphatic system can lead to lowered immune system, chronic infections, chronic inflammation and reduced circulatory capacity–the “flow” gets “stuck.”
Let’s start with two simple examples of lymph: You get a small cut on your finger. The very first thing you see before blood starts coming out is a clear fluid. This is lymph. Or, you’ve heard about our “lymph nodes”, which filter lymph and fight infection. Maybe you’ve gotten sick and you notice you have swollen “lumps” in your throat area. If you go to the doctor, they check your lymph nodes by palpating your neck–you can feel them right under your chin. Maybe you can also feel lumps underneath your armpits or in your groin area….these are examples of areas where the “nodes” have a little bit more structure than they do throughout the body. You feel them more when you are sick because they are carrying lymphocytes.
Lymphocytes, an alternative name for white blood cells (shown in the illustration above), are one of the cell types of the immune system of vertebrates. These cells protect the body from becoming infected by bacteria and viruses and also fighting off bacterial and viral infections. So, if you are fighting off some sort of bug or illness, the reason these are enlarged is because your body is working really hard in over-time-mode to produce extra lymph (those white blood cells) to hopefully carry throughout the body, to be able to get rid of whatever it is that you’re fighting.
The lymphatic system is very large and runs throughout your entire body, acting as a sister to your circulatory system. If you think about all the blood vessels throughout your body, you have parallel pathways, where the lymph is traveling, as well. Part of it’s job is to remove intra-tissue (between) fluid from your tissues. It can also transport white blood cells to and from the lymph nodes and even into the bone. It’s responsible for transporting back and forth into your blood stream and your lymphatic system.
Digging a little deeper, we once again include our gut health in our lymph system. About 80% of the lymphatic system is housed in the digestive tract. It’s function also includes the health of our brain. A new discovery has recently been made that has found lymphatic vessels directly connect the lymphatic system to the brain. This means that if there are toxins or chemicals getting into the lymphatic system from the digestive tract, then the central nervous system can be vulnerable to circulating toxins, and can affect brain function. This confirms a link between digestive health, our immune system and brain health through the lymphatic system.
So, how can we improve our lymphatic circulation? A few suggestions are:
Self or professional lymph massage (see resources below)
Jumping on a re-bounder or lymph-a-sizer (mini-trampoline)
Cardio that allows vertical movement
Inversion table or other inverted position (handstand/inversion yoga poses)
Understanding the flow pathways of this closed lymphatic system is necessary since our lymph fluid does not have its own “pump.” When properly flowing, lymph drains our head, neck, skin and other tissues, filtering the fluids through the liver and emptying out the colon. A lymphatic system diagram pdf is available as a download below, as well as other valuable resources for your reference.
So, let’s properly support our lymphatic drainage through activation and proper attention,
Eau Claire Area Local Resources:
Female breast educator
Carla Cooper, LMT
Lymph Massage, Float Therapist, TRE Facilitator
The Zanya Center