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How to support "The lymphatic system"

Heart, Immune | January 9, 2017 | Author: Naturopath

Immune, Circulatory system

How to support "The lymphatic system"

Modest as it may be, the lymphatic system is actually a highly crucial role player in the body’s preventative and curative health system. Although other cultures have recognized and take into account the significance of the lymphatic system, it would seem that the Western medical culture has yet to catch on to its importance. Perhaps it is because it has quietly taken on the role of a sleeping partner to the cardiovascular and the immune systems that all credits go to these. This article will attempt to bring all up to speed.

The lymphatic system is a network of tissue and organs that form a part of both the circulatory and immune systems.

The circulatory network of the lymphatic system comprises lymphatic vessels that are similar only in appearance to arteries and veins of the cardiovascular system. Lymph nodes and lymph ducts are found at various points of the lymphatic network, such as the neck, throat, armpits, chest, abdomen and the groin. These are usually situated closest to the arteries.

The immunity network of the lymphatic system is comprised of lymphoid organs including the spleen, appendix, tonsils, bone marrow and thymus and other specialized tissue in the gut.

The lymphatic system of the body is anatomically described as an open system because it has interactions that are external to its own network of tissue. This is unlike, for example, the cardiovascular system in which all its circulatory fluids are confined to a dedicated series of vessels and organs; it is therefore known instead as a closed system.

The main purpose of the lymph system is to maintain fluid levels in the body to ensure that there is no excess or shortage of essential bodily fluids. The lymph system performs this function by draining the body of any excess fluids from surrounding tissue that is seeped by blood vessels during the circulatory process.

It is also responsible for filtering out bacteria, toxins and other debris from the body. Lastly, white blood cells known as lymphocytes which are Natural Killer cells are produced and housed by certain structures of the lymph system. These lymphocytes, in their immunitory role, work to defend the body against bacteria, viruses and other such biological threats.

Every single duct, node, vessel and organ within the lymphatic network has a function to perform. Some of these have very particular functions.

These structures of the lymphatic system include:

  • Lymph – a clear to yellowish fluid that circulates within throughout the body. Lymph contains myriads of infection fighting white blood cells; lymphocytes. The body actually has up to three times more lymph fluid than blood.
  • Lymphatic vessels – transports the lymph fluid throughout the body, directionally towards the heart. These vessels are different from blood vessels.
  • Lymph nodes – these nodes are located at various points along the network of lymph vessels. Together with the spleen these nodes form a vital part of the immune system by filtering blood and killing off any harmful materials as it is delivered to them by the lymph vessels. These structures are able to do this because they house those Natural Killer cells, lymphocytes.
  • Bone marrow and thymus – these are production sites for lymphocytes that will be utilized by the lymph system.

Because of its highly active function, the lymph system can be quite susceptible to infections and diseases if it is weakened or vulnerable for any reason. Some common problems that may affect the lymph system are infections, blockages, swelling and cancers.

Infections

These infections can range from mild and relatively benign infections such as strep throat or tonsillitis.

However, these infections can be quite serious such as HIV infection. 

The lymph nodes will usually become inflamed when an infection is present.

Swelling

One of main functions of the lymph system is to drain fluid from surrounding tissue and organs to maintain equilibrium of fluid levels  When the system is not functioning properly for any reason, excess fluids becomes trapped in tissues and organs and causes ‘puffiness’, which is clinically described as oedema. Oedema can occur in one or many internal organs or tissue or it may occur in more visible parts of the body such as the extremities. However, not all swelling is necessarily caused by a malfunctioning of the lymph system.

Blockage

Clinically described as Lymphatic Obstruction, the vessels of the lymph system can become clogged and blocked. This can happen for various reasons such as poor diet or a sedentary lifestyle. When the lymph system is blocked, the flow of lymph fluid may become retarded and this may lead to an array of health issues such as cellulitis, skin conditions, excess weight or even arthritis.

Cancer

While the lymph system through its immunitory role normally traps and destroys cancerous and other destructive cells, cancer cells can get trapped within the lymph nodes that are too close to a malignant cancer growth. If the system is compromised, it may fail to kill off the cancer cells and these malignant cells may grow. The most common cancers of the lymph system include Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, among many others.

A well functioning lymph system will enable overall better health and general well-being. There are some simple measures you can engage to support your lymphatic system.

How to help the Lymphatic system 

Exercise

The best exercise for unclogging the lymphatic system is a form of exercise known as ‘rebounding’. A good example of rebounding exercise is the act of lightly and gently jumping up and down on a mini trampoline. This will help promote the flow of lymph fluid throughout the body. Other healing exercises that may help to unclog the lymph vessels include Yoga, Meditation and Pilates. It is best to begin with light to moderate exercises, building up the intensity gradually.

Hot and Cold showers

Cold showers alone are actually as beneficial to the body as they are cringe-worthy to even think of. Cold showers boost circulation and immunity of the body. However, to target the lymphatic system it is best to alternate the water between hot and cold during a shower. The hot water dilates the vessels while the cold water constricts them. This will train and enforce the vessels to adapt to the dilation and constriction reflexes that imitate the ‘pumping’ action of circulation.

Deep breathing

Breathing, or rather the inadequate or incorrect technique of breathing can have a significant impact on circulation and immunity. To promote lymph and blood flow, practice deep breathing techniques. These can be taught by a professional in order to  get the most accurate deep breathing techniques. A proper sitting and walking posture may also have a very big impact on breathing technique.

Dry brushing

Brushing dry skin with a natural bristle brush in a circular motion directionally towards the heart will help with the flow of lymph system. This technique will also help with general circulatory and immune flow. It is best to take a hot and cold shower just after dry brushing.

Diet

Eating a nutrient rich, raw food diet regularly will help to boost the immune system of the body.

Foods that are especially good for promoting lymph flow include dark leafy greens, cilantro, parsley, low sugar fruits, garlic, seaweed, chia, ground flaxseed and avocados.

Avoiding foods that are known to cause lymph system blockage such as processed sugars, artificial sweeteners and colors, MSG foods, processed foods, diary, soy, table salt and baked goods can help.

Natural personal care products

Personal care products may be high in substances that are known to cause lymphatic blockgaes such as petroleum, parabens, and phthalates. Try using products with more natural ingredients on the skin such as olive oil, avocado or coconut oil.

Herbs

Some herbs that can be used to promote lymph flow include

  • Echinacea
  • Astragalus
  • Red clover
  • Golden seal
  • Parsley

Massage

Gentle massage using upward strokes towards the heart is a relaxing way to encourage lymphatic fluid flow.

Laughter

It is not for nothing that it is said that laugher is the best medicine.

In the case for lymphatic health, some research has found that laughter can promote lymphatic health by strengthening cardiovascular functions, reducing stress hormones, oxygenating the body, boosting immune functions and endorphins and create a generalized sense of well-being. This is a perfect excuse to get together with loved ones and have a good time.

Remember to always consult a doctor before dong any cleanse or detox. This is especially relevant if a cancer or any other disease or infection of the lymphatic system has been diagnosed or is suspected. Some herbs, foods and therapies are best avoided for some conditions.

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References

Tak W. Mak; Mary E. Saunders (Ph.D.); Mary E. Saunders (2008). Primer to the immune response. Academic Press. pp. 28–. ISBN 978-0-12-374163-9. Retrieved 12 November2010.

Goldsby, Richard; Kindt, TJ; Osborne, BA; Janis Kuby (2003) [1992]. "Cells and Organs of the Immune System (Chapter 2)". Immunology (Fifth ed.). New York: W. H. Freeman and Company. pp. 24–56. ISBN 0-7167-4947-5.

Miller, J. F. (2002). "The discovery of thymus function and of thymus-derived lymphocytes". Immunol Rev185 (1): 7–14. doi:10.1034/j.1600-065X.2002.18502.xPMID 12190917.

 "Lymph - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". www.merriam-webster.com. Retrieved 2010-05-29.

Louveau, Antoine; Smirnov, Igor; Keyes, Timothy J; Eccles, Jacob D; Rouhani, Sherin J; Peske, J David; Derecki, Noel C; Castle, David; Mandell, James W; Lee, Kevin S; Harris, Tajie H; Kipnis, Jonathan (2015). "Structural and functional features of central nervous system lymphatic vessels.". Nature523 (7560): 337–41. 

Fanous, Medhat YZ; Anthony J Phillips; John A Windsor (2007). "Mesenteric Lymph: The Bridge to Future Management of Critical Illness"Journal of the Pancreas. Department of Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology ALMA MATER STUDIORUM - UNIVERSITY OF BOLOGNA. 8 (4): 374–399. PMID 17625290

Anthony S. Fauci; Eugene Braunwald; Dennis Kasper; Stephen Hauser; Dan L. Longo (19 March 2009). Harrison's Manual of Medicine. McGraw Hill Professional. pp. 352–. ISBN 978-0-07-147743-7.

Britton, the editors Nicki R. Colledge, Brian R. Walker, Stuart H. Ralston ; illustated by Robert (2010). Davidson's principles and practice of medicine. (21st ed.). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier. pp. 1001, 1037–1040. ISBN 978-0-7020-3085-7.

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