The Lymphatic System – How Does It Work?

The lymphatic system is a large network that can be found throughout the body consisting of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. This system primarily consists of lymphatic vessels, which are similar to the veins and capillaries like the cardiovascular system, and are connected to 600-700 small oval structures called lymph nodes where the lymph is filtered. Then there are the tonsils which is our first line of defense which are large clusters of lymphatic cells found in the pharynx. In addition there are the adenoids, spleen and thymus. Unlike blood, which flows throughout the circulatory system in a continuous loop, lymph flows only in one direction — upward toward the neck to two subclavian veins. These 2 main intersections of the lymphatic system are located on either sides of the neck near the collarbones, this is where the fluid re-enters the circulatory system where it’s primary function is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells called lymphocytes, throughout the body. 

This vast system is connected to and interacts with every organ of the body and is directly related to immune function and efficiency. It is our body’s defense mechanism against invaders of infection, viruses, bacteria, fungi and disease. When functioning correctly it effectively clears toxins, wastes, excess fluids, and infection from all tissues of the body through proper flow and drainage.

As the body’s garbage collector, it’s responsibility is to extract metabolic waste, toxins, and excess fluid from the extracellular fluid of the body’s organs. If this flow is impaired in any way, the fluid becomes thick and toxic and the parts of the body that rely on it for elimination become less efficient and sluggish as they fill with their own waste. This otherwise life-sustaining system then becomes a breeding ground for infection as the normal process of lymph fluid enters the bloodstream. When this happens infection can now spread to any organ or part of the body and even become a systemic concern trapping viruses, bacteria and parasites within the lymphatic system. The result: physical ailments, degenerative diseases, and exceleration of the aging process.

When this elimination process is suppressed by any means such as by taking traditional medications, some of the foreign matter gets suppressed (or pushed back into the system). Then, the very organisms or substances the body is intelligently attempting to eliminate become stored within the body and in any number of areas causing any number of disease symptoms as the body then becomes toxic.

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Symptoms of Poor Lymphatic Circulation

Many people have badly-congested lymphatics and don’t even know it. And if you have had radiation or surgery as a cancer patient, you are more prone to these blockages and may be experiencing swelling, pain, and other symptoms of congestion.

The lymphatic system is not connected to the heart, so it relies upon other activity to create the necessary pumping action it needs to circulate and collect. The three most important methods of lymphatic circulation are external massage, muscle activity, and vigorous exercise. The lymphatic system is filled with millions of one-way valves, which allows lymph fluid to flow unidirectionally – usually upward away from gravity. Almost anything that can stimulate the movement of lymph fluid inside the lymph vessels of the system can be healthy.

Conditions caused by lymphatic blockages

  1. Lymphadenopathy
  2. Lymphedema
  3. Inflammation
  4. Allergies
  5. Prostatitis
  6. Chronic sinusitis
  7. Heart disease
  8. Eczema and other skin conditions
  9. Loss of energy
  10. Fibrocystic disease
  11. Chronic fatigue
  12. Repetitive parasitic infections
  13. M.S.
  14. Edema
  15. Lupus erythematosus
  16. High blood pressure
  17. Bacterial infections
  18. Viral infections
  19. Puffy eyes
  20. Cancer
  21. Ear or balance problems
  22. Arthritis
  23. Headaches
  24. Cellulite
  25. Excessive sweating
  26. Lymphangiomatosis
  27. Castleman disease

And the list goes on…

When bacteria are recognized in the lymph fluid, the lymph nodes make more infection-fighting white blood cells, which can cause swelling. The swollen nodes can sometimes be felt in the neck, underarms and groin. The majority of enlarged lymph nodes are not dangerous; they are the body’s way of fighting off an infection, such as a viral upper respiratory infection. If the lymph nodes become significantly enlarged and persist longer than the infection, then they are more worrisome. There is no specific size cutoff, but typically nodes that persist at larger than a centimeter are more worrisome and warrant examination by a doctor.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) massage is an effective treatment for a variety of issues including oedema, skin disorders, headache, sinus congestion, sprains and aches, stress, digestive disorders and it can be used before and after surgery to remove tissue congestion and minimize scar formation. It is particularly useful as part of post-mastectomy therapy oedema and fibrosis and relieves pain and tension.

MLD massage is not like most massages, it is very light gentle touch that encourages the movement of lymph fluids around the body and can help alleviate symptoms of many conditions. The reason for a light gentle touch is because 70% of your lymphatic system is superficial, just directly under your skin and only 2 liters of lymph runs through the subclavian vein every 24 hours which makes it a slow gentle process. With some health conditions lymph fluid can build up. Lymphatic drainage massages can benefit people with lymphedema, fibromyalgia, and other conditions to help ease this swelling and pain.


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