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The Lymphatic System

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The Lymphatic System is such an important part of our bodies, yet many people do not know or have only limited knowledge about it. Well… today’s post is meant to change that 😉.

What is the Lymphatic System?

The lymphatic system is a network of vessels, tissues, and organs that move a colorless fluid around your body called “lymph” back into your bloodstream. It is a huge part of your immune system as it protects your body from illness. But it also maintains fluid levels in your body, absorbs fat from your digestive tract, and removes waste from your cells.

A painting that looks like vessels in blue and red
Photo by FLY:D on Unsplash

What are the Parts of the Lymphatic System?

There are many parts of the lymphatic system that have to interact and work together in order for it to function optimally:

Lymph

Lymph is a collection of fluids that drains from your cells and tissues. Said fluid can also contain proteins, fats, minerals, damaged cells, cancerous cells, and invaders. It also carries infection-fighting white blood cells in case of injury or inflammation.

Lymph Nodes

Lymph nodes are the size of a bean and are scattered throughout your body. We have about 600 (!!) of them, which are connected through lymphatic vessels. Some of these lymph nodes are closely huddled together (called “chains”). Some of them are single nodes. They produce lymphocytes, which destroy bacteria and other harmful substances in the fluid when it passes through.

Lymphatic Vessels

Think of the lymphatic vessels as the blood vessels of the lymphatic system. They collect and filter lymph and move it to larger vessels, called collecting ducts. They work with very low pressure and move in one direction.

Collecting Ducts

The lymphatic vessels into the collecting ducts. These collecting ducts ultimately return lymph to your bloodstream. This process is important for two reasons: (1) It helps to maintain blood pressure and volume. (2) It also ensures that there is not an excessive amount of fluid build-up around the tissue.

Spleen

If you have not heard about the lymphatic system before, you likely have heard about the spleen. This is the largest lymph node and it is located on your left side, right under the ribs, and above the stomach. The spleen produces and stores white blood cells, which are crucial for fighting infection and disease.

Thymus

The Thymus is an organ that is located in your chest. It produces a certain type of white blood cells.

Bone Marrow

A soft type of tissue that is found in certain bones. It produces white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

Others

There are also lymphoid organs in your tonsils and adenoids, which trap pathogens when you drink or eat. In addition, we have lymphatic tissue in the mucous membrane of our small intestine, which can destroy bacteria.

Dry skin brushing equipment
Photo by Diana Akhmetianova on Unsplash

How to Support Your Lymphatic System

The big difference between our blood vessels and our lymphatic system is that there is no pump (i.e. the heart) that carries the lymph. Therefore, the lymphatic system relies on other stimulants in order to move. Here are a few that you can do.

Dry Skin Brushing

Dry skin brushing is an excellent way to remove dead skin cells, detoxify your skin, and get the lymphatic system moving. A dry skin brush is made of natural fibers and has small, dense bristles. Use it in a circular motion up your body towards the heart and spend a bit longer on the lymph nodes in order to get them flowing. If you want to learn how I have included a video here.

Woman doing yoga on a waterfront at sunrise
Photo by kike vega on Unsplash

Yoga

Exercise, but in particular yoga is super helpful for the lymphatic system, as lymph moves through the muscular contraction. With yoga, in particular, any time your head is below your heart, lymph can move into the respiratory organs, clean them from bacteria, and then drain them when moving back up into a standing position. Pretty cool, huh?

Woman, jumping on a trampoline
Photo by Jasper Garratt on Unsplash

Trampoline

Sounds weird, but rebounding through hopping on a trampoline also moves lymph and thereby supports your lymphatic system. The movement of jumping is excellent for pumping. Plus, it is super fun!!!

Berries, rhubarb and cut up oranges on a white background
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Nutrition

Given the nature of this blog… you know I had to add this to the list, don’t you 😉?! Your lymphatic system benefits from a lot of water and being hydrated. As, well as a lot of anti-inflammatory foods. These can, for example, be cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, berries, foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, and healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, and heart-healthy olive oil. I have written an entire post about Inflammation if you would like to learn more.

And that is it for this week!! I hope you enjoyed this excursion into our lymphatic system and learned something new about a part of our body that does so much for us!!! Beautiful cover photo by Jack Finnigan on Unsplash.

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