Lymphatic System 101
Updated: Jul 28, 2021
The lymphatic system, aka the missing piece to your health and wellness program, is a system many of us have known nothing about, until now.
What do we know about the impact of the lymphatic system on the body?
It is understood by medical professionals that all of the systems of the body (vascular, nervous, endocrine, digestive, skeletal, muscular, etc.) are connected; you cannot work on one without impacting another.
Not everyone will have significant lymphatic issues, but most people end up being affected by it, because they have not done anything to improve its function.
What is the definition of lymphatic system?
Your lymphatic system, a component of your immune system, has many functions. These include protecting your body from illness-causing invaders, maintaining proper body fluid levels, absorbing fat in the digestive tract, and removing cellular waste. Blockages, diseases, and infections can all affect your lymphatic system’s ability to function efficiently.
So, what really is it?
The body is mostly composed of fluid which surrounds all its cells. You have about 5 L of blood and 15 L of lymphatic fluid. If you have 15 L of something in your body, it must be pretty important in relation to your body’s performance.
Think of your body as an aquarium (use your imagination 🐠)
Tank = Skin
Fish = Cells
Rock = Bone
Coral = Muscles
Castle = Brain
Your body has many different structures that are surrounded by water, just like a fish tank. It is essential to have a pump and filtration system to keep the water moving and purified so it does not become stagnant and infected by bacteria or a virus. (This is why proper movement is vital for lymph fluid, because your body does not have a pump).
If the filtration is functioning properly and the fish get fed to receive their nutrients, the fish will eventually defecate. This is similar to the cells releasing metabolic waste. This results in waste in the tank and the filtration system needs to clean the tank and keep oxygen in the water so the fish can live.
If the filtration system does not work efficiently, bacteria or fungi will start growing inside. The fish will be unhealthy, and the water becomes toxic and stagnant. If uncorrected, eventually everything will die. But before that happens in the human body, you’ll feel sluggish, have aches and pains, headaches, rashes, and other systemic symptoms.
You could replace everything in the tank, but it will only be a temporary solution unless you fix the filtration system. Similarly, many people do specialized therapies to help the resulting issues but they end up coming back. In order to truly fix the problem, they have to get to the root cause of the issue: a faulty filtration system. In order to improve your filtration system you need to first drain the toxins.
What are toxins?
CO2 is a toxin. Metabolic waste is also a toxin. These toxins are why we pee, poop, sweat, etc. We need to clean that debris out and detox what shouldn’t remain in the body.
If you are struggling to feel well, you might also be struggling to produce new cells. Chronic disease exists because you struggle to make new cells that function properly. Your immune system exists because you are supposed to get sick. You need to be exposed to bad stuff, so you become stronger. To become stronger and make new cells you need nutrients. Everyone is always worried about receiving healthy nutrients. Just because you’re getting the nutrients doesn’t mean they are being absorbed correctly.
If you have a toxic fluid environment, it can be difficult for nutrients to enter into the cells. In addition, waste gets excreted out of the cell, but it cannot be released efficiently from the body because of the toxic environment. Taking all that into consideration, the lymphatic system should always be addressed first. You want to be able to drain toxins so nutrients can get in. Most of us change habits and focus on nutrients but this may have no effect if the nutrients have difficulty entering into the body’s cells.
Once you focus on the lymphatic system, you need to target the location and the degree of the problem. To assess yourself, you can press on primary lymph node regions. These are located in clusters along the blood supply to major systems of the body (sinuses, neck, armpit, abdomen, groin, and knee). These nodes are like giant filters with immune system cells which target and fight invaders. You have about 700 of them. Hopefully, once filtered lymph fluid reaches the circulatory system all the invaders have been destroyed. Tightness, tenderness, or pain in these nodes can help identify lymphatic issues. Symptoms such as swelling, inflammation, bloating, and skin issues can also be signs of lymphatic issues. Lymphatic issues can be mistaken for joint, muscle, fascia, nerve pain, or swelling. If the location of pain moves around, then you most likely have a lot of inflammation, and it is swelling in the most vulnerable areas of your body or prior injuries.
Speaking of having a lot of inflammation, one major cause of inflammation is intense training. Western workout culture dictates that one gets more results with high intensity training. Most times that is the only way you are moving yourself in the day, and your body transitions to “survival mode” during this intense training. We focus on personal records and sprints to stress our bodies which may cause overtraining. When you train and stress your body you are causing cell destruction which can lead to discomfort then you make new cells!
If your body is already stressed and toxic, you won’t be able to efficiently make new cells. When you train and cause excess tension you will cause more inflammation to yourself. If there’s excess tension and inflammation present in the tissue it restricts fluid flow so your fluid will become stagnant. Inflammation is not bad, but when there is excess inflammation present it also causes stagnant fluid. Stagnant fluid then can fail to reach the lymphatic channels thus leading to a greater chance of infection.
Emotional stress can also cause you to remain in anaerobic state and cause stress in the body which can affect your lymphatic system.
Physical and emotion trauma both cause stress in the body. The body can display signs of this stress anywhere, typically between the neck and pelvis. Basically, this is because it’s the fetal position, you flex forward for safety and stability. You then cut off blood flow to your abdomen which controls blood flow to the rest of the body, and it happens to be where the largest lymph node is located. The lymph fluid then gets congested about and below this point.
The majority of lymph is located the neck up, skin, and gut.
Now that you understand the tank lets highlight the lymphatic systems key functions:
Maintains fluid levels in your body: As just described, the lymphatic system collects excess fluid that drains from cells and tissues throughout the body and returns it to the bloodstream, which is then recirculated through the body.
Absorbs fats from the digestive tract: Lymph includes fluids from the intestines that contain fats and proteins and transports it back to the bloodstream
Protects your body against foreign invaders: The lymphatic system is part of the immune system. It produces and releases lymphocytes (white blood cells) and other immune cells that monitor and then destroy the foreign invaders – such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi – that enters the body
Transports and removes waste products and abnormal cells from lymph
Unfortunately, the lymphatic system is out of balance in many people due to nutrient deficiencies, high intake of processed foods, and lack of physical activity. Below is a list of other health conditions which could suggest that your lymphatic system requires a serious cleansing:
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