The Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system is a series of vessels running parallel to the circulatory system whose job is to return inter- and intracellular fluid back to the bloodstream.
However, in the process of this apparently passive job of transport, much vital work goes on. It is through the lymphatic drainage of the cells, tissues and organs that cleaning largely occurs. The proper flow and coherence of the lymphatic system is vital to the functions of the body and must be considered when approaching the body from a holistic point of view.
A second major function of the lymphatic system occurs in the lymphatic glands, as the anti-microbial activity of the body is partially located there, mostly where ears, nose, throat and eyes are discussed in the article in ‘Body Systems’ titled ‘Ears, Eyes, Nose and Throat’.
It is when lymph glands are swollen in the threat, under the arm, the breasts and the tops of the legs, and in the groin that problems are seen and felt.
The lymphatic system includes a system of lymphatic capillaries, vessels, nodes, and ducts that collects and transports lymph, which is a clear to slightly yellowish fluid, similar to the plasma in blood. The lymphatic system is important for maintaining the body’s fluid balance, and it helps transport some fats. It also works along with the immune system to fight infections.
In addition to being present in the lymph nodes, lymphatic tissue is also found in a few additional spaces of the body. The lymphoid organs assist the lymphatic system. They include the thymus, spleen, tonsils, and appendix, along with some special tissue in the gut. The picture below shows where lymph nodes are found in the body.
The thymus is located in the thoracic cavity, just under the neck.
The thymus is large during childhood, but during the early teen years it starts to decrease in size. Why does it get smaller? No one knows; it’s a bit of a mystery.
The spleen: The spleen is located in the upper-left part of the abdomen. It’s tucked up under the ribs, so you generally can’t palpate it (medically examine by touch) unless it’s enlarged.
The spleen’s main function is to filter the blood. It removes old or damaged red blood cells, which are phagocytised by macrophages. The spleen also detects viruses and bacteria and triggers the release of lymphocytes.
The tonsils: The tonsils are masses of lymphoid tissue found in the back of the throat and nasal cavity. They’re part of the immune system, so they help fight infections, but removing the tonsils doesn’t appear to increase the risk of infections.
Tonsillitis occurs when the tonsils become infected. They’re usually easy to see by shining a light into the patient’s mouth. Infected tonsils are usually red and swollen, or they may have a whitish coating on them. Sometimes tonsils are enlarged but not actually infected.
The appendix: The appendix is a pouch of lymphatic tissue that’s attached to the large intestine. It’s located in the lower-right area of the abdomen. Although it’s made of lymphatic tissue, the appendix doesn’t appear to have much lymphatic function in humans, but it does release some mucus into the large intestine.
An obstructed appendicle lumen (opening) can cause appendicitis when bacteria start to multiply. The result is abdominal pain and tenderness over the appendix.
The purpose of the Lymphatic System is to defend the body against disease by removing germs, bacteria, viruses and parasites, and toxins. It also helps to destroy cells that are old, damaged or have become abnormal.
The Lymphatic system is also a drainage system, removing excess fluid and waste from the body tissues and returning it to the bloodstream. It helps to absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins from the digestive system and transports them to the bloodstream.
This System is an important one, although its one we don’t really hear much of, it can have its problems.
Lymph fluid includes proteins that are too large to be transported via blood vessels, a loss of the Lymphatic system would be fatal within a day, without this system draining excess fluid, the body’s tissues would swell, blood volume would be lost, and blood pressure would increase.
Lymphoedema is a long term chronic condition that causes swelling in the body’s tissues, it can affect any part of the body, but it usually develops in the arms or legs. It develops when the lymphatic system isn’t working properly.
Lymphoma is a tumour that develops from the cells of the lymph glands. This disease can spread through the blood, and throughout the lymphatic vessels from the lymph nodes or organs, but lymphatic (marrow, spleen etc) and extra lymphatic (skin central nervous system, stomach, liver, etc.).
Joints and spaces in the human body is where ‘rubbish’ tends to collect, this can cause swelling, pain, and a general feeling of being unwell. To keep the body clear of this, the Lymph System, combined with the Immune System, free of this clutter.
To do this isn’t as difficult as may be thought.
- Drink lots of clean water, this doesn’t mean squashes or fizzy drinks, they are full of sugar and toxins, clean filtered water is best, but if this cant be managed then tap water is better than nothing.
- Eat a healthy balanced diet, lots of fruit and vegetables, fish, white meat, and include healthy fats in the diet, ie., nuts are a great source of healthy fat.
- Exercise daily, this keeps the lymph flowing and the body healthy as it removes all the rubbish from all those crevices and joints.
- Try to keep as stress-free as possible, tightening muscles and joints stop lymph flowing.
A herb useful for cleansing the Lymph Glands is Cleavers or Goosgrass, it’s the herb we find stuck to animal fur and trouser bottoms in the shape of small green bobbles that are difficult to remove. This is the herb Cleavers and it’s the best herb for cleansing an infected or swollen lymph gland.
A good herbal recipe is:
2 parts dried Echinacea
1 part dried Cleavers
1 part Golden Seal
1 part Poke Root
Take this three times daily, and can be used whenever the Lymphatic system drainage needs support.