Maintaining a Health Lymphatic System
Lymphatic System Function and General Health
Most people have at least some notion of what the lymphatic system is, but they may not recognize the close relationship between having a healthy lymphatic system and a person’s general health.
That’s because lymphatic system function is closely related to healing. It’s part of your immune system, fighting infections, harmful bacteria, and even cancer while lymphatic drainage helps keep the body’s fluids in balance. An unhealthy lymphatic system is commonly seen in patients suffering from autoinnume disorders.
A Closer Look at the Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system contains several organs:
- The tonsils are glands at the rear of the throat. They sift out bacteria prior to digestion.
- The adenoids are behind the nose protecting the entrance to the lungs and digestive system. An adenoid looks a bit like a cluster of grapes.
- The spleen and thymus filter blood and produce the white blood cells that fight infection. The spleen can be found just below the diaphragm inside the abdomen. The thymus is under the ribcage.
The lymphatic system also consists of a network of lymphatic vessels. These are smaller than our blood vessels and conduct the lymphatic fluid (sometimes simply called lymph) that is stored in white-blood cells. Valve-like structures make sure lymphatic drainage is occurring as it should and that lymph doesn’t flow in the wrong direction.
Clear and watery, lymph hauls away harmful bacteria and performs other functions as well. It transports protein molecules, glucose, and salts that are essential to our well-being.
When we’re sick, lymph carries the germs or toxins to sites called lymph nodes where the harmful organisms or substances can be attacked by a heavy concentration of white blood cells. They’re found near major arteries under the jaw and in the armpits, chest, abdomen, and groin, and they may swell and become uncomfortable when they’re at their work fighting some illness you’ve contracted.
Meanwhile, lymphatic drainage keeps fluids from accumulating in damaged areas of the body where they can cause swelling, edema, and pain.
Ultimately, lymph empties into the bloodstream, but first it’s filtered in the thymus and spleen. The spleen traps and gets rid of dead or damaged red blood cells and harmful germs while balancing bodily fluids.
The white blood cells the spleen produces are called macrophages, B lymphocytes, and T lymphocytes. They kill harmful bacteria, dispose of dead cells in the blood, and get rid of foreign material.
The thymus performs tasks similar to the spleen. This is called redundant filtration and is one reason the lymphatic system works as well as it does.
The Lymphatic System and Cancer
The lymphatic system fights cancer in particular by trapping the cells shed by cancerous tumors in the lymph nodes. The resulting swelling can provide an early warning sign that a cancer is developing and prompt doctors to check for it.
Some lymphocytes produce substances called antibodies that destroy germs. Just as they prevent the spread of infection, they can inhibit the spread of mutated cancer cells through the body.
It’s important to understand, though, that this may not be enough to beat the cancer. In fact, sometimes cancer develops in the lymph nodes themselves (a condition called lymphoma), and sometimes the lymphatic system actually serves as the conduit through which cancer spread and reaches previously untouched portions of the body. When cancer is present in the lymph nodes, doctors may recommend treatment with chemotherapy, radiation, or having the lymph nodes surgically removed.
What Conditions Indicate Possible Damage to the Lymphatic System?
Unfortunately, there are a number of them. They include the following:
- Muscle aches and pain
- Joint pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Sore throat
- Frequent colds
- Frequent infections or viruses
- Fibromyalgia symptoms
Conditions That Definitely Involve Damage to the Lymphatic System
Such conditions include the following:
- Hodgkin’s disease (a specific kind of lymphatic cancer)
- Infected tonsils (often requiring a tonsillectomy)
- Swollen lymph nodes in response to an infection
- Infected lymphatic vessels
- Swollen spleen (this happens in response to an infection and can even cause the spleen to rupture, which is life-threatening)
- Trapped fluid inside tissues
Thus you can see how desirable it is to keep the lymphatic system healthy. Fortunately, healthy eating, exercise, and keeping the body detoxified can go a long way toward achieving that. For more detailed information on how to keep the lymphatic system healthy, keep reading.
Tips for Keeping the Lymphatic System Healthy
Lymphatic System Tip #1: Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods
An anti-inflammatory diet provides the nutrients and antioxidants that support your immune system. The lymphatic system doesn’t have to work so hard coping with damaging allergens, the wrong kind of vegetable oils, and harmful chemicals you ingested. Here are some foods that are a good source of antioxidants:
- Herbs and spices like garlic, turmeric, and ginger
- Green leafy vegetables
- Seeds and nuts
- Foods rich in omega-3 fats (examples are wild seafood and salmon)
- Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage
- Unrefined oils like coconut and olive oil
Lymphatic System Tip #2: Exercise
Moving around helps move your lymphatic fluid around. You don’t have to resort to high-intensity exercise unless that’s simply your preference. Just a brisk walk will do the trick.
Lymphatic System Tip #3: Supplements
There are supplements on the market that promote blood circulation and lymphatic system function. Some come in the form of essential oils that are ingested or massaged into the skin. Here are some examples:
Lymphatic System Tip #4: Massage and Foam Rolling
These can both be effective for fighting swelling and pain and preventing fluid build-up.
Lymphatic drainage massage is a special massage therapy technique designed to break up lymphatic congestion and help cells dispose of toxins. (Note, however, that any deep-tissue massage may prove beneficial.)
Foam rolling is self-massage often practiced before or after working out. It improves blood circulation, breaks up adhesions inside muscles and tissue, and helps the body repair itself.
Lymphatic System Tip #5: Far-infrared Sauna
Any sauna can help with stress reduction, relaxation, and detoxification through sweating. But a far-infrared sauna increases detoxification by increasing sweating. Your body gets rid of more toxins and experiences enhanced blood flow and tissue healing.