Understanding your Amazing Lymphatic System

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One system in your body you may not have heard of is the lymphatic system! So what is it!?

Our lymphatic system filters our blood while it circulates around our body and removes harmful substances and toxins from our bloodstream. This system is so important that without it, our bodies would swell and be left vulnerable to contracting many diseases!

So how does it work!?

This system works in three main areas:

With our cardiovascular system
While our blood is being passed from our arteries to our veins, excess fluid can be missed and left outside of the circulation. This excess fluid is then taken up by the lymphatic system to ensure our bodies don’t swell. It then carries the extra fluid all the way up through the body, and returns it to the blood stream near the heart. 

With our immune system
While the lymphatic system is carrying the fluid up the body, it has to stop at multiple “checkpoints”. It is here that the fluid is filtered and searched for any harmful cells. This is why when you’re unwell, you may feel your lymph nodes swell in your neck, underarms or groin.

With our digestive system
Our lymphatic system also plays a role in absorbing fat. There are lymph vessels found in the lining of our bowels which help absorb fat from the food we eat. Because of this, problems with this area of the system can have an impact on malnutrition or obesity.

 

 

Your lymphatic system is made up of 2 types of organs:

Primary Lymphoid Organs:

  • The bone marrow and the spleen are where the special cells that fight disease are made

Secondary Lymphoid Organs:

  • Made of lymph nodes, spleen, tonsils, and other areas are where your body actually fights the foreign cells or germs

 

You can help your lymphatic system function best by:

  • Drinking plenty of water
    Drinking the recommended amount of water each day will optimise your fluid levels and improve your lymphatic flow 
  • Exercising daily
    Lymph flows from our extremities (arms and legs) up into our torso and further up into our main vessels near our heart. Because they don’t have their own pumps pushing the fluid up like in our veins, the best way to encourage flow is by exercising! The contraction and relaxation of muscles has a pump like effect on the lymphatic system, pushing the fluid up to its next destination. Make sure you’re exercising every day! Even just getting in a half hour walk will help!! 
  • Eating a healthy diet
    Making sure we’re eating our fruit and veggies will help decrease the toxins in our system
  • Managing stress
    High stress levels can have a major impact on many aspects of our health. We recommend the app InsightTimer in helping decrease stress levels and improving sleep! 
  • Avoiding toxic substances
    Avoid drugs, chemicals, smoking and overindulging in alcohol! Your body will thank you for it!! 

 

How can your Osteopath help!? 

Osteopaths are trained in special treatment techniques which focus on encouraging fluid drainage of the lymph vessels and improvement in circulation. We might choose to use these techniques if you have recently recovered from an infection, surgery or injury which may have lead to congestion of your circulation or lymphatics. Next time you’re in, ask us about these treatments and we will be happy to tell you more!

 

When might you need to seek medical advice for your lymphatic system!?

If you:

  • notice a swollen lump in your neck, underarm, or pelvic area
  • are experiencing ongoing fatigue
  • notice swelling in your arms or legs

Make sure to contact your Doctor!

 

 

Dr Megan Brooks (Osteopath) at Total Balance Healthcare

Disclaimer: This blog post is an educational tool only.  It is not a replacement for medical advice from a registered and qualified doctor or health professional.

Any other questions not answered here? Get in touch with us!

Phone:  (03) 97738085

 

References:

  1. Randolph GJ, Ivanov S, Zinselmeyer BH, Scallan JP. The Lymphatic System: Integral Roles in ImmunityAnnu Rev Immunol. 2017;35:31-52. doi:10.1146/annurev-immunol-041015-055354
  2. Choi I, Lee S, Hong YK. The new era of the lymphatic system: no longer secondary to the blood vascular systemCold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2012;2(4):a006445. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a006445
  3. Alberts, B., Johnson, A., Lewis, J., Raff, M., Roberts, K., & Walker, P. (2002). The adaptive immune system. (2002). Molecular Biology of the Cell, 4th edition
  4. Douketis, J. D. (2017, September). Overview of the lymphatic system.  Retrieved from
    http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/cardiovascular-disorders/lymphatic-disorders/overview-of-the-lymphatic-system

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