Lymphatic System

About the Lymphatic System

The Lymphatic System is a one-way drainage system, think of it as your body’s “sewer system”, it moves fluid from the body tissues into the blood circulation and rids any waste that cells make. This system is made up of a network of lymph vessels that connect to a group of lymph nodes, and these nodes contain white blood cells known as lymphocytes.  So fluid, known as lymph fluid, flows through this network as the lymph nodes act as filters that trap or destroy harmful bacteria, viruses and damaged cells by carrying them back into the bloodstream where we depend on our liver and kidneys to remove it all from the blood and is passed out with other body waste through…well….going to the bathroom.

There are hundreds of lymph nodes found throughout the human body.  Some located deep inside our bodies, like around the lungs and heart and some closer to the surface like under the arm or groin, which you may be familiar with these specific nodes as they often swell and become tender to touch when they are fighting an infection.  Yes the nodes sometimes trap the bacteria and or viruses that are unable to be eliminated quickly. However, there are multiple causes of swollen lymph nodes but if they are painless (yet swollen) it’s super important to visit a physician.  Sometimes cancer cells find their way through your lymph fluid and spread throughout the body from wherever the cancer originated and may form tumors and this is what we know as “metastasis”.  Cancer can even start in the lymph nodes, known as lymphoma.

Can you name all 6 organs belonging to the system?

Well two organs make what is called the Primary Lymphoid Organs:

  • Bone marrow. A sponge-like tissue found inside the bones where most Immune System cells are produced then move to other organs and tissues.
  • Thymus, located behind the breastbone above the heart is responsible for producing white blood cells known as T-Cells. Fun Fact: The thymus produces all of our T-Cells before we become teenagers.  Cool, huh?

Then the other four make the Secondary Lymphoid Organs (where the actual job of fighting germs takes place):

  • Lymph Nodes. The filters we mentioned before that are small and bean-shaped located along the lymphatic vessels.
  • Spleen. A tissue found in the left upper abdomen that stores Immune System cells that move through the blood to other organs.
  • Tonsils. Also part of the Immune System.  They stop germs entering the body through the mouth or nose and contain a ton of white blood cells that are responsible for killing such germs. We have three types: palatine tonsils, adenoids and the lingual tonsils.  We also know these are regularly removed in routine procedures.
  • Mucous Membranes, most importantly in the bowel, plays a central role in warding off germs. More than half of the body’s cells that produce antibodies are found in the bowel wall (especially in the appendix).  They detect foreign matter and destroy it, but as most of us learned during the pandemic, they also store information about the foreign matter to react more quickly the next time it invades the body.  This particular part is why maintaining a healthy gut is super important as the large bowel contains harmless bacteria (gut flora) that makes it difficult for germs to enter and spread throughout body.

So now that we are familiar with what makes up the Lymphatic System let’s talk about the main functions of it:

  • Protects the body from germs and other matter that cause illness because the Lymphatic System is part of the Immune System.
  • Maintains body fluid levels as the lymphatic system collects excess fluid that drains from cells and even tissue throughout the body then returns back to the bloodstream where it’s recirculated.
  • Absorbs digestive tract fats and transports it back to the bloodstreams thanks to the fluid from the intestines.
  • Removes cellular waste which includes abnormal cells.

Naturally the next question you must have is “HOW CAN I KEEP MY LYMPHATIC SYSTEM HEALTHY?” Right? Well that is precisely where LYMPHFITNESS comes in.

  • Regular exercise and a healthy diet! Duh, right? Well when your body is in MOVEMENT the contraction of muscles becomes the pump that fluid relies on to get around your body as lymph fluid is pushed through the lymph vessels. Not to mention the cardiovascular involvement where white blood cells are pumped by the heart. All of this combined potentially helps prevent infections and diseases.
  • Deep breathing exercises and meditation causes movement in the diaphragm which helps fluid circulate as well.
  • Keeping your body hydrated so that lymph fluid can easily move throughout the body. So please drink plenty of water throughout the day—and especially after our classes and the day after.
  • Avoid pesticides and toxic chemicals, especially those found in cleaning products, as they can actually build up in your system and block the filtering of waste.

There a quite a few signs of a blocked immune system, if you experience any of the following then it’s time to get up and MOVE with us:

  • Excess Weight
  • Bloating
  • Swelling
  • Fatigue
  • Brain Fog
  • Depression
  • Cold Hands & Feet
  • Stiffness & Soreness (especially when first waking up)

So what happens when the Lymphatic System becomes compromised?  There are many conditions that can affect this important system, some that happen during the development before birth, during childhood or as a result of diseases (such as cancers) or even injury.

One word that packs a punch yet you hardly hear…LYMPHEDEMA.

Swelling

Lymphedema refers to the swelling of an arm or leg, however in some cases both arms and both legs can swell. In rare cases you can have swelling in all extremities and other parts of the body such as neck, face, trunk, etc.
 
Lymphedema is usually caused when lymph nodes are removed or damaged, especially when it is a part of cancer treatment. It results from a blockage in your lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. The lymph fluid is blocked because of this and therefore cannot drain properly, which leads to swelling.
 
There is currently no cure for lymphedema, but it can be managed with early diagnosis, proper care of the affected limb(s) or other parts of the body. Fitness and nutrition also play a very valuable role in caring for your body with lymphedema. There are too many cases of people just giving up due to their diagnosis which ultimately leads to blaming any weight gain on the condition.

Symptoms

Lymphedema signs and symptoms, which occur in your affected arm or leg, include:
 
  • Swelling of part or all of your arm or leg, including fingers or toes
  • Swelling in the head or neck
  • A feeling of heaviness or tightness
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Aching or discomfort
  • Recurring infections
  • Thickening and hardening of the skin (fibrosis)
  • Discomfort or aching in the affected limb
 
The swelling caused by lymphedema ranges from mild with hardly any noticeable changes in the size of your arm or leg to the extreme changes that make the limb(s) hard to use. Secondary Lymphedema (caused by cancer treatment) may not show until months or even years after treatment, in those cases it’s always best to use preventative measures such as making compression a part of your daily routine. Compression and exercise should always be used no matter what.

Causes

Your lymphatic system is probably the most important system with keeping your body healthy. It circulates protein-rich lymph fluid throughout your body, collecting bacteria, viruses and waste. It then carries the fluid and the harmful substances through your lymph vessels, which lead to your lymph nodes where it’s filtered out by infection-fighting cells (that live in the lymph nodes) called lymphocytes, then flushed from your body.
 
Lymphedema can be either PRIMARY (occurs on its own) which can be a rare and inherited condition caused by problems with the development of lymph vessels in your body. Causes of primary lymphedema include:
  • Milroy’s disease (congenital lymphedema). This disorder begins in infancy and causes lymph nodes to form abnormally.
  • Meige’s disease (lymphedema praecox). This disorder often causes lymphedema around puberty or during pregnancy, though it can occur later, until age 35.
  • Late-onset lymphedema (lymphedema tarda). This occurs rarely and usually begins after age 35.
Lymphedema that is SECONDARY (caused by another disease or condition) and is far more common than primary lymphedema. These causes can include:
  • Surgery. Removal of or injury to lymph nodes and lymph vessels may result in lymphedema. For example, lymph nodes may be removed to check for spread of breast cancer, and lymph nodes may be injured in surgery that involves blood vessels in your limbs.
  • Radiation treatment for cancer. Radiation can cause scarring and inflammation of your lymph nodes or lymph vessels.
  • Cancer. If cancer cells block lymphatic vessels, lymphedema may result. For instance, a tumor growing near a lymph node or lymph vessel could enlarge enough to block the flow of the lymph fluid.
  • Infection. An infection of the lymph nodes or parasites can restrict the flow of lymph fluid. Infection-related lymphedema is most common in tropical and subtropical regions and is also more likely to occur in developing countries.
If you have had or going to have cancer surgery, please ask your doctor whether your procedure will involve your lymph nodes or even your lymph vessels. Ask if the radiation treatment will be aimed at your lymph nodes, then discuss with them the possible risks and discuss prescriptions for compression garments or lymphedema therapy involving physical therapy and manual lymph drainage.
Lymphatic System

Naturally the next question you must have is “HOW CAN I KEEP MY LYMPHATIC SYSTEM HEALTHY?” Right? Well that is precisely where LYMPHFITNESS comes in.