Introducing Our All-Important Janitor of the Body, The Lymphatic System
We are all pretty well acquainted with the Cardiovascular System with its network of arteries and veins and blood vessels that move blood around our body, through the heart and back out again. But many of us aren’t as aware of the other complex network in our bodies that is just as important and works hand in hand with the Cardiovascular System, the Lymphatic System. The Lymphatic System is a network of tissues, organs, and vessels that has the job of transporting lymph fluids from throughout our body, to and through the heart, helping clean them up, and is a vital part of our Immune System. Our tonsils, adenoids, spleen, and thymus are all part of this system, as well as over 600 lymph nodes and a complex system of vessels and capillaries that run alongside the cardiovascular venous system. The Lymphatic System helps to maintain the balance of the fluids that are outside of the cardiovascular system, and is so vitally important, that if it should totally fail us, we would die within a day. Wow!
So, now that we know how important the Lymphatic System is, what does it do?
The Lymphatic System has three primary jobs:
- Lymphatic System provides specialized white blood cells called lymphocytes (both T cells and B cells), which are primary cells of the immune system that defend the body. All lymph fluids pass through lymph nodes, where a large part of our immune system defense takes place. (Oh, by the way, when you feel those ‘swollen glands’ below your jaw in your neck, they really aren’t glands. They are lymph nodes. So, now that you know this cool factoid, if you told someone “My nodes are swollen today” and they look at you funny, you can explain it all with an air of authority.) One cool thing about lymphocytes is that they can remember what they have encountered in the past, so as they spread throughout the body through blood circulation, they cause what immunologists call an ‘adaptive immune response,’ spreading what they have learned to strengthen immune function. We sure have smart cells!
- The Lymphatic System also absorbs lipids (fats) from the intestines and transports them to the blood. (Hmm… that would help with weight issues…) Lymph also transports nutrients to the blood such as oxygen, glucose, amino acids, and other nutrients needed by the body. And most importantly, the digestive system is surrounded by lymph nodes which ‘digest’ metabolic waste which lymph transports back to the intestines. (Have you ever noted that even on a liquid diet or when fasting that the intestines still produce a semi-solid waste? That’s lymph waste.)
- Fluid Balance! The Lymphatic System drains excess fluids from tissues throughout the body. This includes fluids in the tiniest of places surrounding cells, known as interstitial spaces. As our blood circulates through the body, it leaves behind waste products such as proteins, cells that need clearing out, and fluids that the cardiovascular system can’t handle that need filtering and breaking down into smaller particles before returning to the blood circulatory system or being dumped into the intestines to be flushed from the body. So the job of our super hero, the Lymphatic System, is to be the great custodial janitor of the body, keeping fluids moving and in balance (called homeostasis) and taken where they can be cleansed and the waste removed.
Lymph flows in only one direction, toward the heart. Once these fluids are returned to the blood circulatory system via the thoracic duct into the subclavian vein of the heart, the liver does its purifying thing, blood flows throughout the body, fluids leak (naturally) into body tissues, oxidative activity happens (also a natural action in the body), toxins need reducing and clearing, and the Lymphatic System is there to come to the rescue and mop it all up and keep things neat and tidy. All day, every day, 24/7, the Lymphatic System does its job and moves and cleanses about 2-3 quarts of fluids a day.
Ok, so we have this amazing system in the body that we have barely known about and haven’t really paid any attention to up to now. Why is it important that we sit up and take notice now? If you want to be well, stay well, and live long (and fit into your last year’s jeans), you have to actively take care of your Lymphatic System!
The key word here is actively. The Lymphatic System can’t do all that work by itself. While the cardiovascular system has its own built-in pump, the Lymphatic System is dependent on us to help keep it functioning properly by both breathing and moving. It’s kind of trippy to realize that being a living, breathing person, part of our job to keep our body functioning like a well-oiled machine, is simply to keep moving and breathing! Any activity, especially vigorous walking, jogging, swimming, calisthenics, etc., helps our Lymphatic System ‘pump’ lymph throughout the body. That means being a couch potato is harmful to your health! Also, it’s our job to lubricate (hydrate) our Lymphatic System, which means drinking enough fluids every day to keep our fluid dynamics in tip top shape. The best fluids are, of course, clear, purified water.
In addition to drinking plenty of water, exercising, breathing, and, of course, eating a healthy diet, here are some herbal suggestions to support your Lymphatic System:
Cedar Bear’s complex herbal formulas were developed by Master Clinical Herbalist and founder of Cedar Bear Naturales™, L. Carl Robinson to work hard to help you keep your body in balance
Because the lymphatic system works around the clock, even when we sleep, take these herbs before going to bed and first thing when arising in the morning.
Regular Daily Care: (With regular use, these formulas support the digestive system, the hepatic system (liver), and the general immune system, and help keep them in balance, which benefits the lymphatic system. They can be used separately or together on a daily basis to help build and support your health.)
- Digestive Build
- Liver Build
- Immune Builder
- Take twice daily, morning and evening.
Deep Lymphatic Detox Program: (These formulas go deep within the body to help clear and cleanse the lymphatic system, circulatory system, and the hepatic system. These formulas, whether used individually or all together for a deep detox/cleansing program, should only be used for up to 3 weeks at a time.)
- Lymphatic Cleanser
- Herbal Blood Cleanser
- Herbal Detox
Take twice daily, first thing in the morning and last thing at night for up to 3 weeks at a time.
Merkmanuals.com, Consumer Version
Overview of the Lymphatic System by James D Douketis, MD, October 2017
© 2019 Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA
Lymphatic System Anatomy
The Editors of Enyclopaedia Britannica, Nov 21, 2018
Last updated Fri 23 February 2018
By Markus MacGill