When white blood cells come into contact with viruses and bacteria, they form antibodies to fight the specific threat and cause an immune response in the whole body.
Anatomy of the lymphatic system
The main parts of the lymph system are:
Lymph The lymph is fluid that is collected from the tissues and cavities between cells. It is made up of proteins, fats, white blood cells and other “foreign” materials.
Lymph vessels Like blood vessels, lymph vessels go out to the body tissues and there are valves in the vessels to stop reverse flow. Lymph vessels are different from the blood vessels because there is no pump (like the heart) for the lymphatic system. Therefor, lymph is made to circulate through exercise, deep breathing, and jumping…your muscles squeeze the vessels to cause circulation.
Ducts There are two main ducts in the trunk that flow into the veins. The other lymph vessels drain into these ducts.
Nodes Nodes are collection spots for the lymph where the foreign material, viruses, and fungus are assessed by the white blood cells. You have between 500-700 lymph nodes in your body with about half of all your lymph nodes in your abdomen.
Some other organs can be considered as part of the lymphatic system including: tonsils (they protect against inhaled material), spleen (make some white blood cells and filters and removes damaged red blood cells), and the thymus (develops the immune system of the very young)
For a short video that illustrates the lymph system click here
The lymphatic system has three main functions including:
1. Fluid Balance – Throughout out the day blood leaks into the inter-cellular spaces and not all of it is recoverable by the veins. The Lymphatic system collects this fluid from the tissues, cavities and from between the cells to be returned to the veins. The fluid that is collects is rich in proteins and is called lymph.
2. Absorption- Most fats from digestion are taken up by the lymphatic system and delivered to the venous blood.
3. Immune System-The body has other defenses such as: physical barriers (skin), toxic barriers (stomach acid), and friendly bacteria in the body. Even with these defenses, pathogens still get by. Read more about the immune system below.
The lymphatic system houses your army of white blood cells. These white blood cells circulate through the lymphatic system in the lymph, when they get to the nodes they are exposed to viruses, bacteria, and other foreign particles that have been gathered. Because the white blood cells come into contact with these intruders, they become “activated” and form antibodies to fight the specific threat. As a result, they spread to the blood stream and cause an immune response in the whole body.
Signs of a poorly functioning lymphatic system: fatigue, bloating, chronic sinusitis, sore throat, breast swelling, swollen glands, cold hands/feet, water retention, stiffness, itchy/dry skin, brain fog, cellulite, ear issues, stubborn weight gain.
Keep your lymphatic system healthy! Some good practices for a healthy lymph system include staying hydrated and thinking about the health of your gut (remember that 1/2 of your lymph nodes are in your abdomen). One way you can improve gut health is by eating raw/red foods. Don’t restrict your circulation with tight clothes, instead wear loose, comfortable clothes. Get regular massage from a professional or even a loved one. I would consider dry brushing as a form of massage as well. Here is a video I found with dry brushing and lymph massage all in one. Pranayama, yoga, laughing all increase your circulation and improve your immune response. Lucky for you, we do all three in class every week!🙂
We have discussed the lymph system in workshops at Grace Yoga. If you want to get together privately to learn a personalized yoga routine to support your lymph system, please call for an appointment. 970-646-2022