The Lymphatic System: The Dust Broom of the Body
Did you know that you have a Lymphatic
The Lymphatic System? What's That?
The Lymphatic System,
similar to the Circulatory system, is made up of thin tubes, called
lymph vessels that branch throughout all parts of the body (except
your eyeballs, hair and nails) mostly just below your skin surface.
Along this network of vessels are groups of small, bean-shaped
organs called lymph nodes. Many people mistakenly call them lymph
glands. When you go to your doctors for a physical, that is what
they check first, besides your heartbeat. If your lymph nodes are
swollen, in your neck below your ears or in the groin area, that
will indicate a sign of infection in your body.
are small oval organs connected to the network of lymphatic vessels.
Clusters of lymph nodes are mostly found in the underarm, pelvis,
neck, abdomen, and behind your knee. The lymph nodes act like a
filtration plant, trapping foreign substances, which are destroyed
by lymphocytes produced by the lymph nodes. Lymphocytes are a type
of white blood cell made in the bone marrow and by the other organs
of the lymph system.
Ok, so what does the Lymphatic System do?
These lymphatic vessels carry lymph, which is
a colourless, watery fluid that contains plasma and appropriately
enough lymphocytes. When you fall and scrape your knee, but not deep
enough to draw blood, or you squeeze a pimple, you see a transparent
liquid, that is what the lymph looks like. Lymph will flow through
at least one but mostly several lymph nodes to filter waste and
bacteria in order to prevent them from entering the bloodstream. All
unwanted elements are trapped and destroyed by the lymphocytes that
are present in the lymph nodes. Antibodies are manufactured as soon
as they recognize the presence of a foreign substance.
are two main categories of lymphocytes: T-cell and B-cell
As well as the lymph
nodes other organs associated with the lymph system are the spleen,
the tonsils, and the thymus gland. The Lymphatic System is also part
of your Immune system and interconnected with the Circulatory
- T-cell lymphocytes destroy foreign substances directly or
indirectly by releasing various substances. These cells recognize
and destroy antigens (toxins, bacteria, etc.), often in
conjunction with macrophages. There are many types of T-cells,
which work in different ways, for example cytotoxic T-cells can
release lymphotoxins to destroy foreign cells.
- B-cell lymphocytes respond to infection by differentiating
into plasma cells, which in turn secrete specific antibodies to
eliminate the foreign substances.
Functions of the Lymphatic System:
Ok that's great, so what does this mean for my skin?
- Lymphocytes protect the body from microbes, foreign cells, and
cancer cells. They change toxicity in the body to non-carcinogenic
(non-cancer forming levels).
- Lymphatic vessels drain tissue spaces that have fluid that
escapes from blood capillaries.
- Lymphatic vessels transport fat from the gastrointestinal
tract into the blood.
A net of lymph vessels are
situated in the innermost layers of skin. A lot of skin health
related problems can be traced back to sluggishness of the
Lymphatics. Since the skin is your largest eliminating organ,
approximately one-third of all the body impurities are eliminated,
released through skin pores. The inability to eliminate most toxins
can be blamed on this system. If the body is constantly exposed to
toxic substances, through food, air, or many skin preparations, the
lymphatics can do only so much to neutralize and eliminate the
A lot of skin care products on the market
today contain elements that the body finds unable to use or hard to
eliminate. They tend to build up in the deeper skin layers, not only
interfering with internal cleansing, but also restricting the skin's
ability to absorb necessary nutrients.
Our Immune system's
first line of defense is our skin. Toxic build-up and sluggish lymph
circulation limits the body's ability to function optimally. A few
examples of what skin health related problems that can be attributed
to improper lymphatic functions are:
Please note that
we can not blame all these skin disorders on the Lymphatic System.
There are other factors to be considered.
- Acne breakouts that takes a while to heal, leaving marks
- Bumps under the skin surface
- Sensitive, allergic skin
- Premature aging skin
- Cellulite, inflammation of the connective tissue and
- Flabby, fatty thighs
- Varicose veins
- Excess scarring and stretch marks
- Edema or phlebitis (inflammation of the veins) are other
obstacles that can impede the lymphatics
Ok, so now I know what it does. How can I
support my Lymphatic System?
Exercise (yes again!)
Did you know that lymph in
your Lymphatic System is not pumped by your heart? Many people
don't know that lymph is circulated by the movement of muscles and
the movement (take a deep breath!!) of your Diaphragm. In the
center of your chest, behind your sternum (chest bone) a lymphatic
duct is to be found. As you deepen your breath, your Diaphragm
moves down and as you exhale moves upward, moving the lymph fluid.
The Lymphatics can greatly benefit from a nice long walk in
nature, through the forest. It is so much easier to breathe
Yoga breathing exercises are also excellent to
increase the oxygen in your system and to get the diaphragm
moving. A very simple exercise can be practiced daily that will
greatly benefit you. Please note if you have high blood pressure
or heart disease, consult your physician first.
the following exercise from my yoga teacher:
- Lay down on a carpeted floor (a towel or blanket can be
used) right beside a wall facing upward. Your body should be
parallel and touching the wall.
- Take a few breaths to help you to center yourself. Now turn
your upper body 90 degrees so your buttocks touches the wall and
both your legs are elevated, pointing towards the ceiling.
- Lay there for 5-10 minutes while focusing on your
This is an excellent way not only to get your
circulation going, but to also have an effect on brain function
and the Glandular System.
The benefits of massage are really more
than skin deep. However there are certain types of massage that
target areas like the lymphatic system. One such type is:
Dry Skin Brushing
- This treatment will support Body
and Skin detox programs. Aromatherapy massage focuses on the
cleansing of the Lymphatic System while it follows and
encourages the flow of lymph in the lymphatic vessels.
- Another simple thing you can do for your lymphatics is, when
you are in the shower or the tub, always soap yourself with a
circular massage movement. Start with the feet, moving up your
legs to your chest, then circle massage your arms moving toward
the shoulder, always following the direction towards your chest
bone. Follow the same routine when you towel yourself. As we
discussed earlier the lymphatic system is situated just below
your skin surface. This simple massage technique will boost the
flow of lymph in its system.
Dry skin brushing is used
primarily for the same reason as above in addition to its
exfoliating effect on the dead skin cells. It is best to use a
natural bristle brush about the size of your hand. In the same way
as just described, apply a gentle pressure with the brush on your
dry skin (before shower) in a circular movement. First start with
the feet and legs, than continue over the entire body always
moving towards the chest. Your pressure applied with the brush
must be gentle enough not to cause any discomfort. Your skin
should be a pinkish color. Follow with a refreshing shower. I
recommend a good quality body lotion applied to hydrate the skin
* Please note that a lot of
inexpensive body lotions use a base that actually is a byproduct
of petroleum. Although used to soften the skin, the base molecules
are too large to penetrate the surface of the skin. Good thing,
but remember this is NOT good either! These substance accumulate
over time in the deep tissue and interferes with normal skin
processes such as elimination. Choosing a good quality lotion is
Taking hot baths with Epsom salts or salt
from the Dead Sea also helps to rid toxic substances from the
Lymphatic System. The hot bath will open up the skin pores and
stimulate circulation, and the salt will draw out impurities. If
you can afford it, a mud-bath will also replenish essential
nutrients, mostly minerals to your skin. Again always follow with
a good quality body lotion.
So now you can see that the Lymphatic system, while
not receiving as much press as other systems, is just as important
to overall health. By doing simple things like exercise, receiving a
massage, or taking a hot bath with salts can stimulate lymphatic
activity. In the end, your skin as well as your body, mind and
spirit will all be happy recipients of the added attention.
Written by Tunde A. Ertl