November 1, 2022

The Lymphatic System: Vast, Intricate and Amazing

Many years ago I was studying a modality called Craniosacral therapy (CST). CST is a gentle hands-on technique that uses a light touch to examine membranes and movement of the fluids in and around the central nervous system. Relieving tension in the central nervous system promotes a feeling of well-being by eliminating pain and boosting health and immunity. This is a natural, gentle treatment focused on the body’s capacity to heal itself. While studying CST I also took a class on lymphatic drainage. My focus was to help my surgical patients get rid of their post-op swelling much more quickly and effectively and lymphatic drainage has been proven to do so.

The lymphatic system is vast, intricate, and amazing. While the techniques I learned were incredible they didn’t focus on the root cause of the how and the why’s the lymphatic system became so problematic for many to begin with, the focus here was on the anatomy and the techniques needed to fix and facilitate flow.

The lymphatic system protects the body

The lymphatic system runs throughout your entire body and protects your body from illness-causing invaders, maintains body fluid levels, absorbs digestive tract fats, and removes cellular waste.

The lymphatic system is part of your immune system and is a network of tissues, vessels, and organs that work together to move lymph back into your bloodstream.

That network includes:

  • Lymph: a clear liquid like blood without the red blood cells that nourish the tissues and carries off wastes
  • Lymph nodes: small rounded bits of tissue in the body through which lymph passes to be filtered
  • Lymph vessels: thin tubes that carry lymph (lymphatic fluid) and white blood cells through the lymphatic system
  • Collecting ducts: two ducts (right lymphatic duct and thoracic duct) that drain lymph fluid and bring it into the blood circulation
  • Spleen: an organ near the stomach that destroys worn-out red blood cells and produces some of the white blood cells
  • Thymus: a glandular structure of largely lymphoid tissue that functions especially in cell-mediated immunity by being the site where T-cells develop
  • Tonsils: small, round pieces of tissue that help fight infection and are located in the back of the mouth on both sides of the throat.
  • Adenoids: a clump of tissue that helps fight infection, located behind the nasal cavity above the roof of the mouth.
  • Bone marrow: a soft tissue rich in blood vessels that fill the spaces of most bones and includes one type that is red and produces red blood cells and white blood cells and another type that is yellow and contains fat
  • Peyer’s patches: groupings of lymphoid follicles in the mucus membrane that lines your small intestine
  • Appendix: narrow, finger-shaped pouch that projects out from the colon and helps protect good bacteria in the gut

The lymphatic system is the “dumping ground” for the liver

The liver produces 25-50% of the lymph in your body and is drained by the lymphatic vessels. When a liver is too overburdened with toxins— such as from the environment, an already present viral load, or unproductive foods that someone eats regularly— its filtration system gets backed up and these poisons often leach into the lymphatic system. This makes the job of liver lymphocytes much harder because the lymph fluid is filled with sludge and debris that make it harder for the liver lymphocytes to swim through.

Many of my patients today struggle with issues that have a sluggish lymphatic system such as:

  • Edema (swelling)
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Lymphedema
  • Bloating
  • Excess weight
  • Constipation
  • Digestive issues
  • Sinus issues

Get the Lymph Flowing

It is vital to get the lymph flowing and foods, herbs, and movement can help.

  • Foods: garlic, apples, celery juice, cucumbers, pomegranates, mangos
  • Herbs: red clover, burdock root, dandelion, leaf/root, rosehips, elderflower
  • Movement: rebounding, breathwork, massage, dry brushing

Another wonderful herb to help cleanse the lymphatic system is cleavers.

Even though it is crucial to get the lymph moving properly, the bottom line is if the lymphatic system is a problem, unless you clean up your liver you can’t clean up the lymphatic system.