By naturopath Margaret Jasinska
Did you know your lymphatic system plays a major role in keeping your body healthy? Its main functions are detoxification and protecting you against infections. Understanding the workings of your lymphatic system can offer you insights into keeping your body healthy.
The lymphatic system consists of the following: lymph, lymphocytes, lymph vessels, lymph nodes, tonsils, the thymus gland, Peyer’s patches of the intestines, and the spleen. Fluids move out of our blood capillaries, into tissue spaces, and then enter lymph capillaries. The fluid that enters these capillaries is called lymph. Lympha means water, and this describes the clear, colourless appearance of the fluid.
We actually have approximately three times the amount of lymph fluid in our bodies as we do blood.
Lymph capillaries join to form larger lymph vessels. Blood is pumped around our body by the heart’s contractions, but that is not the case with lymph. Most of the time lymphatic fluid flows against gravity. Three factors help to keep it moving:
- Contractions of surrounding skeletal muscles during exercise or daily activities. This can increase lymph flow by as much as 10 to 15 times. Hence the importance of exercise.
- Contractions of smooth muscle in the lymph vessel walls.
- Movements of the chest during breathing. Hence the need to avoid shallow breathing.
So just by increasing your activity level and breathing deeply, you will be cleansing your lymphatic system.
There are many lymph nodes located along the lymph vessels. They function as collection sites, and lymph must pass through them before it enters the blood. Eventually lymph vessels join to form either the right or left subclavian vein. Vessels from the right arm, right side of the head and neck enter the right lymphatic duct. Lymph vessels from the rest of the body enter the thoracic duct. From here lymph enters the general circulation.