The lymph system and your health
by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
Like Cinderella, the lymph labors quietly in the shadows to clean up the mess made
by virtually all the other systems of the body. Widely regarded as a lesser sister
to the circulatory system, the lymphatic system is actually a crucial player in
your body’s ability to ward off disease and heal from injury.
The lymphatic system is recognized by doctors in Europe and the Far East for its
importance to preventive health care. They understand how lymphatic function supports
every other system in the body, including the immune, digestive, detoxification
and nervous systems. In fact, many believe that poor lymph health underlies a host
of conditions, from cellulite to cancer.
By contrast, in America our practitioners don’t think much about the lymph
system until something goes wrong — usually when infection causes a swollen
lymph node, or worse, when we develop cancer in a lymph gland, or cancer elsewhere
that metastasizes through the lymph vessels.
The reality is that you have twice as much lymph fluid in your body as blood. The
lymph continuously bathes each cell and drains away the detritus in a circulatory
system powered only by your breathing and movement. If the movement of the lymph
stopped entirely you would die in a matter of hours.
What can you do to ensure your lymph system stays healthy? There are a number of
ways to support lymphatic function that should be part of every woman’s health
habits. Let’s start by exploring this amazing system.
Anatomy of the lymph
The first thing to understand about your lymph system is its vast extent. Like the
circulatory system that supplies blood, the network of lymph vessels serves
almost every cell in your body.
Strung along the lymph vessels like pearls knotted on a string, the lymph nodes
serve as a series of cleaning filters. Lymphatic fluid percolates through the nodes,
being purified and immunologically boosted at every stage.
The lymph vessels and nodes are made of lymph tissue, but so are many other
parts of the body. One crucial function of lymph tissue is generating and storing
white blood cells, the blood cells that fight infection. Besides the lymph nodes,
principal lymph organs include the bone marrow (where white blood cells called B-lymphocytes
are made), the spleen, tonsils and the thymus gland (where T-lymphocytes
are made). Lymphoma is a group of related cancers of the lymphocytes.
The largest concentration of lymph tissue in the body surrounds the intestines.
Called gut-associated lymphatic tissue, or GALT, this tissue is
the guardian of this largest gateway through the body’s defenses, and it actively
separates desirable nutrients from undesirable pathogens, and helps mount a defense
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Last Modified Date: 04/18/2011
Principal Author:Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP