The Lymphatic System is a major component of the overall circulatory system, it is supportive of and works in conjunction with the cardiovascular system and is also closely related to the body’s immune system. One of its main functions is to detoxify the body by sweeping up metabolic waste, broken blood cells, viruses, bacteria and extra protein that can congest the tissues of the body.
The lymphatic system is composed of capillaries, vessels, nodes and other organs that help to transport and filter lymph. This lymph fluid is the medium by which the body detoxifies and clears itself of harmful pathogens that can compromise good health and vitality. As lymph fluid passes through the several hundred lymph nodes located throughout the body, pathogenic debris is caught within the nodes and destroyed by white blood cells, letting the filtered lymph fluid to make its return into the general circulation of the body. There are roughly 600 lymph nodes found at various points throughout the body with the highest concentrations being in the armpit (axilla) and groin (inguinal) but lymph nodes are also found in the abdomen, chest and throat and are all closely located near arteries.
The four main functions of the lymphatic system are:
- The return of fluid from the tissue spaces of the body back into the cardiovascular system – The process of diffusion of blood from arterial circulation to venous circulation, at the cellular level causes a leakage of plasma that baths the cells and other tissues in nutrients and oxygen. This same fluid then carries away waste materials to lymphatic vessels and general circulation.
- Lymph node filtration – The nodes house a majority of white blood cells in the body, essential in fighting bacteria, viruses and cancer cells. When filtering lymph, white blood cells attack any pathogens that are trapped within the nodes.
- Spleen – By filtering out pathogens like viruses and bacteria the spleen is lymphoid tissue that helps to cleanse the blood.
- Establishing an immune response and fighting infections – The lymphatic system and lymph nodes in particular kick into overdrive when infection is detected causing these glands to swell locally.
The lymphatic system may not be able to perform its vital functions effectively if the quality of the fluid becomes congested with metabolic waste and other pathogenic debris, the volume of fluid becomes excessive, tissue inflammation, blockage by tumor or where vessels and nodes are damaged due to surgery, cancer or trauma. This is where a qualified lymphatic therapist becomes plays a vital role in your overall health and quality of life.