In just the same way as a city needs pipes and drainage systems to carry away its rubbish and waste, so too does the body. The body is a metropolis of delicate balances, everyone in touch with one another as millions of connections happen every second.
Of what the body produces, it also needs a way to manage the things it doesn’t need, and it does this in many fascinating and wonderful forms.
Today we’re going to navigate our way through the body’s most intelligent sewer system, exploring how it interacts with the body, how it can be influenced and why it’s keeping your life out of harm’s way.
What Is the Lymphatic System?
The lymphatic system is probably something you’ve heard a lot about. It’s mentioned in almost every facet of healthy living, and its influence on things like exercise and sleep almost always precedes its own mention.
Its name is everywhere because the lymphatic system runs quite literally everything.
Essentially, the lymphatic system is a network of thin tubes that run all over the body. These tubes are called lymph vessels and lymph nodes, or glands, and these together carry a colourless liquid called lymph, but we’ll get to what exactly that is in just a little bit later.
The lymphatic system and its vessels are connected to other parts of the body, including the spleen, thymus, tonsils and the adenoids behind the nose.
To fully understand what the lymphatic system does and how it works, we must first take a look at one of the body’s other major circulatory systems: the bloodstream.
Blood is important to the body in lots of different ways. It carries oxygen to the cells and powers the muscles. But what the blood also does is provide the cells with nutrients and hormones.
When it does this, plasma leaves the blood vessels and becomes what’s known as tissue fluid. Surrounding all the body’s tissues, this fluid collects waste products, bacteria, excess water, damaged cells and any present cancer cells.
Ninety per cent of this fluid then travels back into the blood circulation. However, 10 per cent of the fluid remains behind. It’s this remainder that is known as lymph.
Now, when lymph accumulates in the body, remembering that it covers each and every tissue cell, it causes the body to react in a nasty way, which includes swelling, soreness and inflammation.
Therefore, the body needs a way to excrete this lymph, to keep the cells spring clean and tissue fluid levels to a minimum.
Hence the lymphatic system. Lymph drains from your tissue cells into lymph vessels, being transported through a one-way system of valves and muscular walls to the lymph nodes.
Lymph nodes are found primarily within the abdomen, neck, groin and underarm areas, and what they do is filter the lymph, destroying or trapping anything harmful. The nodes are able to do this because they’re filled with white blood cells called lymphocytes, which attack anything they see to be harmful to the body; including cancerous cells.
In this way, it’s easy to see why the lymphatic system is so vital to immunity. It works around the clock to protect the body, and prevents anything toxic from leaking out into the rest of the system.
When the waste has been broken down, it leaves the nodes with the other lymph fluid where it then travels to a large vessel found at the base of the neck called the thoracic duct.
The thoracic duct empties the lymph back into the blood circulation. The bloodstream then removes the lymph waste from the body, as it does with other waste.
This lymphatic process has to happen to keep the body healthy, and it has to happen well. When the lymph vessels that collect and carry the lymph are damaged, missing or blocked, it can, as we mentioned before, cause a build-up of excess fluid.
This form of localised swelling, called lymphedema, can distort the shape of the body and the look of the skin, and in long term cases, can develop into a rare form of cancer called lymphangiosarcoma.
This is why you can never stress the importance of the lymphatic system enough. However, as with any drainage system, blockages can occur, and faulty valves in the walls of the vessels can dilute the good lymph with the bad.
When the system is broken down, it gives way for viruses to travel around the body undisturbed, spreading their severity wherever they go.
How Can I Improve my Lymphatic System?
Blockages come as part and parcel of modern life, and things like diet, lifestyle habits and exercise can all influence its flow.
So, how can you ensure that the system is running as smoothly as you’d like it to be? Here are our techniques and words of advice that’ll act as a plunger to your system.
We are so super excited to be sharing this solution with you. Stimulating certain points along the lymphatic system can greatly increase its ability to flow. These pressure points however can be very tricky to find, and a more holistic approach to locating them can ironically help you to pinpoint a specific area.
This is exactly how this acupressure mat works and can be used to stimulate every corner of the lymphatic system in an accessible way. Its accompanying pillow works an absolute dream for stimulating that thoracic duct at the base of the neck, and many of the vital pathways that surround the spinal area.
Find out more about how this ancient technique works here.
Some of the most important and visible lymphatic drainage systems are those of the sinuses, found around the eyes, forehead and nose.
This is a major hotspot for lymph activity, being close to the brain, adenoids and tonsils, and any misstep here in drainage activity will become clear very quickly.
There is however a solution that you should know about called deep pressure stimulation. This technique applies steady and even pressure to these areas, helping along the journey of fluid and stimulating its passage towards the thoracic duct.
This weighted clay bead eye mask is a perfect example of this therapy; a therapy that combines relaxation and rejuvenation whilst you sleep.
To discover more about deep pressure stimulation and how best to apply it, click here.
No to Dairy
We’re absolutely not affiliated with any dairy company, and we haven’t got a herd of cows to our name, but we must mention that dairy is extremely bad for the lymphatic system; quite possibly the worst thing for it in fact.
It’s like putting cement down your kitchen sink, and prevents the lymph from travelling quickly. Some milk alternatives, like soya, also cause this problem, and if you suffer from things like swelling, a runny nose or sinusitis, you should definitely try to limit your dairy intake.
For a true alternative to dairy-related blockages, find our moooo-st recommended solution here.
One of the best drivers of the lymphatic system is exercise. When the muscles contract in a movement, they work like a pump, pumping the fluid faster around the body and faster out of it.
The more you exercise, the more speed with which your body will be able to process and excrete toxins.
Stretching is particularly beneficial to the movement of lymph fluid, and incorporating resistance bands into your workout will contribute to how effectively you’re able to stretch and work your muscles. The more muscle power the better!
To follow along with our latest workout plans, visit here.
As with any fluid-based process inside the body, water intake is very important. Healthy levels of hydration will help to ease the levels of water retention that build up inside the cells, and will allow the removal of toxins from the body to flow much better.
A steady, regulated approach to this is always the best way to stay hydrated, and carrying around a transportable water bottle with you wherever you go will make the task that much more manageable and convenient.
To learn more about how the body rinses itself through the power of wet and wild water, visit our blog post here.
It’s really essential to look after yourself and your lymphatic system, because it really does serve as the base layer of a healthy and long-lasting lifestyle.
For more information on how to live life to its full potential, see our latest here.
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