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Little-known functions of the lymphatic system and how to improve its health

Lymph nodes
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(NaturalNews) The lymphatic system is part of the body's immune system and functions as the body's "drainage" system. While it often doesn't get as much attention as the cardiovascular system, it actually plays vital roles in maintaining good health and combating disease.

Parts of the lymphatic system

The lymphatic system comprises of:

• the lymph, which is the system's transport fluid.
• a vast network of capillaries which transport the lymph.
• a number of lymph nodes located at different parts of the body which filter the lymph - these are mostly situated at the neck, armpits and groin.
• the tonsils, thymus and spleen, which produce white blood cells (lymphocytes, T cells and B cells of the immune system) that go around destroying pathogens and toxins.

The network of lymphatic capillaries parallels the blood vessels and practically resembles a "tree" in the human body.


Here are some key points regarding the functions of the lymphatic system:

• Lymphatic vessels remove blood proteins and excess water from spaces surrounding bodily cells - this allows the cells to receive critical oxygen. A congested lymphatic system results in oxygen-deprived cells, which in the long-term can lead to various pains and diseases.
• Lymph fills spaces between bodily cells, bringing nutrients to the cells as well as removing unwanted materials from them - these include dead cells, bacteria, heavy metals, fatty globules, and other waste products.
• Bringing toxins away from cells is actually the lymphatic system's main function. Lymph circulates through the lymphatic system, carrying waste materials away from various parts of the body.
• The lymph nodes then filter the lymph, neutralizing and dumping bacteria and other pathogens, as well as neutralizing and getting rid of other toxins. They then bring these materials to the bloodstream, while the lymphocytes are allowed to pass through.
• Thereafter, the unwanted toxins are brought through the blood to the kidneys and liver, organs of detoxification, where they are dealt with and then excreted from the body. Some of the lymph is also dumped straight into the large intestines, where it is excreted with the feces.

Generally, lymph flows rather slowly, at a rate of about three quarts each day. Unlike the bloodstream, which has the heart for a pump, the lymphatic system doesn't have such a mechanism and has to rely on other ways to keep the lymph moving. These include general bodily movement, muscle contractions, lymphatic massage and other types of compression, plus gravity.

In times of illness, for example during colds, lymphatic system activity rises and the lymph nodes tend to become swollen with collected waste materials. Natural or alternative healthcare practitioners often pay attention to reactivating lymph flow as part of holistic treatment regimens.

Keeping the lymphatic system functioning well and lymph flowing is also part of a vitality-enhancing and disease-preventing healthy lifestyle.

How to improve lymphatic circulation

Suggestions include:

• Deep breathing - studies have revealed that this is one of the best ways of activating the lymphatic system and keeping the lymph moving.
• Exercise - vigorous exercise increases the rate of lymph flow.
• Trampoline bouncing
• Lymphatic massage
• Osteopathic/chiropractic lymphatic drainage techniques
• Dry skin brushing - a session of light and brisk brushing, done correctly, is roughly equivalent to 20-minutes of exercise in terms of encouraging healthy lymph flow
• Reflexology/acupressure - press on and massage the relevant reflex points/zones to send healing energy to the lymphatic system. Focus on the area around the center of the top of the foot, or the area behind the wrist.

Read some ideas for lymphatic cleansing here.

Sources for this article include:

Trivieri, Jr., Larry, and Anderson, John W. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. 2nd ed. New York, USA: Celestial Arts, 2002. Print.

Carter, Mildred, and Weber, Tammy. One Touch Healing: Renew Your Energy, Restore Your Health, With The Miracle Power of Reflexology. Paramus, NJ: Reward Books, 2000. Print.

Schulze, Richard, Dr. There Are No Incurable Diseases: Dr. Richard Schulze's 30-Day Intensive Cleansing and Detoxification Program. Santa Monica, CA: Natural Healing Publications, 1999. Print.

About the author:
Reuben Chow has a keen interest in natural health and healing as well as personal growth.

Subscribe to his natural health newsletter or follow his health websites on Facebook.

His main health websites Insights on Health and All 4 Natural Health focus on being healthy naturally, while his other health websites cover topics such as cancer, depression, holistic depression help, as well as omega 3 fatty acids. He also owns self improvement and inspirational websites like Inspiration 4 Living, allinspiration.com, Life Changing Quotes, and 101 Inspirational Ideas. Through his network of sites at The Journey of Life, he hopes to help improve people's lives.

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