The Lymph System, Why You Need To Maintain It and How To Keep It Healthy

Around 400 B.C., Hippocrates reported observing vessels containing “white blood.” In the 1930s, Frank Chapman discovered that, when various reflex points were manipulated, it increased lymphatic drainage in different organs.

It has recently been found that proper brain function and health is dependent on optimizing lymphatic drainage from the brain and throughout the body.

In another new study, researchers found that, with Parkinson’s disease, brain cells become overwhelmed with waste material.

The excess protein molecules in the waste “start getting misfolded and dysfunctional.” As these proteins continue to accumulate, they begin to destroy more nerve cells, resulting in even more garbage. The process becomes a vicious circle.

Once again, it appears the brain’s natural garbage disposal system (which involves lymphatic drainage) is a critical, causative factor.

Practitioners of Oriental medicine and disciplines such as yoga understood that lymph flow is also partially due to a “vacuum effect” that occurs during breathing with the movement of the diaphragm.

Unlike the arterial system, which has a heart and muscle-lined arteries to help move the blood, the lymph system has no pump. It requires other means to help move waste material from the body.

Gentle forms of massages can help move lymphatic fluid, which resides primarily just beneath the skin’s surface. And the rhythmic action of muscles contracting and relaxing works as a pump for lymph fluids. Rebounding (using small, inexpensive personal trampolines) and inversion tables are newer apparatuses that increase lymphatic fluid flow and drainage.

Poor lymphatic drainage has been directly linked to two of the most common forms of cancer, breast and prostate.

Poor drainage also plays a role in the spread of cancerous tumors to other areas of the body. When the drainage of toxic waste from a tumor isn’t adequate, it appears that lymph nodes put out angiogenic-like proteins that trigger the formation of additional lymph vessels, which may actively promote the spread of the tumor. Ensuring proper lymph fluid drainage can help reduce the buildup of toxins that lead to chronic inflammation, cell mutations, and cancer.

The lymphatic system’s role in waste removal is absolutely critical, but it is also a key component of our immune system. Many of our immune cells “live” in lymph nodes and are transported through the lymph system so they can be readily available to kill invading cells such as bacteria and fungi. Until recently, it was difficult to understand how these immune cells could gain entry into the brain and wreak havoc and destruction as we see with autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis.

Impaired lymph flow isn’t just linked to brain and neurological disease, cancer, and clogged arteries. When the flow of toxic and waste-filled lymph becomes impeded, it can result in problems anywhere in the body.

Joint pain and stiffness, arthritis (particularly rheumatoid), bursitis, chronic fatigue, high blood pressure, skin diseases, and swelling and fluid accumulation in the extremities are just a few problems associated with poor lymph flow.

Just about the only time you hear the lymphatic system mentioned is when someone experiences chronic swelling or, more accurately, fluid accumulation in the extremities (primarily the lower legs and feet). This is the most common and recognizable symptom associated with lymphatic problems. (It can also be a result of kidney disease/failure, congestive heart failure, liver disease, sitting for long periods of time, or from taking certain medications such as diabetes and blood pressure drugs and painkillers like ibuprofen or naproxen.)

The typical recommendations are to elevate the legs and wear compression stockings. These suggestions can provide a degree of temporary relief, but they don’t really resolve the issue. They don’t correct the underlying problems of poor lymphatic circulation and fluid (plasma from the blood) leaking out of the capillary beds into the surrounding tissues.

When the cause is from leaky capillaries and poor lymphatic circulation, the first order of business is to stop the constant leakage of plasma. To do that, you first need to strengthen the capillaries.

Some natural substances that help to strengthen the capillaries are…

Horse chestnut: Use a standardized horse chestnut extract from the seed containing 20 percent aescin. Aescin is a natural compound that helps mend breaks in capillary walls. The typical recommended daily dose is 75–250 mg twice daily.

Grape seed extract: is rich in the antioxidants called oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes (OPCs). A typical daily dosage is 200 mg (two 100 mg capsules containing an extract of 90–95 percent polyphenols).

Bilberry, Ginkgo biloba, and hawthorn are well-researched bioflavonoid-rich herbs that can be beneficial in dealing with fluid accumulation. If you’re taking a high-quality multivitamin/ mineral product, it should contain bioflavonoids along with vitamin C. These compounds work in conjunction with vitamin C to support capillaries.

Increase Lymphatic Flow

Sitting all day with your legs bent, either at the computer or in front of the television, is a surefire way of accumulating lymph fluid in your lower extremities. Restricting lymphatic flow is one of the main reasons sitting for long periods of time has been linked to heart disease and early death.

Dehydration is one of the most overlooked causes of a stagnant lymphatic system, particularly in this country. Lymph is a clear liquid comprised of roughly 95 percent water. (The word “lymph” comes from the Latin word “lympha,” meaning “clear water.”)

Some excellent techniques to boost lymphatic flow: lymphatic massage, inversion tables, and rebounders. In fact, practically any form of exercise is beneficial. Yoga in particular incorporates muscular contraction along with various inversion poses and breathing techniques.

Before you embark on lymphatic massages or using an inversion table or rebounder, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water.

Digestive enzymes also play a role in improving lymph flow. The walls of lymph capillary vessels consist of only a single layer of cells, unlike the multilayered walls of blood vessels. This makes it easier for material in the fluid that has escaped from the circulatory system to enter the lymph system so it can eventually be returned into circulation.

Individuals with poor digestive enzyme production in the stomach, as well as those who routinely use antacids or acid-blocking medications, can also experience fluid retention. Proteolytic enzymes (enzymes that break down proteins) are one of the principle tools the body uses to “digest” debris in both the bloodstream and lymph system.

Saunas and steam baths are another great method of mobilizing lymph. Heavy metals and exposure to toxic chemicals overwhelm the lymph system. But toxins can be eliminated from the lymphatic system through sweat. The heat also increases your heart rate and breathing, both of which help to move lymphatic fluid.

Hydrotherapy-type treatments also work wonders by having a direct influence on both your immune and lymphatic systems.

In conclusion, daily exercise and regular massage can be the healthiest forms of maintaining proper lymph flow.


Legal CMA Disclaimer:

Although this article may contain factual information, the information contained in this article has probably not been evaluated by the FDA nor is it in any way intended to be medical advice.

Unfortunately I must recommend that for any change in medical or health behavior or for any change in the way you use prescribed drugs by your healthcare providers or before acting upon any of the advice given in this or any other article, that you consult with your licensed healthcare provider or physician.


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