Of all of our body’s internal systems, the lymphatic system may be the most underappreciated. Our lymphatic system plays a crucial role in maintaining our overall health, as it assists our immune system in fending off dangerous toxins. If your lymphatic system is in any way compromised, it will have a drastic impact on your wellbeing. Given its importance, it is very beneficial to know how the lymphatic system works and how to keep it running smoothly.
How it Keeps us Healthy
The main purpose of the lymphatic system is to support the immune system in cleansing the body of pathogens and other waste substances. The system’s secondary purpose is to collect a clear immune system fluid, called lymph, from throughout the body. As the lymph is collected, it is filtered through lymph nodes, which kill off bacteria, viruses and other harmful organisms with specialized white blood cells called lymphocytes. Before ushering the now-purified lymph back into the blood stream, the lymph nodes inject the lymph with lymphocytes of their own, making them a more potent force against foreign invaders.
The Gears in the Machine
The lymphatic system consists of several key parts. In addition to the lymph nodes, the lymphatic system includes bone marrow, the thymus, lymphatic vessels, and the spleen. The bone marrow is a soft tissue located in the center of our bones. Its task is to produce both lymphocytes and phagocytes, another type of white blood cell used by the immune system. The lymphocytes created by the bone marrow are not a finished product, however, and must be refined by the thymus, an organ located near the top of the lungs and behind the breastbone. Once inside the thymus, the lymphocytes are given the crucial ability to terminate infected and malignant cells. The thymus also acts as the body’s lymphocyte distribution center, sending the white blood cells to wherever they are needed via the lymphatic system.
Of course, white blood cells would be useless without a transportation system to carry them to afflicted areas of the body. This role is filled by lymphatic vessels, which are used by white blood cells to bring toxins to the base of the neck. It is at this point where the lymphocytes dump their cargo into the bloodstream, which in turn transports the waste to the kidneys to be filtered from the body. Finally, the spleen absorbs excess lymph that has been leaked into the body’s various tissues, and recycles it back into the bloodstream. This prevents the tissue from becoming swollen.
Tips for Good Lymphatic Health
Like the rest of our body, the lymphatic system needs us to take care of it so it can take care of us. Fortunately, this is not especially hard to do. The most basic step is to drink plenty of water, ideally at least eight cups per day. This gives the lymphatic system the fluids it needs to remove waste from your body. Another easy way to remember objective is to eat a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables, as both food groups supply the lymphatic system with valuable vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. The lymphatic system also relies on healthy fats to function, such as those found in pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, almonds and avocados. Likewise, try to steer clear of foods which contain preservatives, artificial sweeteners, refined grains and excess sugar, as these ingredients increase the burden of work on the lymphatic system. Processed foods should also be avoided.
Exercise benefits many areas of the body, including your lymphatic system. Walking, jogging, and lifting weights are just a few of the exercises which give your muscles movement, effectively giving your lymphatic system a message. Exercise also assists in the flow of lymph through your lymph vessels.
Another worthwhile investment is herbs, many of which can directly benefit both the lymphatic system and the immune systems. The list of herbs that fit into this category includes the following:
- Barberry Root Bark – This herb can be used to treat an enlarged spleen
- Burdock Root – Burdock root can help clear waste, and can treat lymphatic congestion
- Buckthorn Bark – Buckthorn can assist the body in getting rid of waste
- Echinacea – This plant features a natural antibiotic called echinacoside, which bolsters the immune system
Your lymphatic system plays a significant, if not overlooked, role in the quality of your day-to-day health. With proper diet and exercise, you can help ensure that your lymphatic system performs its job well for many years to come.
Helping Your Immune System Do Its Job
You can boost the performance of your immune system with just some minor adjustments to your diet and daily routine:
Get Plenty of Pastured Meat, Eggs and Dairy Products – Animals and birds living on pastures produce meat and dairy foods that are rich in Vitamins A, D, E, K and Omega 3s. These nutrients help the cardiovascular, brain and nervous systems to function properly. In addition, they also increase production of conjugated linoleic acid, which reduces your risk of cardiovascular and heart disease.
Worry Less, Laugh More – Everyone knows that stress is bad for you. As it turns out, it’s not good for your immune system either. Try to take time from your daily schedule to relax and recharge your batteries. Watching your favorite comedic movies or TV shows is also recommended, as they tend to put you in a much better mood. Plus, laughing decreases stress hormones while simultaneously creating white blood cells, which are used by your immune system to fight off antigens.
Lay off Refined Foods and Carbohydrates – As much as you may like them, packaged breads, cereals, crackers, pastas, cookies, and snack foods don’t do your immune system any favors. They also can bring about a number of ailments, ranging from headaches to eczema to weight gain to asthma. Instead, snack in moderation on grains that have been soaked, sprouted or fermented.
Drink Lots of Filtered Water – You’ve undoubtedly heard that you should not only drink eight glasses of water per day, but also that filtered water is good for your body. Combining these two pieces of advice is a good idea for keeping your immune system up and running.
Load Up on Nuts, Spices and Yogurt – Nuts are a quality source of Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant. Your best bets would be one quarter cup of sunflower seeds, a quarter cup of almonds or a good amount of Brazil nuts. Spices like onions and garlic can strengthen your defenses against heart disease and cancer. As for yogurt, a University of California study found that adults who ate 3/4th a cup of yogurt per day reduced their odds of catching colds by 25%.
Buy Foods and Drinks With Vitamin C – Vitamin C is great booster for your immune system. It can help shut down your body’s production of histamine, the culprit responsible for runny noses and swollen nostrils. Cold and virus sufferers can benefit from Vitamin C’s anti-inflammatory properties. Vitamin C’s credentials have also been confirmed by the University of California at Berkeley; the university reported that out of a test size of 160 adults, those who took in excess of 500 milligrams of Vitamin C a day for two months showed a 24% decrease in C-reactive protein, a substance that causes inflammation and chronic disease.
The immune system plays an invaluable role in our health, and is a fascinating area of the body to study. Healthier lifestyle choices can go a long way towards ensuring that this crucial part of our bodies runs both efficiently and effectively.