Body Systems – The Garbage Collection

Everyone has heard about tonsillitis, fluid retention and cellulite. Everyone has heard about detox diets, constipation and headaches. Most know about the lymph nodes in armpits and groin and know that swollen ?glands? is a sign of being unwell. Most people know that lymph nodes are often removed in the treatment of cancer.

Not many people know very much about the lymphatic system.

Here?s a short(ish) explanation!


Lymph vessels, lymph nodes, lymph

The lymphatic system of the human body

Did you know that the lymph system is twice the size of our blood system?

We have twice as many lymph vessels as blood vessels, carrying twice as much lymph as blood around our bodies.

Lymphatic vessels run alongside the veins all through our bodies. Lymph is a pale fluid collected from the spaces between the cells in the body.

Working with the circulatory and other systems, the lymphatic system:

? Helps deliver nutrients, oxygen and hormones from the blood to body tissues

? Maintains fluid levels in the body

? Absorbs and transports fatty acids and fats as chyle from the digestive system

? Carries white blood cells to and from the lymph nodes into the bones

? Helps the immune system by collecting bacteria and other microbes, delivering to lymph nodes to be destroyed

? Returns lymph back to the blood for filtering, through the:

  1. Spleen, found inside the abdomen, just under the diaphragm ? removes microbes and destroys old or damaged red blood cells
  2. Thymus ? inside the ribcage, behind the sternum ? contains many white blood cells

? The waste is then eliminated by the kidneys, lungs, colon and skin.


The cardiovascular system is pumped by the heart, circulated through the body and cleaned by being filtered through the kidneys.

The lymphatic system has no pump.

Lymphatic capillaries begin as blind-ended tubes that are only one cell thick. These cells are arranged like shingles on a roof. Pressure from the fluid around the capillary forces the cells to open, allowing the lymph to enter. The cells then close, preventing the lymph from leaving and forcing it to move upward. Lymph flows only in one direction, from the extremities (feet, hands and head) to the neck.


The right duct (at the base of the neck) drains lymph from:

? The upper right quarter of the body
? The right arm
? The right side of the head and neck
? In some people, the lower lobe of the left lung

All other parts of the body are drained by the left thoracic duct (at the base of the neck). From these ducts, the lymph enters the subclavian veins and travels to the heart.

Approximately 70 percent of lymphatic capillaries are found near or just under the skin (superficial capillaries). The other 30 percent, known as deep lymphatic capillaries, surround most of the body?s organs.

Along the length of the lymphatic capillaries are strung, like pearls, the lymph nodes. There are between 600-700 lymph nodes in the average human body.


Filtering lymph

Lymph node

? Filter out waste products and some of the fluid

? Lymphocytes (specialised white blood cells) in another part of the node kill pathogens. This causes the swelling known as swollen glands

? Trap cancer cells and slow the spread of cancer until they are overwhelmed by it

? Pass the filtered lymph onto the next stage in its journey to the circulatory system


Lymph vessels called lacteals are found in the lining of the gastro intestinal tract, mainly in the small intestine.

Most of the nutrients absorbed by the small intestine go into the liver for processing.

Most lipids (fats) are passed onto the lymphatic system to be carried to the blood via the thoracic duct.

The fat enriched lymph from the small intestine is called chyle.

The nutrients released into the blood are then processed by the liver.


Massage for oedema

Blocked lymphatic system

Damage slows the flow.

When lymphatic tissues or nodes are damaged, destroyed or removed, lymph can?t drain normally from the affected area.

It accumulates and results in swelling or lymphoedema. It usually affects the limbs, although face, neck and abdomen can also be affected.


Some common problems of the lymphatic system include:

? Glandular fever ? symptoms include tender lymph nodes

? Hodgkins disease ? a cancer of the lymphatic system

? Oedema ? swelling caused by too much fluid in the tissues

? Tonsillitis ? infection of the tonsils in the throat

Some lesser recognised and more common problems that can occur include:

  • Headache
  • Earache
  • Blocked sinuses
  • Forgetfulness
  • Blurred vision
  • Feeling bloated
  • Cellulite
  • Weight gain or difficulty in losing weight
  • Dull complexion
  • Acne
  • Back pain
  • Sore or tender breasts
  • Yeast infections
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Skin disorders
  • Hormonal and emotional imbalances
  • Chronic depression
  • Muscle and tissue tension
  • Gum disease and bad breath
  • Hearing, balance or sight problems
  • Recurrent colds
  • Heamorroids
  • Slow healing of wounds



? Drink lots of clean WATER! Two litres per day is about right for most people.

? Eat fresh, seasonal, REAL FOOD! Unpackaged, unprocessed, natural food is best.

? EXERCISE every day! A little bit, often, keeps the lymphatic system healthy.

? Dry skin brushing ? moves lymph, stimulates circulation, keeps skin healthy.

? Self massage. Start at the left thoracic duct (base of the neck), moving from the body to the extremities, always stroking towards the heart. ?(See the lymphatic series of videos on YouTube ??
Keep well!