The body’s lymphatic system has received much more attention from the medical and alternative health communities in recent years, and rightfully so. This often-misunderstood and underappreciated system does so much for our overall health and wellness. From playing a key role in immunity to assisting with circulatory function, the importance of the lymphatic system cannot be understated.
Lymphatic system structure
The lymphatic system is a network of organs, tissues, ducts, capillaries, and vessels that transports a colorless fluid called lymph throughout the body. Lymph contains white blood cells, as well as fluid from the intestines called chyle. The key components of the lymphatic system are the spleen, thymus, bone marrow, lymph nodes, tonsils, and lymphatic tissues in the bowel and other mucous membranes.1
The largest organ of the lymphatic system is the spleen, which is located in the upper-left part of the abdomen below the ribcage. The spleen produces and stores white blood cells, and stores red blood cells and platelets as well.
Although not as large as the spleen, the thymus is the primary lymphoid organ of the immune system. Located in the upper part of the chest behind the sternum, the thymus consists of two lobes. This important organ develops white blood cells called T cells, and also contains other cells such as macrophages, neutrophils, and dendritic cells.2
As most of the body’s defense cells are produced here, the bone marrow is considered another primary lymphoid organ of the immune system. White blood cells migrate from the sponge-like tissue of the bone marrow into the blood stream and reach other organs and tissues.
Lymph nodes are located throughout the body, including in the neck, armpits, thoracic cavity, and groin. These small, oval-shaped lymphoid organs contain lymphocytes such as T cells and B cells. Lymph enters and exits the lymph nodes through lymph vessels.
Located at the back of the throat, the tonsils are composed of tissue that contains lymphocytes and antibodies. In addition to the back of the throat, there is also a lingual tonsil at the base of the tongue that contains lymphocytes as well.
Lymphatic tissues in the bowel and mucous membranes
According to the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Healthcare, “More than half of all cells that produce antibodies are found in the bowel wall,” especially the small intestine and appendix.1 Other lymphatic tissues are located in mucous membranes throughout the body, including the airways, nose, and urinary tract.
Lymphatic system function
Together, the structures of the lymphatic system produce, store, and transport infection-fighting white blood cells throughout the body. Different types of white blood cells have specific functions in the body’s immune response:
- Lymphocytes – Includes T cells and B cells. T cells destroy infected cells and activate other white blood cells, while B cells bind to specific antigens to mark them for destruction.
- Monocytes – Engulf and kill pathogens, ingest foreign material, and remove dead cells. Monocytes include macrophages, which locate and consume pathogens, and dendritic cells, which control T-cell responses.
- Granulocyte – Includes neutrophils and other types of white blood cells that trap and attack foreign microbes, modulate inflammatory responses, and kill infected cells.
- Plasma Cells – Respond to antigens by secreting large amounts of antibodies, which then neutralize and destroy the antigen.
Along with producing and transporting immune cells, another key function of the lymphatic system is removing excess fluids that leak into body tissues. Substances such as water and protein constantly leak into body tissues, and these areas can easily become inflamed if the leakages aren’t removed by the lymph.
Another important function of the lymphatic system is transporting the fats from fatty acids to the circulatory system via the lymph. The nutrients from this lymph are then processed by the liver.
Common lymphatic system disorders
There are a number of disorders related to lymphatic system dysfunction. Lymphatic vessels, ducts, nodes, and tissues can become blocked. They can also become inflamed, infected, or cancerous, leading to the following common disorders:
The most serious disease of the lymphatic system is lymphoma, or cancer of the lymph nodes. This occurs when lymphocytes grow and multiply uncontrollably. Lymphoma may either be Hodgkin lymphoma or Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (NHL). Hodgkin lymphoma begins in the upper body and is one of the most treatable cancers if detected early. NHL is more common than Hodgkin lymphoma and can develop anywhere on the body. It is more difficult to treat than Hodgkin lymphoma, as it’s generally not diagnosed until it is in a more advanced stage.3 Symptoms of lymphoma include swelling, fatigue, fever, and itchy skin.
Often seen when lymph nodes are damaged or removed due to cancer, lymphedema is an accumulation of fluid caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system. The blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining, leading to buildup that causes swelling. Along with swelling, aching, discomfort, and hardening and thickening of the skin are all signs of lymphedema.
Lymphadenitis occurs when one or more lymph nodes becomes enlarged due to infection. The most common type is localized lymphadenitis, which occurs when a node or nodes close to the area of where the infection started become inflamed. Generalized lymphadenitis, on the other hand, may occur when an infection or other illness spreads through the bloodstream. Nodes that increase in size, are painful to touch, filled with puss, or drain out onto the skin are all symptoms of lymphadenitis.4
An inflammation of the tonsils, tonsillitis may be caused by a virus or bacteria. A doctor may recommend removing the tonsils if this type of infection is frequent. In addition to swollen tonsils, difficulty swallowing, sore throat, fever, a stiff neck, and headache are all common signs of tonsillitis.
Symptoms of lymph backup
While you may not have one of the disorders listed above, there are some common signs that your lymphatic system is slowing down and getting backed up. These include:
- Brain fog
- Sore throats/swollen tonsils
- Ear popping and ringing
- Frequent sickness
- Bloating and/or swelling
- Itchy and/or dry skin
If you are suffering from these common symptoms, making certain diet and lifestyle changes can help. It’s also a good idea to visit your health professional to rule out any lymphatic system disorders.
Lifestyle and your lymphatic system
Living an active lifestyle is one of the best things you can do for the health of your lymphatic system. Exercise stimulates the movement of lymph throughout the body, which is important because lymph doesn’t have a pump like the circulatory system does. Instead, it relies on the contraction and relaxation of muscles to move around.
In addition to regular movement and exercise, there are specific things you can do to move and drain the lymph in your body more efficiently. These include:
- Rebounding – Involves jumping on a mini-trampoline or rebounder for 10 to 30 minutes to passively move lymph and stimulate blood circulation.
- Lymphatic draining massage – A special form of massage that encourages lymph movement and drainage.
- Yoga – The inverted poses of yoga help the body drain lymph more efficiently. Yoga poses also improve flow through muscle contraction and relaxation.
- Dry skin brushing – Helps move lymph fluid into the lymph nodes where toxins can be eliminated in addition to exfoliating the skin.
- Deep breathing – Practicing deep breathing every day helps direct lymph to the heart where it can be drained.
- Far-infrared sauna – Increases the body’s surface temperature, promoting lymph and blood detoxification through the skin.
In addition to exercise, hydration plays a large role in the health of the lymphatic system as well. As the lymphatic system is 96% water, dehydration will cause lymph to congeal and to slow down, inhibiting waste removal.5 So if you want to improve your lymph, make sure to stay hydrated!
Another key area that greatly influences the lymphatic system is stress. Lymph functions best in an alkaline environment, and excess stress can easily make your body more acidic. Stress can lead to high cortisol levels, which tends to suppress the lymphatic system.6
Diet and your lymphatic system
Like the other systems in our body, the health and function of the lymphatic system can be enhanced by improving our diet. Some of the foods that can block and slow the lymphatic system down include processed foods, refined sugar and oils, fried foods, and alcoholic and caffeinated beverages. Replacing these foods with the following foods (preferably in organic form) can help get your lymph moving again:
- Green vegetables, especially leafy greens
- Berries and citrus fruits
- Chia, pumpkin, hemp, and flax seeds
- Seaweed such as spirulina
- Healthy oils such as coconut and olive oil
- Herbs such as ginger and garlic
Herbs and oils for lymphatic health
Along with consuming herbs such as ginger and garlic in their food form, there are also a number of herbal supplements that can improve lymphatic system function. Milk thistle can be especially helpful, as it assists with detoxification and lymphatic draining. Other herbs to consider include burdock, astragalus, dandelion, goldenseal, and wild indigo.
Essential oils can greatly assist the lymphatic system also. Citrus oils can be particularly effective for lymphatic activation and drainage, as can ginger root, clove, peppermint, cypress, and juniper berry.
Lymphatic System stressor Virtual Item
A digital signature, or Virtual Item, representing the lymphatic system is automatically scanned in the ZYTO Balance Biosurvey. Several Virtual Items are also scanned within the lymphatic system category, including:
- Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs)
- Lymph Node
- Probiotic Bacteria
The Balance, Select, and Elite systems also give you the opportunity to scan wellness services to support the lymphatic system. These include Lymph Activation Therapy, Lymph Drainage, Lymphasizer, and Dry Skin Brushing. Furthermore, the Select and Elite systems also allow you to scan other related Virtual Items such as EAV Lymph Meridian, Lymph Infection Nosodes, and Lymphocytes.
Lymphatic System balancer Virtual Items
A balancer scan typically follows a scan of the Lymphatic System and other stressor Virtual Items. If the Lymphatic System Virtual Item is out of range, top products will be listed to bring it back in range, or back into balance. Specifically, you can see which balancer Virtual Item brought the Lymphatic System back into range on the Biomarker Progress Chart.
Prominent emotions related to the Lymphatic System are fear and sadness. With ZYTO EVOX perception reframing technology, you can address these emotions that may be at the root of lymphatic system dysfunction. The EVOX helps you alter the way you perceive these emotions in your life, which can lead to improved overall health.
About Dr. Vaughn Cook
Dr. Vaughn R Cook is the Founder & CEO of ZYTO. An Oriental Medical Doctor (OMD) and licensed acupuncturist, he has worked in the complementary and alternative medical field for more than 30 years, specializing in applications that integrate Western and Eastern medicine.
1. “What are the organs of the immune system?” Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care. Informedhealth.org.
2. Kumar, Vinay, Abu Abbas, & Jon Aster. Robbins Basic Pathology, 9th Edition (Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2012).
3. “Differences Between Hodgkin & Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.” Moffitt Cancer Center. Moffitt.org.
4. “Lymphadenitis.” John Hopkins University. Hopkinsmedicine.org.
5. “Exercise, lifestyle and the lymphatic system.” CP+R. Cpandr.co.uk.
6. Douillard, J. “The Stress-Lymph Connection: Balance Cortisol with Ayurveda.” John Douillard’s LifeSpa. Lifespa.com.