Our Lymphatic System - The river that runs through us
Our Lymphatic system is a very important and often overlooked system in the body. It's our inner ocean, our river than runs beneath our skin.
Our bodies are naturally designed to heal and find balance within ourselves. One of the keys to healing and restoring balance in the body is very simply about keeping things nourished, and removing wastes so they don't build up. One of the key systems for clearing wastes and maintaining healthy circulation in the body is the lymphatic system.
Did you know that symptoms of lymphatic congestion or stagnation range from cellulite to bloating to sluggish energy, headaches, poor sleep, acne, and eczema?
In western medicine, the lymphatic system is categorized as a one way directional system made up of a network of lymph nodes, vessels, and a central collection duct called the thoracic duct, organs such as the appendix, tonsils, thymus glands, and spleen. The idea that all lymphatic fluid flows distally from the periphery back to the core where it is cleaned and purged of toxins and waste.
In Ayurvedic medicine, they see it as much more interconnected with other systems. They consider the lymphatic system the life and breath of the body. As the central system that feeds all other systems because it is the river of the body and water is life. They call is Rasa, and it is considered the first tissue layer of the body that builds all the other tissues. So healthy lymph is key to overall health. I love this perspective! They also recognize that the lymphatic system has an extensive and specialized network around the gut (known as GALT, or gut-associated lymphatic tissue) that feeds stagnation in the rest of the lymph network if the digestive system is weak and sluggish.
There are approximately 700 lymphatic nodes in the body and can be found at different collection areas like the abdomen, the breasts, neck, and around the joints. These nodes are little spongy filters, that clean out the toxins coming back up through the lymphatic vessels, but are also a storage vessel for lymphocytes ready to deploy at the first sign of invaders who have made it in. Over 70% of our lymphatic tissue is in our gut! As we are digesting our food, our lymphatic and immune systems are working hard on building new lymph to carry nutrients to the body, remove the toxins and destroy any invaders that may have entered into our food and are now in our digestive system.
I find it fascinating that the lymphatic nodes collect around the joints. They are there by design, getting squeezed and flushed by movement at those joints just by moving your body and going about your day. Movement is medicine, so make time for movement in a way that makes you feel good whether that be dancing, yoga, cycling, swimming, walking your dog, etc.
Some fascinating lymphatic system discoveries in the last few years are that 1) approximately 70% of ALL of our lymphatic tissue is in our gut, which is why it is so important for digestion of foods and elimination of toxins, and 2) is that the brain has it's own lymphatic system, called the Glymphatic system and that a sluggish lymphatic system may play a role in Alzheimer's disease and Dementia.
There is a crisis in lymphatic health going on around us. Many modern day disorders, diseases, and skin challenges have lymphatic stagnation as a factor. It's a system that is so important for our overall health and these new discoveries in western medicine are just shining a light on what western herbalism and eastern medicine has known for thousands of years. When you are comprised of 70% water, the system that is the water of our essence, it is crucial to all other parts. It cleans, nourishes, and fights off invaders wherever it goes.
Decongest your Lymphatic System for Vibrant Health. Chopra Center. [article]
Lad, Vasant. (1987). The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine. [book]. https://www.worldcat.org/title/yoga-of-herbs-an-ayurvedic-guide-to-herbal-medicine/oclc/1036920210
Organic Olivia. Move Your Lymph, Change Your Life [podcast].
Canadian Lymphedema Framework. What is the Lymphatic System? [website]
Popham, S. (2016). Advanced Clinical Herbalism: Immune & Lymphatic Systems. School of Evolutionary Herbalism. [lecture notes]