Lymphatic Information Overview

The Lymphatic System: An Overview

The lymphatic system is the immune system in the body. It is in charge of recognizing and removing toxins and waste products, fighting against foreign cells, microbes, and cancer cells, and is responsible for the production of white blood cells in bone marrow to help fight off infection and disease.

The lymphatic system carries lymph fluid out of the body tissues and returns it into the bloodstream. As lymph moves out of the tissues, waste products, bacteria, dead cells, and protein molecules are collected and transported to the lymph nodes, where these waste products are broken down and eliminated. Protein-rich fluid is then returned into circulation. The lymphatic system consists of lymph vessels and a number of organs, all of which contain lymphatic tissue.

The lymphatic structures in the body are:

Lymph vessels (collectors) – collect and transport protein-rich fluid (lymph) from the interstitial to the central nervous system

Lymph nodes – are filtering stations for the lymph fluid; serve as a storage place for white blood cells (lymphocytes)

Spleen – disposes of aged red blood cells (erythrocytes); serves as a storage place for blood (plasma)

Thymus – serves very important immunological functions in the early years of life; also referred to as “thymus gland” because of its secretion of hormones, making it also part of the endocrine system.

Tonsils – serve immunological functions

Bone marrow – produces lymphocytes (white blood cells)

Lymphocytes – are white blood cells which the body uses to fight off infections, bacteria, and foreign matter

Peyer’s Patches – are aggregations of lymphoid tissue (aggregated lymphoid nodules) found in the lowest part of the small intestine. Because the lumen (interior) of the gastrointestinal tract is exposed to the external environment, much of it is populated with potentially pathogenic microorganisms. Peyer’s patches are important for the immune surveillance of the intestinal lumen.

Functions of the lymphatic system include helping maintain the fluid balance in the body, absorbing nutritional fatty acids, and serves important immunological functions. Lymph vessels absorb protein and water from the interstitium (the space between every cell), mainly from the skin and subcutaneous tissues, and transport it to the cardiovascular circulation. From the intestines, the lymph vessels absorb protein, fat, and fat-soluble vitamins. The intestinal lymph is called chyle.

In addition, the lymphatic organs have very important immunological functions. Lymphocytes (white blood cells) are stored in lymph nodes. These lymphocytes have the ability to recognize foreign cells, substances, microbes, and cancer cells and respond to them, i.e. destroy and eliminate them from the body.

Lymphedema: A condition of the Lymphatic System

Lymphedema is a condition that occurs when the lymphatic system is damaged or obstructed, leading to a buildup of lymphatic fluid in the affected area. This condition can occur as a result of surgery, radiation therapy, injury, or infection. It can also be a hereditary condition.

Symptoms of lymphedema include swelling, heaviness, ashiness, and discomfort in the affected area. If left untreated, lymphedema can cause long-term damage to the affected limb and increase the risk of infections.

In essence, Lymphedema is the sign that your lymphatic system is on overload.

Edema vs. Lymphedema

Edema and Lymphedema are two different conditions that can cause swelling in the body.

Edema is a general term that refers to swelling caused by the accumulation of fluid in the tissues. Edema can affect any part of the body including a small area or the entire body. It can be caused by a variety of factors including heart disease, kidney disease, injury, allergic reaction, autoimmune disease, medications, and pregnancy.

Lymphedema, on the other hand, is a specific type of swelling that occurs when the lymphatic system is damaged or obstructed. It is usually localized to a specific area, such as the arm or leg, and can be caused by surgery, radiation therapy, injury, or infection.

Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD): A treatment for Lymphedema and Edema

Manual Lymph Drainage is a gentle type of massage that can help with swelling and promote healthy lymph fluid to circulate throughout the body. It is also interchangeably referred to as “Lymphatic Massage” or “Lymphatic Drainage Massage.” Specific manual, rhythmic movements help stimulate the lymphatic system, facilitating reduction in swelling in areas that are affected. It is incredibly beneficial for the lymphatic system. 

The lymphatic system does not have it’s own pumping mechanism the way the cardiovascular system does, so this manual technique is the lymphatic system’s most effective way to move and minimize swelling.

The lymphatic system also relies on muscular contraction and diaphragmatic breathing for stimulation. So part of the Manual Lymph Drainage technique, involves diaphragmatic breathing in conjunction with the rhythmic pumping mechanisms. 

That is why for most, Manual Lymph Drainage or Lymphatic Massage can provide immediate results within 24-72 hours. Depending on each individual’s needs for Manual Lymph Drainage, anywhere from one to multiple sessions is beneficial.

For those who have or are at risk for chronic inflammation or lymphedema, a Manual Lymph Drainage maintenance schedule is crucial to maintain a healthy lymphatic system, and reduce the risk of flare ups. 

Who can benefit from Manual Lymph Drainage?

Manual Lymph Drainage can benefit people of all ages and health conditions. It is often beneficial for people who have undergone cancer treatment, as well as those with lymphedema. However, it is just as beneficial for other conditions that cause swelling and fluid retention and for those primarily seeking relaxation.

Manual Lymph Drainage is extremely effective for those who have undergone surgery, as well as those preparing for surgery. It cleans the entire body system and facilitates clean lymph fluid to the area about to undergo surgery, which promotes a faster recovery time and minimizes risk of infection.

Manual Lymph Drainage is also beneficial for those with autoimmune disorders, gastrointestinal issues, skin disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, allergies, sinus infections, anxiety, and those primarily seeking relaxation and boosted immunity.

Manual Lymph Drainage is a very soothing technique, and calms the central nervous system. When the central nervous system is relaxed, it allows the lymphatic system to circulate with ease. 

So in essence, the lymphatic system thrives from Manual Lymph Drainage.

What to expect after receiving Manual Lymph Drainage?

Some of the most commonly reported effects after receiving Manual Lymph Drainage include:

  • Better sleep
  • Increased energy
  • Deep relaxatio
  • Increased urination or bowel movement after the session
  • Increased appetite
  • Decreased pain
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Decreased nausea (for cancer patients)

Complete Decongestive Therapy: A Comprehensive Approach to Lymphedema treatment

Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) is a comprehensive approach to lymphedema treatment that combines Manual Lymph Drainage, compression therapy, exercise, and skin care. It is usually performed by a licensed professional therapist and can take weeks to complete.

CDT can be an effective treatment for lymphedema, helping reduce swelling, improve mobility and function, and prevent complications. It is often used in conjunction with other treatments, such as surgery and radiation therapy.

The lymphatic system plays a critical role in maintaining the body’s health, and lymphedema is a condition that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. The combination of Manual Lymph Drainage and Complete Decongestive Therapy is the most aggressive and effective treatments for lymphedema, and can help reduce reduce swelling, improve mobility and function, and prevent complications.

If you are experiencing swelling or fluid retention, it is important to speak with a healthcare provider.