Your Lymph System: What is it, and what does it do?
The lymph system plays an essential role in maintaining our health and wellbeing. It acts as the body’s drainage system, removing excess fluids and waste materials from the body’s cells, helping it to function properly. The best way to explain the lymph system to someone who is not familiar with it is to compare it with the cardiovascular system.
Both are circulatory systems which perform vital jobs to help our bodies function correctly. Both consist of an interconnected network of vessels which accommodate the flow of fluid throughout the body from the heart to the head and all the way down to the fingers and toes. The main difference is the cardiovascular system has a pump – the heart – which beats regularly to drive blood through blood vessels around the body. On the other hand, the lymph system has no such pump, meaning the fluid – known as lymph – requires a different action to stimulate flow.
That action is movement. Our muscles are regularly contracting and expanding to produce the force required to move. This muscle movement in turn applies pressure to the surrounding tissues, forcing waste products out of the cells and into the lymphatic vessels. Muscular movement also stimulates the flow of lymph through the system, emptying the vessels and allowing them to absorb more fluid from the cells to repeat the process. So, if we do not move much, waste products cannot be forced out of the tissues and lymph fluid will be unable to flow, which if not resolved, will eventually lead to health complications.
The lymph fluid flows through the system in one direction, passing through various vessels and glands on its journey to two large veins in the upper chest, where it is drained back into the bloodstream. As the fluid passes through these glands, also known as lymph nodes, it is filtered and cleaned to destroy any foreign materials. The lymph nodes also carry out a form of immune surveillance, scanning the fluid for any signs of infection and mobilising immune cells if necessary.
In summary then, the lymph system plays an extremely important role in the removal of waste products from bodily tissues. It also performs an important immune function, surveying the lymph fluid for any sign of infection. Constant flow is vital to allow each component of the system to perform its intended function, emphasising the importance of movement throughout the day.
The LymphActiv Team