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lymphatic system explained

WHAT IS THE LYMPHATIC SYSTEM?

lymph

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/lymph-nodes

The lymphatic system is a very important system of the body, but many do not even know what it is or that we have one.  Most people know that we have a heart that pumps the blood, which delivers much needed oxygen and nutrients to every cell in the body and carries the de-oxygenated blood to the lungs and our metabolic waste to the liver, kidneys and other detoxing organs, so we can clear out the waste of metabolism.

But did you know that when blood flows into capillary beds, fluid leaves the vessels to bring nutrients to the cells in the tissues, and not all of this fluid makes it back to the veins?

This extra fluid is called lymph.

This lymphatic fluid is full of cell waste. Lymph also carries the infection fighting white blood cells throughout the body. 

The lymphatic system is a one-way system, moving lymph from the waste producing cells back to the thoracic duct near the collar bones, where this toxin filled fluid is dumped back into the blood.

lymph

Image above is showing the direction of the flow of the lymph.

Image below shows where the lymph dumps from the lymphatic vessels back into the blood of the sub clavicular vein (blue). 

lymph drainage into the thoracic duct

Once the lymph fluid is back in the blood, it goes to the heart where it is pumped to the lungs for oxygenation, then back to the heart where it is pumped out and split up to supply blood to every cell in the body.

Some of these branches take the blood to our organs, where it can be filled with nutrients (from our digestive system) cleaned by our liver (which removes most of the lactic acid), spleen and eventually the excess waste is peed out of our body when it flows through the filtering system of the kidneys. 

The waste has a long way to go from the cells that produced the waste, back to the heart, through the lungs, back to the heart to finally make it to the liver (which clears out waste) and kidneys (where it can be peed out). 

HOW DOES THE LYMPH MOVE THROUGH THE LYMPH VESSELS 

If There Is No "Heart" Or Some Pump Like The Circulatory System Has?

Remember, the waste from the feet have to make it all the way to the collar bone region. That is a long way, and usually has to work against gravity. The lymphatic system can pump the fluid against gravity without a heart because the lymph vessels have smooth muscle that contract to move the fluid along. There are one-way valves along the lymphatic vessels that prevent the lymph from back flowing from the effects of gravity. Plus, when the muscles surrounding the lymphatic vessels contract and relax, this action helps pump the lymphatic fluid along. 

HOW CAN THIS SYSTEM FAIL? 

By Sitting Too Much.

While you’re sitting, your hips are bent, and the hip flexor muscles are in a contracted and shortened state.  This impairs the lymphatic and venous drainage out of your legs, increasing your risk of back up of not only the lymph but also the blood of the veins. This can lead to feet swelling and varicose veins.

Worse, you’re at greater risk of deep vein thrombosis, a potentially fatal condition where a blood clot forms in a vein, breaks off, travels through the circulatory system and gets stuck in the lungs, blocking blood supply to the lungs (a pulmonary embolism) which without medical treatment can be fatal. 

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