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A Quick Guide to Your Lymphatic System

By Cheryl Ferris, PhD, LAT/ATC, LMT, CMLDT, Lucia Health



Think of your lymphatic system like an aquarium. It’s harder for fish to breathe and function in cloudy and stagnant water.


The lymphatic system in your body is like the pump, filter, and algae eating snails in your aquarium as it collects cellular wastes and then filters, recycles, and eliminates appropriately. 




Taking care of your lymphatic system is good for you, even if you are NOT ill, to support your:

  • immune system

  • gastrointestinal (GI) health

  • cardiovascular health

  • hormones

  • nervous system     


Fun fact: Your lymphatic system is almost everywhere and it touches every system in your body!


Functions of the Lymphatic System

  • absorb proteins, fats, and fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K)

  • filter proteins, cells, fluid and return to the cardiovascular system 

  • support the immune system 


Other structures that are a part of your lymphatic system:

  • Liver - produces 25-50% of lymph through thoracic duct 

  • Spleen - largest lymph organ

  • Thymus - matures and makes immune T cells

  • Appendix - forms molecules to direct lymph movement

  • Tonsils - trap pathogens from the air you breathe

  • Peyer’s patches - lymph structures in the small intestine


Fun fact: You have over 600+ lymph nodes in the body.


The lymphatic system cleans up the cellular waste between your cells, filters it and attends to any pathogens, then returns the good stuff to your circulatory system, above your heart.


ASSESSING YOUR LYMPHATIC SYSTEM

If you struggle with the following, consider paying more attention to your lymphatic system.

  • stiffness, especially in the morning that gets better as the day goes on

  • heaviness or achiness that improves with movement

  • had surgery (swelling)

  • digestive issues

  • skin issues/changes

  • swelling in extremities, frequent and moderate sock marks, or face

  • fatigue

  • infections/inflammation

  • headaches/sinus issues/tonsil & throat issues

  • neck stiffness

  • brain fog

  • asymmetrical limbs

  • slow weight gain

  • slow healing cuts

  • MTHFR gene (harder to detoxify)

  • cold hands and/or feet

  • cellulite (may be inflammation and drainage related)


Lymph fluid can increase by 10% before you become aware of an issue or experience a gradual progression of symptoms.


Joint stiffness and decreased range of motion can be a hidden lymphatic issue.




This is mostly a passive system, meaning there is not a “pump” like your heart!  Therefore, you have to move your body to pump/move your lymphatic fluid.  


CARING FOR YOUR LYMPHATIC SYSTEM


Other than hydration, eating & sleeping well, and avoiding toxins:

  • Deep Breathing - Breathe into various parts of your torso - chest, belly, back, pelvis anywhere anytime as long as it doesn’t make you dizzy or feel unwell.


  • Movement is key!  

  • Walk your neighbor’s dog if you don’t have one! Any reason to get outside and walk!

  • Do some heel raises, especially while sitting for long periods of time.

  • Bouncing on a trampoline or jumping rope (minus the rope and your feet don’t have to leave the floor) to help your lymph movement.

  • “Twist” like Chubby Checker - 1/3 of your lymph structures are in your torso, so if you don’t walk a lot or sit at a desk all day, twist your torso (twist your spine, both shoulders rotate to the left or right while the hips stay put) to help lymph movement.

  • Laugh!!!!

  • Avoid crossing your legs. We want free flow!

  • Elevation - If you spend a lot of time on your feet or in a chair most of the day, counter gravity by elevating your legs. Raise your legs above the level of your heart after your do the Big 6! 

  • Big 6™ - Dr. Perry’s method of addressing the major lymph node areas


I hope you found this material helpful and useful for your educational purposes and assisting lymphatic self-care. 


Stay tuned for more lymphatic information!

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