Immune System: What Is It?

by Julie Mills-Watson

Lymph SystemI’m thrilled and delighted to tell you about the Lymphatic System and the importance of immune function. It is my specialty and I love working with such a delicate system of the body.

Your Lymphatic System is just that, an independent functioning system in the body. We have multiple systems such as the cardiovascular (heart), and the pulmonary (lung), and the nervous system each having its own important function. The Lymphatic system, in short, is the Immune system. It has its own network of capillaries, channels, and nodes. Its job is to help the body get rid of anything and everything it does not use. It takes care of the larger proteins that cannot enter the blood capillaries.  It also allows unrecognized particles and molecules to be absorbed into the lymph capillaries. And guess what… it destroys viruses, bacteria and diseases that enter the body.  Without this vital system, we would die!

The way it works is actually very simple. The lymph capillaries are not like blood capillaries, which are similar to a straw with an opening at each end and is solid in the middle. A lymph capillary has overlapping filaments, much like fish gills. These filaments are attached to the derma of the skin.  Any kind of movement helps open these filaments and allows larger particles and fluid to enter.

Now, once in the capillaries, it travels to the lymph nodes. You have nodes all over the body, however there are several major “dumping stations” or node areas. These are on the neck, under the arms and at the crease of the legs. The function of the node is to destroy the foreign matter or toxins.  If these nodes are full (too much for the body to handle), there is a “traffic” jam and the toxins cannot exit the body which will make you very sick.

The same is true if you have an injury or surgery. The extra inflammation or fluid is absorbed into the lymphatic system which takes care of swelling. Swelling is your body’s natural protection when the body is traumatized. In addition, when you have had surgery, you are given many medications (pain medications, anesthesia, etc).  This causes additional toxins in the body, which inundates the lymph system.  This coupled with additional swelling totally overloads your lymph nodes.

There really is no medication for the lymph system itself, so manual therapy is the best way to help the system and assist the body to “dump” the toxins and heal faster. If you are suffering from a chronic illness or recovering from surgery, lymph drainage therapy is critical in your recovery. Manually moving the fluids and assisting the nodes to dump and refill greatly improves the capacity of the lymph and helps lessen your pain.

The next best thing to help improve lymph function and actually prevent sickness is limiting your exposure to toxic foods. Think about it, if you put something in your body, let’s say processed food, your body cannot recognize it. These toxins are then sent to the lymph because they are unusable by the cells. The lymph is forced to divert from fighting disease to work on the toxins you just put in it. In other words, by eating that Twinkie, you have just side-tracked the lymph from doing its major job of fighting viruses and disease to being a garbage disposal for the empty food you ate. Don’t assume that cookies and chips just turn into fat, they are actually harmful and lower your immune function. So, give the body fresh fruits and vegetables and lots of water.   This helps the lymph system because the body recognizes the food, uses it like fuel, and there is very little debris for the lymph to handle. Instead the nodes can work on keeping you well! 

There are many factors that affect our immune function. Nutrition, toxins, stress and sleep all play a part. They may seem pretty simple but they are extremely important. When your immune is overloaded, you are more prone to allergies. Think about how many people you know that are on allergy medications. If your immune system is at its best, your body can fight off allergens (dust, pollen, etc.) much easier.

When the immune is compromised it is harder to focus.  There is a direct link between behavioral issues (ADHD) and nutrition. The body is craving nutrients to give the cells what they need to function. If you do not do this, you overload the immune and the body gets fatigued, it is more difficult to concentrate, and you are more susceptible to illness.

When you experience higher levels of stress, your body actually produces debris and toxins due to extra combustion happening in the body (oxidative stress). The lymphatic system is then inundated with cellular debris and toxins which lower your immune!

The good news is that you and your family do not have to be so sick. You can make those small changes, like eating healthier, drinking more water, getting more sleep, and slowing down to help your immune and strengthen your lymphatic system.  Now do you see why I am so excited about sharing the news about your Lymph System? This system is the key to your well-being. Your body is very forgiving and does not require a whole lot to keep it up and going. All that is required is natural foods, lots of water and 8 hours of sleep.

What a great time of year to implement a new routine and set new goals for your family. Take care of that wonderful body of yours by taking the time to read labels, make dinner from scratch and go to bed early. It will require a team effort, so give special duties for each member of the family such as reading the labels, counting how many fruits and vegetables you have in the house, or setting the alarm to tell you when it is time to get ready for bed.

If you do become ill or need surgery, remember you can recover faster with manual lymph therapies.  I see it happen on a daily basis in my office.  If you would like more information about the lymph system please refer to this website or give us a call at the office.