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In charge of housekeeping and the key to our body's immunity against disease and infection.
Here is the story. Blood fees the cells by dishing out nutritional fluid to them. The cells use this fresh fluid, then discard used fluid. The blood then re-absorbs the used stuff and carries it back to the heart for filtering. During this exchange, blood is under such tremendous pressure that some of the fluid leaks out and lingers between the cells. This "leaked-­out" fluid is what the lymph system picks up and transports back to the blood system.

Lymph doesn't operate in a closed system like the blood. It is open. Imagine little creeks flowing into rivers through lakes to larger rivers and finally to the ocean. The lymph, collecting the "garbage" starts out like little creeks. Many small creeks merge to become rivers, flowing toward the heart. These eventually drain back into the blood system at a place near the collar bone. If the lymphatic system malfunctions, fluid accumulates between the cells, and we have a flood - commonly known as edema.

In addition to gathering and draining this excess fluid, the lymph system also collects any toxic or malignant substances that invade the body. Have you heard of lymph nodes? As the lymph fluid is moving along, every so often it travels through a node. Some nodes are located near the skin. You can feel these in the neck, armpit and groin. Deep nodes are located in the lumbar, lung, small intestine and liver regions. Nodes look like jelly beans and house thousands of white blood cells.

Nodes and lymph vessels filter undesirable substances. How are these substances filtered? Amazingly, they are either eaten or poisoned. White blood cells, hanging out in nodes and vessels, troll the system for bad bacteria or vicious virus. If they find a bad bacteria, they chase it down, capture and eat it. In the case of the vicious virus which are too small to eat, white blood cells must proceed in a different manner. They inspect the virus and concoct a preparation called an antibody, which is a custom ­made molecule designed to kill that specific virus.
When lymph nodes swell, there is a lot of this activity taking place. The body is working hard to win the battle.

Other players in the lymph story include the spleen, thymus and tonsils.
The spleen is a three-by-five-inch round, flattened organ, which lies behind the stomach and beneath the lower-left rib cage. Among other duties, the spleen also makes antibodies to destroy viruses and defends the body by filtering micro-organisms from the blood.

The thymus, main control for the immune system, is another real friend. It is located high in the chest behind the lungs. After making white blood cells and antibodies, it sends them to the lymphatic tissue.
Tonsils are lymphatic tissue which stands guard at the entrance of the food and air tracts, protecting us from bacterial invasion in our mouth, throat, larynx, trachea and lungs.

How does lymph fluid defy gravity and travel upward toward the heart if it has no pump to generate its movement? Fortunately, the body has this figured out so that we don't need to walk around on our hands or hang by our ankles. Internal movement squeezes the lymph along. Muscles contracting, arteries pulsing, pressure changing during breathing, and intestines contracting all have a pumping effect on lymph vessels.
This movement can be tremendously enhanced by the practice of massage. Stimulating the lymph flow by using the pump technique will help increase the activity of the entire immune system. If the lymph is sluggish, the recipient will feel a degree of tenderness. As massage stimulates lymph flow, the tenderness should quickly decrease. People who are bed-ridden or who don't get much physical activity are especially prone to sluggish lymph. They are prime candidates for massage.

Next: How To Massage Respiratory System




© 1988 Nancy Blachly All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form
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