Learn the Science:
Lymphatic System Function
How the Lymphatic System Functions in the Body
The lymphatic system functions only when muscles move. Much like the blood vessels and arteries in our body, a fluid called Lymph runs all through the body.
This system is complex, and has three main missions. It carries away excess fluids in the body, it carries away fat and fatty acids to the circulatory system for removal. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system, which can defend the body and fight infection. The lymphatic system’s function is vitally important to overall health.
The lymphatic system has been recognized by doctors for its importance to preventative healthcare. Lymphatic function supports every other system in the body, including the immune, digestive, detoxification, and nervous systems. Many believe that poor lymph health is the underlying cause of many conditions, from cellulite to cancer.
The lymphatic system has no central pump but depends on muscle contraction and manual manipulation to move fluid. Deep breathing or lymphatic massage may enhance movement of lymph through our bodies. But lymphatic drainage is best with movement of the body. Lymph nodes are located in the arm pits, the groin, and the upper body because they are constantly moving to maximize lymphatic drainage
As we age we become less active, and the normal stimulation needed by lymph nodes to pump lymph fluid around the body, filter it, rejuvenate it, and attack biological intruders is not as effective. Poor lymphatic drainage is one of the reasons that older people are more susceptible to illness.
Lymphatic System Overview
The Lymphatic System cosinsts of is the body’s garbage disposal. All the nasty toxins, waste, unneeded nutrients and generally unnecessary stuff in the body is moved into the Lymphatic System for removal by the liver and kidneys. The entire body is engaged in moving the Lymphatic fluids around via motion and muscle movement. You move and the lymph nodes and fluids move around and get done the job they are intended to do.
Lymphatic fluids are an important component to maintaining good health and just like the circulatory or gastro-intestinal systems.
This system design is really quite efficient, unless a person doesn’t or can’t move around much. In those cases the toxins build up in the lymphatic system. This can result in cellulite build-up and lowered immune functioning. It can also affect a person’s emotional state and energy levels. To maintain health, it is importantant to keep 2 to 3 liters of lymphatic fluid moving around the body every day.
Lymphatic System Components and their Function
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels, nodes, and organs that play a crucial role in maintaining the body’s immune system, fluid balance, and overall health. Here’s a breakdown of the different components and their functions:
- Lymph vessels or the lymphatic duct: These are thin, tubular structures that carry lymphatic fluids (also known as lymph) throughout the body. The lymphatic system relies on the movement of muscles and breathing to help propel the lymph through the vessels. These vessels carry damaged cells to be filtered out through the blood stream.
- Lymph nodes: These small, bean-shaped structures act as filters for the lymphatic fluid. Lymph nodes contain immune cells (such as lymphocytes) that help to identify and fight off foreign invaders. Some invaders cause disease, such as viruses and bacteria. When lymphatic fluid passes through a lymph node, the immune cells in the node can identify and attack any harmful pathogens present.
- Lymphocytes: White blood cells, called lymphocytes, are vital to the lymphatic system as they fight infection. There are two main types of lymphocytes: B-cells and T-cells. B-cells produce antibodies that can recognize and attack specific pathogens, while T-cells can directly destroy infected cells.
- Bone marrow: This is the spongy tissue found inside bones that produces blood cells, including white blood cells such as lymphocytes.
- Thoracic duct: This is the largest lymphatic vessel in the body, and it’s responsible for draining lymph from the lower body, left arm, and left side of the head and neck. The thoracic duct then empties into the subclavian vein, which carries the lymph back into the bloodstream.
- Small intestine: The lymphatic system is also involved in the absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins from the small intestine. Lymphatic vessels in the small intestine, known as lacteals, absorb these nutrients and transport them to the bloodstream.
When working properly, these components help maintain a healthy immune system, remove excess fluid and waste products from the body, and facilitate the absorption of important nutrients.
How These Components Function Together for Proper Lymphatic Drainage
When pathogens (such as viruses or bacteria) enter the body, they can be recognized by the immune cells in the lymphatic system. Lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, fight infection by attacking toxins, cancer cells, bacteria and viruses. B-cells produce antibodies that can recognize and attack specific pathogens, while T-cells can directly destroy infected cells.
The lymphatic vessels serve as the conduits for lymphatic fluid and immune cells, carrying them throughout the body. The lymphatic system relies on the movement of muscles and breathing to help propel the lymph through the vessels.
When the lymphatic fluid reaches a lymph node, the immune cells in the node can identify and attack any harmful pathogens present. The lymphatic fluid is filtered through the lymph nodes, and any waste products or excess fluid are removed from the body.
The thoracic duct is the largest lymphatic vessel in the body, and it’s responsible for draining lymph from the lower body, left arm, and left side of the head and neck. The thoracic duct then empties into the subclavian vein, which carries the lymph back into the bloodstream. This helps to maintain the fluid balance in the body and prevents the buildup of excess fluid that can lead to swelling or edema.
The lymphatic system is also involved in the absorption of fats and fat-soluble vitamins from the small intestine. Lymphatic vessels in the small intestine, known as lacteals, absorb these nutrients and transport them to the bloodstream.
Overall, the lymphatic system plays a crucial role in maintaining the body’s immune system, fluid balance, and overall health. The components of the lymphatic system work together in a complex and coordinated way to achieve these functions.
Possible Problems with the Lymphatic System
Sometimes the body struggles to function properly and the lymphatic system does not work property. Here are some problems that can reduce property lymphatic drainage:
- Cancer cells: Cancer cells can spread through the lymphatic system, a process known as lymphatic metastasis. Cancer cells can enter the lymphatic vessels and travel to nearby lymph nodes, where they can grow and multiply. This can lead to the enlargement of the lymph nodes and can also cause the spread of cancer to other parts of the body.
- Swollen lymph nodes: Swollen lymph nodes, also known as lymphadenopathy, can be caused by a variety of factors, including infection, inflammation, and cancer. When the lymphatic system detects an infection or other foreign substance, it can cause the lymph nodes to swell as immune cells are activated to fight off the invader. In some cases, swollen lymph nodes can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as cancer.
- Infection: Infections can affect the lymphatic system, particularly if the infection is caused by a pathogen that can enter the lymphatic vessels. For example, lymphangitis is an infection of the lymphatic vessels that can occur when bacteria enter the lymphatic vessels through a cut or wound. Lymphedema is another condition that can occur when the lymphatic system is damaged or blocked, preventing the proper drainage of lymphatic fluid and leading to swelling, infection, and other complications.
Some of these complications can be severe. It’s important to seek medical attention if you experience any symptoms of lymphatic system problems, such as swollen lymph nodes, persistent swelling, or unexplained infections. Early detection and treatment can be important for managing these conditions and preventing complications.
As we age, how can we keep the lymphatic system working?
As people age, discomfort or sedentary habits often limit the movement needed to circulate lymph. People need frequent, whole body movement to circulate lymph throughout the body to fight toxins and prevent swelling. Yet, often those who exercise regularly do not get enough whole body movement to fully drain the lymphatic system.
Vibration Plate Therapy and Lymphatic Drainage
Any kind of exercise and movement is good for lymphatic drainage. Most of the time, though, people don’t get adequate full-body exercise that engages all of the muscles. That’s why whole body vibration plate exercises can make a difference. Whole Body Vibration training causes immune response in the lymph nodes, giving the body better defenses against illnesses.
Whole body vibration exercise also causes the lymph system to drain more efficiently. An ideal vibration machine for lymphatic drainage will have a wide range of frequency and aplitude. The vibrations of the platform cause lymph nodes to wake up and do the work they are intended to do, especially in the aging body where lymph health is even more vital to overall health.
The area most susceptible to lymphatic blockage is the lower leg below the knee and down to the ankle. Gravity and human anatomy makes this area the least conducive to lymphatic system flow and so for many people, this is where a number of problems can exist. Neuropathy, muscle degradation, and bone mass depletion can take place and weaken the body significantly making it difficult to stand, sit, or walk easily.
In addition to standing on the vibration plate, you can also try using the machine to massage the lower leg while seated or lying in front of the platform. This will gently vibrate the calf muscle and lower legs, moving the lymphatic fluid away from the feet. The lymph will flow toward the quadriceps and hamstrings where the fluid can enter the blood stream and filtered out in the kidneys and the liver.
Becasue it exercises all of the muscles in the body at once, whole body vibration exercise can be ideal to improve lymphatic system function.
Vibration exercise machines improve your lymphatic health
“The vibrations created by a vibration exercise machine create small muscular contractions. This forces the fluids through the body in a way that is efficient, constant, and gentle enough not to cause any harm while being forceful enough to discard toxins and other potentially dangerous buildup.”
“ … Whole Body Vibration, facilitated by a machine, is able to help combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle and rid the body of the toxins that it has stored.”
“In addition to acting as a catalyst for Lymphatic drainage, a vibration exercise machine also sparks the activity of the Lymph Nodes, which are key components of the immune system.”
“Though the loss is not drastic, using a vibration exercise machine allows the Lymphatic System to push stored fats out of the body, resulting in a healthier, leaner figure.”
Medical Professionals Explain:
How the Lymphatic System Functions
Read the Science:
Research on Lymphatic Drainage
Note: Research on the Lymphatic System is relatively new, and very little is available on whole body vibration and the Lymphatic System. Scientists are just beginning to understand the mechanisms of lympathic drainage, immunity, and it’s relationship with the central nervous system. This collection of articles highlights our current understanding of the lymphatic system.
So far, we do understand that the lymphatic system does not have a central pump and requires movement in the body in order to circulate and drain lymphatic fluid. Whole Body Vibration exercise helps create this muscle movement and, as a result, seems highly likely to improve lymphatic drainage. Hopefully in the future, more research will specifically demonstrate this connection.
Lymphatic Drainage Improves with Vibration
Low-frequency vibrotherapy considerably improves the effectiveness of manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) in patients with lipedema: A two-armed, randomized, controlled pragmatic trial
Purpose: Although the exact prevalence of lipedema is unknown the number of women suffering from this condition is ever-growing. When treated conservatively, manual lymphatic drainage is regarded the gold standard. However, the rate of its effectiveness varies considerably with some women showing minimal to no improvement depending on severity of the disease and medical history.
Methods: Thirty female patients diagnosed with lipedema stage 2-3 referred to physiotherapeutic treatment were randomly allocated to either six treatments of MLD or to six treatments of combined MLD and vibrotherapy treatment. Outcome parameters were the volume of lipedema at four locations of either the lower (n = 29) or the upper extremities (n = 1), as well as quality of life.
Findings: A very large superiority of effectiveness was found for the combined treatment. Reduction of the sizes of lipedema varied between 1.1 < d < 3.2. These patients’ quality of life was also considerably better (d = 1.0).
Conclusions: Combining MLD with vibrotherapy treatment drastically enhances the effectiveness of treating lipedema.
Keywords: Lipedema; MLD; quality of life; shock wave vibrotherapy.
Schneider R. Low-frequency vibrotherapy considerably improves the effectiveness of manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) in patients with lipedema: A two-armed, randomized, controlled pragmatic trial. Physiother Theory Pract. 2020 Jan;36(1):63-70. doi: 10.1080/09593985.2018.1479474. Epub 2018 May 30. PMID: 29847188.
Exercise Helps Lymphatic Drainage
Exercise stress alters murine lymphocyte subset distribution in spleen, lymph nodes and thymus
Our previous work indicated that exercise stress in mice was associated with reduced splenic lymphocyte proliferation to T cell mitogens. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of acute exercise stress and exercise training on the phenotype distribution of murine lymphocytes in the spleen, lymph nodes and thymus. In mice given an exhaustive bout of treadmill exercise, the percentage of Thy 1.2 and Lyt2 antigen bearing cells decreased in the thymus, but the percentage of L3T4-positive cells did not change significantly. Acute exercise did not alter the percentage of Thy1.2, L3T4 or Lyt2-positive cells in the secondary lymphoid compartments (nodes, spleen). By contrast, in mice given a chronic exercise training programme (8 weeks duration; 30 m/min, 8 degrees slope, 30 min/session, 5 daily sessions/week) followed by a 72 h rest period, the percentage of L3T4-positive cells increased by 53% in the spleen, 19% in the lymph nodes and 29% in the thymus compared with sedentary controls; no parallel increase in the percentage of Thy1.2 antigen bearing cells was observed. These results suggest that the effect of exercise on the frequencies of lymphocyte subpopulations in murine lymphoid compartments is dependent upon the chronicity of the stress and probably on the accompanying physiological adaptations to the stress.
Hoffman-Goetz L, Thorne R, Simpson JA, Arumugam Y. Exercise stress alters murine lymphocyte subset distribution in spleen, lymph nodes and thymus. Clin Exp Immunol. 1989 May;76(2):307-10. PMID: 2788050; PMCID: PMC1541822.
Understanding Lymphatic Vessels and the Central Nervous System
Current understanding of lymphatic vessels in the central nervous system
Lymphangiogenesis is associated with some pathological conditions such as inflammation, tissue repair, and tumor growth. Recently, a paradigm shift occurred following the discovery of meningeal lymphatic structures in the human central nervous system (CNS); these structures may be a key drainage route for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) into the peripheral blood and may also contribute to inflammatory reaction and immune surveillance of the CNS. Lymphatic vessels located along the dural sinuses absorb CSF from the adjacent subarachnoid space and brain interstitial fluid via the glymphatic system, which is composed of aquaporin-4 water channels expressed on perivascular astrocytic end-feet membranes. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) clearly visualized these lymphatic vessels in the human dura mater. The conception of some neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease, has been changed by this paradigm shift. Meningeal lymphatic vessels could be a promising therapeutic target for the prevention of neurological disorders. However, the involvement of meningeal lymphatic vessels in the pathophysiology has not been fully elucidated and is the subject of future investigations. In this article, to understand the involvement of meningeal lymphatic vessels in neurological disorders, we review the differences between lymphangiogenesis in the CNS and in other tissues during both developmental and adulthood stages, and pathological conditions that may be associated with meningeal lymphatic vessels in the CNS.
Keywords: Aquaporin 4; Cerebrospinal fluid; Dura mater; Glymphatic system; Lymphatic vessel; VEGFR3.
Tamura R, Yoshida K, Toda M. Current understanding of lymphatic vessels in the central nervous system. Neurosurg Rev. 2020 Aug;43(4):1055-1064. doi: 10.1007/s10143-019-01133-0. Epub 2019 Jun 18. PMID: 31209659.
Lymphatic System Function: Lymph Nodes, Leukocytes, Drainage
Structural and functional features of central nervous system lymphatic vessels
One of the characteristics of the central nervous system is the lack of a classical lymphatic drainage system. Although it is now accepted that the central nervous system undergoes constant immune surveillance that takes place within the meningeal compartment, the mechanisms governing the entrance and exit of immune cells from the central nervous system remain poorly understood. In searching for T-cell gateways into and out of the meninges, we discovered functional lymphatic vessels lining the dural sinuses. These structures express all of the molecular hallmarks of lymphatic endothelial cells, are able to carry both fluid and immune cells from the cerebrospinal fluid, and are connected to the deep cervical lymph nodes. The unique location of these vessels may have impeded their discovery to date, thereby contributing to the long-held concept of the absence of lymphatic vasculature in the central nervous system. The discovery of the central nervous system lymphatic system may call for a reassessment of basic assumptions in neuroimmunology and sheds new light on the aetiology of neuroinflammatory and neurodegenerative diseases associated with immune system dysfunction.
Louveau A, Smirnov I, Keyes TJ, Eccles JD, Rouhani SJ, Peske JD, Derecki NC, Castle D, Mandell JW, Lee KS, Harris TH, Kipnis J. Structural and functional features of central nervous system lymphatic vessels. Nature. 2015 Jul 16;523(7560):337-41. doi: 10.1038/nature14432. Epub 2015 Jun 1. Erratum in: Nature. 2016 May 12;533(7602):278. PMID: 26030524; PMCID: PMC4506234.
Lymphatic and Central Nervous Systems Operation
Lymphatic system in central nervous system
The considerable metabolic activity of the central nervous system (CNS) requires an efficient system of tissue drainage and detoxification. The CNS is however devoid of lymphatic vessels, a vasculature ensuring interstitial fluid drainage and immune survey in other organs. A unique system of drainage has recently been identified between the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), brain interstitial fluids and meningeal lymphatic vessels. This system is coupling a cerebral “glymphatic” flow with a meningeal lymphatic vasculature. The “glymphatic” system includes perivascular spaces and astrocytes, and drains interstitial fluids, from and towards the CSF. Meningeal lymphatic vessels are functionally linked to the cerebral “glymphatic” efflux by clearing intracerebral macromolecules and antigens towards the peripheral lymphatic system. The “glymphatic”-“meningeal lymphatics” system is potentially offering new therapeutic targets to improve cerebral drainage and immune survey in human CNS diseases.
Thomas JL, Jacob L, Boisserand L. Système lymphatique et cerveau [Lymphatic system in central nervous system]. Med Sci (Paris). 2019 Jan;35(1):55-61. French. doi: 10.1051/medsci/2018309. Epub 2019 Jan 23. PMID: 30672459.
Functions of Lymphatic Vessels
Biological functions of lymphatic vessels
The general functions of lymphatic vessels in fluid transport and immunosurveillance are well recognized. However, accumulating evidence indicates that lymphatic vessels play active and versatile roles in a tissue- and organ-specific manner during homeostasis and in multiple disease processes. This Review discusses recent advances to understand previously unidentified functions of adult mammalian lymphatic vessels, including immunosurveillance and immunomodulation upon pathogen invasion, transport of dietary fat, drainage of cerebrospinal fluid and aqueous humor, possible contributions toward neurodegenerative and neuroinflammatory diseases, and response to anticancer therapies.
Petrova TV, Koh GY. Biological functions of lymphatic vessels. Science. 2020 Jul 10;369(6500):eaax4063. doi: 10.1126/science.aax4063. PMID: 32646971.