It’s funny that although 80% of the extracellular fluid in the body is lymph and 20% is blood, we spend a whole lot more time talking about the latter.
If you neglect this often-forgotten system, then chances are you may struggle with never-ending chronic health issues.
Blood is a fluid that goes through arteries, capillaries, and veins. In many ways, the blood functions as the kitchen of our body. It carries oxygen, nutrients, and other factors we need for our health.
Blood has four primary components that make it up:
- Red blood cells (RBCs)
- White blood cells (WBCs)
When you get a complete blood count CBC, these are the components you are looking at:
As you can see above, 55% of the whole blood is considered plasma, and contains clotting proteins, antibodies, waste products, damaged cells, minerals, ions, hormones and more. (More on lymph and blood flow in this blog)
To put this another way, if 10 liters of blood flow through capillary walls, only 8.5 return to the bloodstream. The other 1.5 liters stays in the tissue spaces and is picked up by the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and circulatory system. It is responsible for filtering wastes, absorbing fats from the intestines, and releasing lymphocytes to enhance an immune response when necessary. It also gathers the remaining fluid in the tissue spaces for cleaning.
The real work in healing the body starts with a flowing lymphatic system. Without it, it’s going to be tough to filter efficiently.
We must also prepare the body’s elimination channels for the housecleaning that is on the way. If we build the body up to cause a cleansing to occur, then we must open up the elimination systems to handle this discarded material. It is common for old, toxic substances to flow not only from the bowels, but from all channels; lungs, mouth, nose, ears, skin, kidneys, lymph, sex organs; all possible channels must be ready and capable of handling this. Unfortunately, some people are as many as 10 meals behind in their bowel movements!
As the body rises up from the old, we must work with it, support it and encourage the process.
The Five Keys to Regeneration and Reversing Disease
To put it simply, there are five main processes our bodies perform on a regular basis:
- Assimilation of nutrients– The body needs nutrients to build cells, fuel activity, repair damage. It extracts what it can from the food taken in and passes the rest on through the alimentary canal. Nutrients are also used to detoxify and flush out metabolic waste.
- Excretion of waste– The body needs to excrete the metabolic waste of cellular activity and digestion as well as remove toxicity to maintain optimal homeostatic expression.
- Growth- The body grows to maximum size, shape, and dimensions dictated by the blueprint contained in its DNA. Once the Body achieves full maturity, then it maintains homeostasis by replicating itself year after year through cellular regeneration and repair.
- Reproduction- The body replaces itself on a continuum to maintain homeostatic expression over time. All cells wear out within a given time frame and need replacement by new cells, thus the body is always reproducing itself year after year. It also needs to reproduce itself in form by having offspring to insure the survival of its species
- Adaptation- The body needs to continually adapt to its ever-changing environment in order to survive and express its greatest homeostatic potential long term.
Any action you take that supports these five pillars will improve your health. Conversely, anything that you do that inhibits or impairs these processes will hinder your health.
The truth is that there is an innate intelligence within the body. Some may call it, “intelligent design.” The body is able to heal and regulate itself when given the right conditions.
The Waste Removal System
When you stop to think about it, the body has TWO (2) predominant types of waste (by-products) to get rid of:
These are byproducts of digestion and what you consume or don’t absorb. These wastes are removed by the large intestine (the colon). This includes food and stool. The liver can dump byproducts this way as well.
These wastes and byproducts come from the cells and their metabolic processes. Consider that your physical body has trillions of cells that make up all the tissues, organs, glands, structures, etc. Each cell in each of these structures creates waste. That is a lot of material that needs to be filtered through!
There are other minor wastes from bacteria, fungus, and/or parasites. These wastes, as well as a lot of cellular wastes, are dumped into the lymphatic system, and from there are filtered through the kidneys. Lymphatic waste can also be filtered out the skin (which is sometimes referred to as the body’s “third kidney”).
Remember- the body consists of two primary fluids: blood (20% of total fluid) and lymph (80% of total fluid). We spend so much time focusing on blood when it only accounts for 20% of the overall fluid in the body. The lymph consists of 80% of the body’s total fluid, yet goes largely unappreciated. The medical profession (and many holistic practitioners) has overlooked the essential issue of your body’s great sewer (lymph), and instead focus strictly on the blood & colon, and main immune system…
The Great Lymphatic System
Your kidneys are the main eliminative organs for your body’s lymphatic (sewer) system. When your kidneys lose their ability to filter the cellular wastes (acids) out of your body, they back up, just as sewage from any other sewer system would.
This “backup” of acids is called inflammation. This is where symptoms like pain, swelling and tissue destruction become a reality. Pimples, boils, cysts, rashes, and tumors begin to form. The unfortunate part is that this inflammation becomes systemic, affecting you from head to toe!
Cancer cells are simply cells damaged by their own acidic wastes. Cancer is not an entity that can travel to other tissues (cells) and magically turn them into cancer cells. However, the acid condition that leads to this cell damage is systemic.
The lymphatic system is your septic system. It provides protection for tissues and cells, as well as removes waste. Cells eat and excrete like you do, just in much smaller amounts. Looking at it another way, blood carries the nutrition and fuel to cells, and the lymphatic system removes the by-products and wastes caused from metabolizing them. The lymph system consists of the lymph fluid, lymph vessels, lymph nodes, spleen, and the thymus gland.
Lymphatic fluid is a translucent fluid that flows from cells to the venous blood supply using lymphatic vessels. Lymphatic fluid is the medium that carries the waste from your toilet to the septic system. This fluid, also called “plasma,” carries many substances that need to be removed from cells and substances that are used to protect the cell, including:
- Excessive unused proteins
- Salts and ions
- Toxic metabolic wastes
- Fats (possible anti-inflammatory compounds)
- Unused nutrients, especially artificial vitamins
- Parasites, fungi, bacteria, yeast, viruses, molds, etc.
- Chemical toxins, medications, byproducts etc.
- Unusable minerals
- Immune cells, especially lymphocytes (T- and B-cells), macrophages (monocytes), etc.
- Dying body cells
- Fats from the small intestinal tract and liver, which are absorbed through small lymph vessels called lacteals
This means that a congested lymphatic system can have negative health outcomes, including…
- Skin issues
- Blood pressure issues
- Immune system issues (like chronic “infections”)
- Circulatory issues
- Joint issues
- Reduced detoxification
- Accumulation of toxic material
- Autoimmune conditions
Unlike the circulatory system, there is no “heart” of the lymphatic system. It does not have a main pump. Lymph flows because of pressure changes that are reflected through the blood vascular system, contraction of your skeletal muscles (movement and exercise), or contraction of smooth muscle stimulation. It also has to do with the amount of EZ water found along the perimeter of the vessels. Consumption of excess proteins, acidic foods, and mucus-forming substances (milk, processed sugars, etc.) will also hamper your lymph system, leading to stagnation and congestion. All of this together creates a heavy immune burden and response, leading to cellular hypoactivity and death. In my opinion, this is where cancer originates.
Lymphatic vessels run parallel to veins and arteries, and their purpose is to drain waste products from tissues. Lymph vessels extend throughout the body and mimic your blood vessels. The lymph (and blood) capillaries extend into almost all the interstitial areas of all cells, with exceptions being the central nervous system, epidermis, and bone marrow. Lymphatic capillaries have larger diameters and closed ends (fluid can get in but can’t get out) compared to blood capillaries. These tiny blood vessels assist in collecting lymph and transporting it towards the lymphatic vessels.
When blood plasma leaves the blood capillaries, nourishing and cells, the cells’ wastes from metabolizing these elements are excreted into what is now known as interstitial fluid. This fluid is collected into the small lymphatic capillaries.
These small capillaries flow into the larger lymph vessels, then to the lymph nodes and filtering organs, like the spleen, liver, appendix, tonsils, and others. The thoracic duct, which receives lymph from the lower extremities and abdomen, moves upward through the thorax, picking up lymph vessels from the ribs, before moving to the left subclavian region, where it recedes and drains the left upper extremities. The left jugular trunk also drains here, which is responsible for draining the left side of the head and neck. The right side of the head, neck and thorax drain or are connected to the right lymph duct.
Lymph vessels allow lymph fluid to travel to lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are where macrophages filter the lymph fluid. The main regions of lymph nodes include cervical lymph nodes (neck, upper shoulder, and chest area), axilla (the armpit), thoracic (chest), groin (inguinal nodes), and mesentery (for the GI tract). Macrophages are large white blood cells that engulf and destroy pathogens. Additionally, B lymphocytes (or B cells) reside in lymph nodes, which are able to create antibodies specific to each pathogen, allowing for a quicker immune response should the same pathogen return at a later time.
There is also MALT, or (mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue) that lines your airways, tonsils but also the appendix and the intestines in order to protect us from potentially harmful organisms like germs.
The lymph nodes consist of:
- Plasma cells
- Antibody molecules
- Lymphocytes (like B- and T-Cells)
The main network, or grouping, of lymph nodes are in the:
- Neck, upper shoulder and chest area.
- These serve as filters for the head and neck (cervical nodes)
- Axilla (arm pits)
- Filter the thoracic (chest) areas
- Upper extremities (axillary nodes)
- Groin area for pelvis and legs (lower extremities, inguinal nodes)
- Mesentery or abdominal area (filters the gastrointestinal tract)
When the lymph system is overburdened with toxins, parasites, microbes, damaged cells, mucus, metabolic wastes, and more, your lymph nodes enlarge. Think about the classic example of the tonsils. Inflammatory foods, like dairy products and refined sugars cause a lot of mucus production from the mucosal lining, which in turn causes congestive problems (including sinus, throat, bronchi, and lungs, etc.). This leads to tonsil swelling, and to sore throats, inflammation, mucus production, colds, flu-like presentations, and other symptoms.
Doctors are quick to remove tonsils because they do not have an understanding about congestion and the lymphatic system. Removing the tonsils causes a burden in the rest of the lymphatic system, leading to stiff necks, cervical spine deterioration, pressure build-up in the brain, ears, eyes, and other areas. It doubles or triples your chances of upper respiratory tract issues alone. Removing the tonsils before age seven has been shown to put children at a higher risk of obesity.
Removing tissues and the treatment of symptoms with sulfa drugs (antibiotics) only add to the problem. In my opinion, leaning into detoxification and cleansing the body is the only true answer to this problem. If you remove tissues and treat symptoms with drugs (antibiotics), it only adds to the body burden.
Your thymus gland is essential to the maturation of thymic lymphoid cells called T-cells. T-cells are small-to-medium-sized lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) that are a part of a class of immune cells called NK or natural killer cells. These cells, along with the B-cells (bone marrow cells), are the “Army” of the body. These are vital, as they are the source of cell-mediated immunity, meaning that it is not controlled by antibodies. Cell-mediated immunity is vital in helping the body fight the invasion of molds, yeasts, fungus, bacteria, viruses, and the like. If your thymus is strong, you will have a stronger immune system for it. And only the strong survive. Vitamin A, Zinc, vitamin B6, and vitamin C are crucial for supporting a healthy thymus.
The spleen is the largest lymphatic tissue in the body by mass. The spleen is a dark-red organ, weighing about 7 ounces. This fist-sized organ resides in the upper-left portion of the abdomen, just behind the ribs. The spleen has a variety of functions, including the production of white blood cells, destroying bacteria and cellular debris, and recycling old red blood cells and platelets, creating bilirubin from their hemoglobin. The spleen is also a reservoir for blood, when needed. For example, during a hemorrhage, the spleen can release its blood stores to prevent shock. Keeping your spleen healthy helps to keep your immune system, lymphatic system, and blood healthy.
For supporting the spleen specifically, vitamin C rich foods (hibiscus, peppers, mangoes, camu berry, acerola cherry, berries, etc.), and black seed (nigella sativa) oil are fantastic options.
Another major component of the immune system is the thymus gland, located below the thyroid and above the heart. A healthy thymus gland is associated with a healthy immune system. The thymus is responsible for many different functions, including the production of T lymphocytes (or T cells). T cells are responsible for what is known as cell-mediated immunity, or immune system mechanisms that are separate from antibodies. Cell-mediated immunity is crucial for resistance against molds, bacteria, yeasts, fungi, parasites, and viruses. It also helps protect us from autoimmune diseases, like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, and cancer.
The immune system is effectively the police force of the body. You have two types of immune systems at work. They are the extracellular and the intracellular immune systems. But we will be covering those in a separate blog.
The bone marrow is also an important part of the lymphatic system. Bone marrow is the spongy tissue found inside your bones. It is responsible for producing red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. As we have seen in multiple blogs, bone is an incredibly important living tissue!
B cells are formed in bone marrow. The primary purpose of B cells is to create antibodies that are matched to specific antigens. These antibodies are unique to each antigen, and this makes it easier for the rest of the immune system to identify and attack the correct invaders. T cells can signal B cells to produce antibodies, molecules that identify and mark specific foreign pathogens for destruction. Once the foreign invaders are marked for elimination, phagocytes like macrophages and neutrophils are sent out to take care of the antigens by surrounding and digesting them.
Antioxidants are most highly concentrated in vegetables, fruits, nuts, spices, and whole grains. Consuming antioxidant-rich foods are good for the overall health of your heart, as well as lower your risk for infections and even some forms of cancer! Each antioxidant serves a specific role, so it is important to consume a varied diet to get all your antioxidants!
The more vibrantly-colored foods tend to have higher levels of antioxidants, as a general rule. Bottom line: free radical damage can contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and loss of vision. There is an abundance of evidence suggesting eating mostly whole foods, including large amounts of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds will provide protection against many of the chronic diseases we see today.
Color & pH
Check your urine occasionally. This is done simply by peeing in a jar and observing. It can be done any time of day. The more sediment, the more lymphatic waste your body is filtering out! It doesn’t matter if the sediment looks like snowflakes, strings, or a general cloudiness.
- If your urine is clear (no sediment), your kidneys are not filtering properly.
- Foamy urine can indicate too much protein in the diet.
- Fruits, berries, melons and herbal formulas can help restore proper kidney filtration.
- Fasting is another way to strengthen and rejuvenate the kidneys and encourage filtration.
Ideal Urine Color Range to Indicate Filtration of Acids. Consider the chart above. Urine color can be related to acid/alkaline chart. You can also use pH paper to measure this.
Ideal Urine pH Range is 6.0-6.5
pH values: Red= 3 (acidic), Green=7 (neutral), Purple =10 (alkaline)
Cleansing is a terrific opportunity to reset, recharge, and refocus. During a cleanse, the goal is to flood the body with all the vital nutrients it’s been craving, focusing on alkaline rich fruits and vegetables that so many folks are lacking in many daily lives.
The fact is, we consume impurities from our food, water, and air supply regardless of our efforts to avoid them. Toxins build up over time and lead to weight gain and chronic preventable diseases.
Unclogging the Drains
We have to address the elephant in the room:
YOU DO NOT NEED A REBOUNDER TO HAVE A HEALTHY LYMPHATIC SYSTEM. It’s just a tool.
Truth is, lymph is pumped one of three ways:
- Pressure changes that are reflected through the blood vascular system
- Contraction of skeletal muscles (movement)
- Contraction of smooth muscle
If those are good, then lymph should be flowing, provided you have electrical charge and adequate amounts of EZ water buildup in the body (see this blog).
There’s plenty you can do to get your lymphatic system moving. We’ll go over some of the major ones here.
Avoid Regular Use of Vasoconstrictors
This includes caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
Get Enough Magnesium
A lack of magnesium makes it incredibly difficult to regulate proper lymph flow.
Magnesium does a lot of things, including being a regulator for the absorption of calcium and is involved with maintaining bone’s structural integrity. 65% is found in bone, and 25% is found in muscle tissue. Magnesium helps regulate heart contractility and strengthens muscles and nerve tissues. It is also a smooth muscle (intestines and blood vessels) relaxer, which can stimulate elimination. It may be useful in treating patients with constipation if the dosage is correct. Magnesium is helpful in controlling hypertension, angina, and bleeding following a stroke. It is estimated somewhere between 60-82% of Americans are magnesium-deficient.
Good food choices include in all fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens, seaweeds, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, potatoes, bananas, apples, peaches, lima beans, black-eyed peas, sesame seeds, alfalfa, soy products, cereal grains, avocado, millet, oatmeal, peas, figs, and okra.
Throw Away the Poor-Quality Oils
“But doc, I eat all the right foods, why would I be nutrient deficient?” These oils alone can do it, as we have covered in the past. They are harmful to the lymphatic system because of the endotoxins they produce specifically.
Get Your Circadian Health in Order
Sleep is important for so many reasons, but detox is one of the most important. Most of this happens while you sleep, so forcing yourself to sleep with medications or other aids does not make you get better sleep. I have an entire ebook on this you can check out here.
Avoid exposure to toxic chemicals such as heavy metals, commercial hygiene and beauty products, herbicides and pesticides
These only add to the burden on your lymphatic system, liver, and other detoxification pathways.
A Smart Lymphatic Massage
Our lymphatic system is made of two “parts”:
Lymphatic massage can help areas like our skin, but we also need to keep in mind that there is fluid all over our body, deep within organs like the liver, kidneys, and colon. A superficial lymphatic massage just sin’t going to get there. Dr. Perry Nickelston has some awesome concepts you can try at home to help. See this video for an at-home protocol.
Lymphatic System/Spleen Support Herbs & Formulas
- Grape seed
- Slippery elm
- Cat’s claw
- Red clover
- White oak bark
- AllergCo (MediHerb) [Acute Systemic Infections]
- Burdock Complex (MediHerb)
- DermaCo (MediHerb)
- Echinacea Premium (MediHerb)
- Ganoderma & Shiitake (MediHerb)
- Goldenseal 500mg (MediHerb)
- Herbavital (MediHerb)
- Viranon (MediHerb)
- Vitanox (MediHerb)
- Viracid (Orthomolecular Products)
- Androgrpahis (Standard Process)
- Immuplex (Standard Process)
- Dessicated Spleen (Standard Process)
- Congaplex (Standard Process)
I would not try all of these at once, obviously. And of course, none of this is medical advice. Generally if I were trying a new formula, I would do it one at a time and work up to the full dosage. These can help, but they do not replace the other fundamentals on this list.
Where to Find Herbal Formulas
Ideally, if you can find an herbalist near you that is familiar with these herbs and their purpose, that is great! You would want to make sure their herbs are organic and/or wildcrafted. I personally use formulas from a variety of companies that are third party tested for safety and potency. Many of which can be found on my dispensary through Fullscript, linked here. Again- I tend to gravitate towards whole-herb products, not ones with individual nutrients as I believe that whole plant constituents are much greater than the individual components. If you join my dispensary, you get a 10% discount on everything you order through it!
There are certain companies I will link in the order of the ones I tend to gravitate towards the most:
- Dr. Morse’s Herbs (code DRVINCENT to save)
- Avini Health
- DoTerra Essential Oils
- Mediherb/Standard Process
- Biocidin Botanicals
- Orthomolecular Products
- Cellcore (use code UKsTZJGS [case sensitive] when visiting www.cellcore.com – NOT available on Fullscript)
- Designs for Health
- Ora Organics
- Microbiome Labs
- Biotics Research
- Gaia Herbs
Getting your lymphatic system up and running is a terrific opportunity to reset, recharge, and refocus.
The fact is, we consume impurities from our food, water, and air supply regardless of our efforts to avoid them. Toxins build up over time and lead to weight gain and chronic preventable diseases.
The simple solution is to cleanse your body regularly to help flush these impurities from your cells and revitalize them with a nutrient-dense cleansing diet, not only help in the here and now to press reset, but to set down healthy habits that you can maintain and practice in your day to day.
A mindset that is open and tuned to what is going well amplifies results. You owe it to yourself to give yourself a chance.
Dr. Vincent Esposito
Whenever you’re ready, there are two ways I can help you:
- I’m excited to announce the launch of my new book: How to Get World Class Sleep! If you’ve struggled with insomnia, have trouble falling asleep, or wake up feeling sluggish, then this is for you! Fall Asleep Faster. Recover More Quickly. Wake Up Refreshed! Find it here!
- I am offering Iris, Tongue and Fingernail Analysis & Results! There are limited spots available! Check out the link here for more info!