Everything You Need to Know About the Immune System and Lymphatic Drainage
You don’t need to be sick to get lymphatic drainage and here’s why.
You cannot feel the immune system working in the same way you feel the beat of your heart or breath entering the lungs. Even modern medicine struggles to describe the immune system, breaking it down into several pieces that mysteriously work together to keep us from getting ill.
The immune system protects the body from infection, toxins, and other foreign bodies that lead to illness and disease. One relatively under-discussed system that is crucial to a healthy immune system is the lymphatic system.
The lymph system is like the body’s trash collection service. It spans the whole body, collecting and destroying metabolic waste, toxins, and anything else that harms us. The lymphatic system’s trash route engages the bone marrow, circulatory system, spleen, thymus, tonsils, and adenoids. These parts of the lymphatic system all work together to clear waste from the body.
Taking care of the lymph system boosts immunity and proactively lessens the recurrence of illness and disease from taking hold in the body. At Infinity Flexibility, we take care of the lymph system with lymphatic drainage. Unlike facials or other skincare spa treatments, lymphatic drainage supports healing on a cellular level.
Lymphatic System Break Down
Each part of the lymphatic system has a specific role in protecting the body from infection or disease. Keep reading to learn more about the lymphatic system, how it ties to immunity, and how to keep your immune system healthy.
White Blood Cells
White blood cells are the first responders in a crisis and, therefore, one of the most important players in the immune system. They consume foreign materials and cellular debris, fight off infection and cancer cells, and create an immunological “memory” to fight off the same pathogens again in the future.
Bone marrow creates 60-70% of the white blood cells in the body. These white blood cells are called phagocytes and examples include macrophages, monocytes, granulocytes, and neutrophils. Phagocytes respond to every invader in the same way and specialize in removing dead or dying cells and cellular debris.
About 20-40% of white blood cells are created in the lymphatic system by the spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes. These cells, called lymphocytes, include natural killer cells, T cells, and B cells. Their immune response is more targeted. They work to identify the pathogens in the body, fight them off, and keep your body from becoming infected again.
Parts of the Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system is the main immunological system. Lymphatic vessels crisscross the body, similar to the veins and capillaries of the circulatory system. Lymph fluid flows through the passageways and lymph nodes, transporting white blood cells and cleaning up any harmful outside invaders.
The lymph system has five main players- the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, tonsils, and adenoids.
Lymph nodes, or lymph glands, are clusters of cells that contain a variety of infection-fighting white blood cells. As the lymph fluid passes through the lymph nodes, infection, toxins, and other foreign bodies are filtered out and destroyed. Clusters of lymph nodes can be found in the neck, chin, armpits, and groin.
The spleen is a six-ounce organ that works with the lymphatic system to dispose of used cells and other foreign bodies from the bloodstream. Certain white blood cells are stored in the spleen, including lymphocytes and macrophages. While you can live without it if you have to, the spleen plays a crucial role in fighting off harmful bacteria like pneumonia and meningitis.
The thymus is the primary lymphoid organ that stores immature lymphocytes and turns them into disease-fighting T-cells. All of the body’s T-cells are produced in the years leading up to your teens. Afterward, the thymus shrinks and turns into fat. By age 75, the thymus is mostly fatty tissue.
The tonsils and adenoids are part of the lymphatic system that helps the body fight off foreign bodies coming in through the nose and mouth. The tonsils are a set of lymphoid organs and adenoid lymph tissues. Both the tonsils and adenoid tissues swell up when fighting off infection.
The circulatory system, while separate from the lymph system, carries the white blood cells that fight off pathogens. For every one of the 5 million microliters of blood in the average human adult, there are about 7,000 white blood cells.
Movement is essential to lymphatic system health. Lymph fluid needs to move freely through the lymph vessels to effectively clean up the whole body. When lymph fluid becomes stagnant, you will see swelling, infection, and skin issues like acne and redness.
What is your body cleaning up?
Your body picks up a lot of potentially harmful hitchhikers throughout the normal course of your day. That’s why so many of the systems regularly clean up the body.
The lymphocytes document and categorize every pathogen they come across. If they designate it as harmful, they tag it for removal immediately and any time it comes across the pathogen again in the future.
Some toxins, like those that result from the metabolism of food and drink, are anticipated and easy for the body to expel. Others are introduced from the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the beauty products you put on your skin… these toxins are much more difficult to get rid of because they are not naturally occurring.
Detoxes are a great way to support your lymph system. To detox the lymph system, you need to stimulate the movement of lymph fluid throughout the body. Massages, manual lymphatic drainage, and regular movement or exercise are all great ways to stimulate detoxification of the lymph system.
The Lymphatic and Immune System
Lymphatic drainage at Infinity Flexibility uses the Phyto5 Biorhythmic Drainer to manually move the lymph fluid to the lymph nodes. Gentle strokes with the cups bring fluid from the extremities to the clusters of lymph nodes in the groin, armpits, and neck for disposal.
Lymphatic drainage treats the body at a cellular level. It clears the pathways of the lymph system so that white blood cells can travel more freely to the sites of infection and disease. It supports your immune system as it clears the body of foreign invaders. But you do not need to be sick to take care of your lymphatic system. It keeps the immune system clear and, thus, prevents illness and disease from taking hold in the body.
Read more reasons why you should try lymphatic drainage on our blog.
1. Does lymphatic drainage make you sick?
Stress- whether physical or emotional- causes the lymphatic fluid to slow down. When the lymph system is blocked or strained, harmful cells stay in the body where they eventually cause inflammation or dis-ease.
Lymph fluid pulls toxins through the system and lymphatic drainage increases the flow of lymph fluid. During lymphatic drainage, the stagnant toxins cause detox or dis-ease. So, no lymphatic drainage does not make you sick. But it could bring latent problems to the surface.
2. What makes an immune system strong or weak?
Factors that affect the health of your immunity are diet, exercise, sleep quality, relationships, mental health, and bad habits (like smoking). You know you have a strong immune system if you are one of those people who never gets sick. Your body recognizes and quickly disposes of disease and illness without ever making its way into your awareness.
On the other hand, if you are constantly sick and feel like you go from one cold to the next, you may have a weakened immune system. We recommend that people with a weakened immune system get lymphatic drainage seasonally- 4 times per year at the very least. We have clients who do monthly lymphatic drainage and they do very well!
3. What can you do to build your immunity?
Support your immune system by taking care of the lymph system. Get Infinity lymphatic drainage treatments seasonally (four times a year), move regularly to stimulate the movement of lymph fluid, or try a lymphatic drainage massage.
You should also practice a healthy lifestyle. Eat a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Exercise frequently. Get at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Take care of your mental health by making time for self-care.
4. What is happening when the lymphatic system fights off foreign pathogens?
Once the white blood cells recognize a foreign body that might cause you harm, they spring into action. The lymph nodes filter bacteria, disease, and illness out of the body. They instigate an immune response, making more lymphocytes to counter the infection. Lymphocytes multiply when the body is fighting off an infection which is why your lymph nodes might be swollen when you are sick.
Lymphocytes and phagocytes converge on the site of the infection, bacteria, or illness and destroy it. Part of the foreign body that they destroyed is displayed on their exterior for future reference.
If the lymphatic system is blocked, the immune response will slow down or stop. Blockages might not be severe enough to cause lymphedema, but they still cause a build-up in the lymphatic system that can lead to illness down the road.
5. Does the immune reaction happen in both healthy and unhealthy people?
Both healthy and unhealthy people have an immune response. In unhealthy people, the immune system may be exhausted and not have the necessary means to replenish itself. The immune response slows down and the body’s ability to counter infection and disease is compromised.
A compromised immune system might eventually turn against itself. Auto-immune disorders are the result of the body’s inability to recognize the difference between healthy and unhealthy cells. In general, women have a stronger immune system than men, and immunity is strongest right after puberty and declines with age.
Suffice to say that this under-recognized system plays a huge role in making us healthy and happy. It supports our immunity by clearing out harmful outside pathogens and keeping the pathways clear to prevent illness and disease from taking hold.
If you are looking to try lymphatic drainage, Infinity Flexibility in Natick, MA has a treatment for you. Try a seasonal facial or a full-body lymphatic drainage treatment to build a stronger immune system and support your overall health. Contact us to schedule!