Lymphatic System

Between nearly all of the body’s cells, there is a fluid – the interstitial fluid – that bathes the cell with substances vital for its life. This is a clear colorless liquid carrying microscopic particles such as white blood cells, food, protein, and other substances necessary for the cell’s health. The interstitial fluid collects in a series of closed-ended tubules as lymph. This series of collecting tubes, glands, along the tubes, and the tubes that finally drain the lymph into the blood vascular venous system is called the lymphatic system. Without the proper function of this system, one would die within 24 hours; it is paramount to optimal health. Understanding this system’s function emphasizes its importance.

Nearly all tissues of the body depend on lymphatic drainage. Contained within the lymph fluid is protein that has escaped from the blood vessels, bacteria, viruses, and other particulate matter.

Protein collected in the lymph must be cleared from the interstitial spaces and returned to the blood; without this action death would occur within 24 hours. The only mechanism for protein return to the bloodstream is by way of lymphatic drainage. Fortunately, the lymphatic system is quite dependable in returning adequate protein to maintain life, even when the system’s overall function is sluggish.

Another very important function of the lymphatic system is trapping and disposing of foreign matter, such as bacteria and viruses. There are trapped in filters called lymph nodes located along the lymphatic vessels. The lymph nodes produce a type of white blood cell that engulfs and destroys these body invaders. The lymph nodes are concentrated in areas such as the neck, shoulder axilla, elbow, groin, behind the knee, and in the abdomen. Most people at one time or another have had swollen glands around the neck with a case of tonsillitis or some other upper respiratory function infection. These are the lymph nodes actively helping to control the infection.

If one should get a cut in the arm, bacteria may enter the wound. As bacteria collect in the lymph they are moved to the axilla lymph nodes, which trap the foreign matter and eliminate it from the body. This activity can be observed by the swollen lymph nodes in the shoulder axilla as the infection is being brought under control.

The lymphatic system also collects digestive fat from the small intestine and transports it to the bloodstream. This is also the main route by which cholesterol, the principal steroid found in tissues, makes its way into the blood. A proper amount of both fat and cholesterol is necessary for optimal health, but one must take care not to overindulge in either of these substances.

Some hormones, many of which are very large molecules, are carried to the blood by way of the lymphatic system.

The lymph system begins its collection in the periphery of the body. The lymph vessels of the lower extremity converge toward the abdominal area, meeting at a collecting point called the cisterna chili. Here the lymph empties into the largest vessel, the thoracic duct, which ultimately drains into the venous system. This duct drains all the body except the right side of the head, neck, thorax (chest cavity), and right upper limb; these areas are drained by the other main tube, the right lymphatic duct.

We see the blood vascular and the lymphatic systems have some similarities. They are both closed systems that carry fluid throughout the body; however, the methods of transporting the fluid differ considerably. The blood vascular system has a pump, the heart, that propels blood through its system. The lymphatic system has no pump. The lymph vessels have valves that permit lymph to move in only one direction. Although the larger lymphatic vessel walls have muscle fibers that contract, the major propelling factor is intermittent compression on the lymph vessel wall by surrounding tissue. When the large muscles or some other tissue puts pressure on the vessel, it squeezes the lymph along its way to drain into the venous system. Frequent intermittent pressure, such as that provided by contraction of muscles during exercise and general movement, helps maintain effective lymph drainage. If, however, pressure on the vessel is constant – such as by a contracting muscle that fails to relax – the lymph vessel may stay compressed, causing sluggish drainage or stopping it altogether. If the resistance to flow develops at major vessels such as the thoracic or right lymphatic duct, large portions of the body are affected.

The most common cause of persistent pressure on the lymph vessels is muscular imbalance and postural distortion in the upper chest and neck region. This area is particularly vulnerable because the thoracic and right lymphatic ducts traverse restrictive areas and make sharp tortuous turns. Correction depends upon regaining muscle balance. Evidence of chronic strain and tension in the muscles is often observed by the tenderness they exhibit when treated.

Poor vertebral motion in the upper and mid-back regions can contribute to the condition. This may be due to muscular weakness in the back area, followed by secondary muscle contraction in the front portion of the chest. AK muscle testing helps identify the weak / imbalance muscles as well as the contracted ones.

Imbalance of one of these muscles may interfere with the proper movement of the patient?s rib cage in respiration. This action, along with diaphragm contraction, makes a major contribution to lymphatic drainage; it is especially important in the vital function of lung lymphatic drainage.


Many people fail to drink enough water, therefore, compromising optimal lymphatic drainage. It is unknown why, but clinical evidence indicates that the patient who drinks pure water rather than coffee, tea, soda, and fresh fruit juices…have an optimal lymphatic drainage system. The proper amount of water varies considerably with types and sizes of patients, activity, and environmental conditions. Find out at the Sahara Clinic the optimal amount of water is appropriate for you. Obviously, when it is hot and one perspires heavily, more water is needed. The recommendation of drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water per day is a popular myth. The type of water one drinks is just as important as drinking enough water. Many high priced, reverse osmosis, or carbon filters are not adequate. Viruses, parasites, heavy metals, bacteria, fungi, human waste are often still found in filtered water. Find out from Dr. Sahara what is a safes and reliable source. Drinking filtered tap is like playing games with your health.

Neurologic Control of Lymph Drainage

It is well-known that the large lymph vessels. Contraction of the vessels helps propel lymph drainage into the venous system. Neurologic reflex points thought to affect lymphatic drainage were developed by an osteopath, Frank Chapman, D.O., in the 1930’s. The method has been used with clinical success, and its use has been broadened in AK as the neurolymphatic reflexes (NL). Stimulation of these reflexes, when active, dramatically strengthens muscles that previously tested weak. Clinical evidence indicates a localized improvement of lymphatic drainage that might affect the associated muscle, organ, and / or gland.

Conditions Caused By Sluggish Lymphatic Drainage

There are numerous conditions that clue Dr. Sahara to examine for poor lymphatic drainage. Infection of any type is a primary indication. Among these are upper respiratory infections, such as sinusitis, ear(eustachian tube) infections, nose and throat problems, common colds, tonsillitis, lower respiratory infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia. Structural problems are also frequently involved with poor lymphatic drainage, such as tennis elbow, repeated strained and sprained ankles, and low backache. Patients often have a feeling of being run down or have poor circulation, indicated by cold hands or feet or numbness and / or tingling in the extremities. Even frequency of nighttime urination or grinding of the teeth during sleep can be associated with poor lymphatic drainage.

Swelling in the feet, ankles, and hands are definite indications that a possible lymphatic drainage problem should be examined. In basic AK, there are NL reflex that could be stimulated to help treat the problem. There may be postural distortion or muscular imbalance blocking major lymph vessels. In addition to correcting these structural or nerve reflexes, it might necessary to take certain nutritional supplements to help correct poor drainage. You can help optimize lymphatic drainage by maintaining a good level of physical activity and drinking sufficient water to maintain proper hydration.

Written By: Systems DC, 1990, Edited By Darrick E. Sahara, D.C., Inc.

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