Lymph is one of your body's filtering systems, like the kidneys. Or just like an oil filter or air filter in your car. Or even a coffee filter in your coffee pot. Once the lymph has been filtered through the lymph nodes it re-enters the bloodstream.
The lymph system is fairly familiar to everyone since both doctors and parents often check for swollen lymph nodes in the neck. When patients would come to me for various immune conditions, I would always perform what is called a "lymph pump." Since there is no lymph pump, like the heart pump, when the body is sick or weak, the pump deserves a little extra "umpf in the pump."
I would lay one palm on the middle of their abdomen and another on the middle of their chest or on a women, above the breasts. I would then gently and slowly pump my hands up and down in order to stimulate the action of the cisterna chyli, which is located in the middle of the abdomen and the thoracic duct, which is located at the base of the neck.
The Lymph is an alkaline fluid that is found in the lymphatic vessels and the cisterna chyli. The cisterna chyli is exactly what the name implies, it's a cistern, a reservoir for the storage of fluid (lymph). The cisterna chyli is a dilated sac that empties the intestinal lymphatic vessels, two lumbar lymphatic vessels and two descending lymphatic trunks into the thoracic duct. The thoracic duct is the main lymph duct of the body that has its origin at the cisterna chyli in the middle of the abdomen.
The thoracic duct originates from the cisterna chyli and passes upward through a dome-shaped muscle called the diaphragm located directly under the rib cage and into the thorax (chest). It continues upward, against gravity, alongside the aorta and esophagus into the neck, where it turns left an enters the subclavian vein, near the its junction with the left internal jugular vein. The thoracic duct receives lymph from every part of the body, EXCEPT the right side of the head, neck, thorax (chest) and right upper extremity, which is emptied into the "right lymph duct" that is also near the junction of the jugular and subclavian veins. Lymph will then re-enter the bloodstream.
b = bronchomediastinal duct; cc = cisterna chyli; I = intestinal lymph vessels; j = left and right internal jugular veins; ls = left subclavian vein; p = pelvic Iymph vessels; rl = right lumbar trunk; rs = right subclavian vein; sv = superior vena cava; t = testicular lymphatics; td = thoracic duct.
Lymph is usually clear, transparent and colorless fluid; although in vessels draining the intestines the lymph may appear milky due to the presence of absorbed fats. Lymph differs from blood because red blood corpuscles are absent and the protein content is lower.
Lymph may also differ in composition to other parts of the body. Lymph contains the proteins (serum albumin, serum globulin and serum fibrinogen), salts, organic substances (urea, creatinine, neutral fats and glucose) and also water. The cells that are present in lymph are lymphocytes (cytes = cells), which are formed in lymph nodes and other lymphatic organs. Lymph that is formed in the intestines is called chyle. That's how we get the name cisterna chyli for the sac containing the intestinal lymph.
Here is one Good reason to exercise your body to stimulate the lymphatic system. Lymph is formed in tissues spaces all over the body and the fluids oozes into the lymph system and gets pumped or pushed by normal body and muscle movement to the lymph nodes. People who regularly exercise are less likely to get sick. This system is very similar to the sewage and water system where you live. The water is actively pressurized and the sewage itself has a more passive action. It flows by mere gravity.
The lymph nodes filter the lymph, freeing the lymph of foreign matter, especially bacteria. If bacteria is in the area, it will be filtered. This is the job of the lymphatic system, to detect, filter and remove bacteria and other foreign invaders.
When fighting bacterial infections, the lymph nodes will swell with bacteria and it will also swell with the cells that are fighting the bacteria. This swelling can reach the point where you can actually feel the body fighting that infection. It's very cool.
This is just one more way your incredible machine of a body lets you know that there is an infection.
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**This web site's goal is to provide you with information that may be useful in attaining optimal health. Nothing in it is meant as a prescription or as medical advice. You should check with your physician before implementing any changes in your exercise or lifestyle habits, especially if you have physical problems or are taking medications of any kind.