The Importance of the Lymphatic System

Have you met your Lymphatic System? – A brief introduction.


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What is lymph?

How often do we actually think about our lymphatic system and how important it is within the body? I would guess, for most of us, a very small percentage of the time. As with most things in the body, if it is working efficiently and we have no symptoms to tell us to the contrary, we don’t give it a thought. When we have an infection and our lymph glands in the neck swell slightly then we may ponder for a while, but what is actually happening and why is it of such importance?

Lymph starts as a straw coloured, clear, thin fluid (blood plasma,) that “leaks” out of the bloodstream and surrounds the cells of the nearby tissue, at this point it is known as interstitial fluid. It is the lymph capillaries that absorb this fluid and it now becomes known as ‘lymph’. Lymph is properly regarded as part of the circulatory and immune systems.


What Does It Do?

Lymph is in fact our surveillance and waste disposal system, a kind of circulatory refuse collector. On its travels lymph picks up cellular waste and debris, proteins, hormones and fats from the digestive system and transports them to the subclavian veins near to the heart to be returned to the blood.

The lymph vessels transport the lymph to and from lymph nodes, lymph nodes are filled with lymphocytes, the body’s defence system and it is here that the lymph is filtered and cleaned.


A macrophage, killing bacteria


The nodes also contain cells that are part of the immune system which respond when there is an infection, killing the disease causing agents.

The filtration process prevents bacteria, cancer cells and other infectious agents from returning back to the blood and circulation system, helping to prevent spread.

Lymph node

Internal structure of lymph node

The lymph nodes most commonly known to us are in the neck and armpit (most of us at some stage have experienced swollen glands at these points) but they are also in the knee, abdomen, groin, elbow and chest. The swelling at these points is due to the multiplication of germ fighting lymphocytes within the nodes.






ReseThe lymph supply of the head and neckarch has suggested that cerebrospinal fluid coming from the head area is connected to the lymphatic system

(a different take on the “brain drain”?)




Coming soon: Our blog on brain exercise and fitness and why being scared is not necessarily a bad thing.

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