Lymphatic System Problems (Lymphocytosis)
'The lymphatic system is not studied very much,' says Gerald M. Lemole, chief of the department of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at the Deborah Heart and Lung Center in New Jersey. 'Most general medical texts devote only one or two paragraphs to it. But the lymphatics, though little known, have three very important functions.'
'First, the lymphatics return protein to the bloodstream. As much as 50 percent of our serum protein can leak out of our bloodstream during a 24-hour period, and it is the job of the lymphatics to return this protein to the blood. '
'Second, the lymphatics clear the spaces between our cells and carry away toxins and foreign particles such as bacteria, large proteins, cholesterol, and viruses. We were taught that the liver and kidneys clear away toxins, but it is actually the lymphatics that clear away the fluid that bathes each cell of our body.'
'Third, the lymphatics are an integral part of our immune system. The white cells called lymphocytes circulate in and out of the lymphatics, and they help destroy foreign particles such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites.'
What is the structure of this other circulatory system that no one talks much about? 'We've already mentioned the lymph nodes (sometimes called lymph glands). You'll find these bean-shaped nodes not only in your neck but also in your armpits, behind your knees, in your groin, near your arteries, around your heart — in fact, you have many hundreds of lymph nodes, some buried deeply and some near the surface of your body.
The lymph nodes are connected to each other by an intricate system of thin-walled channels that run throughout your body next to your arteries and veins. The whole system is filled with a fluid called lymph — usually colorless and containing proteins, fats, lymphocytes and other substances.
What could go wrong with such a seemingly passive and relatively simple body system? Plenty. 'The trouble begins when the lymphatic system becomes blocked or the flow of lymph slows down appreciably — a condition called lymphocytosis,' says Dr. Lemole. 'It's like the kitchen sink: if the drain is clogged but you leave the water running, the water will eventually run all over the floor.
'Similarly, what happens in your body during lymphocytosis is that the fluid that is building up in the spaces between your body cells can't be carried away by the lymphatics. So the fluid and the pressure build up in these intercellular spaces. Such fluid buildup has definitely been implicated in congestive heart failure. The lymph channels in the lungs become engorged with fluid and stiffen, and so does the left ventricle of the heart, the part that pumps oxygenated blood to the body's tissues. '
A factor in heart disease and cancerBut that's not all. With his colleague, Paschal M. Spagna, chief of cardiac surgery at Graduate Hospital, University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Lemole has been studying the effects of lymphocytosis on atherosclerosis (clogging of the arteries). 'We feel quite strongly that lymphocytosis is a critical factor in generating atherosclerosis, ' Dr. Lemole says.
'First,' he continues, 'the cardiac lymphatics are responsible for carrying away cholesterol from the intercellular spaces. If the lymphatics are blocked, the cholesterol can't go anywhere. It stays in the walls of the arteries too long, thus contributing to atherosclerosis. '
'This idea is consistent with the fact that in 90 percent of the cases of coronary atherosclerosis, post-mortem examinations show scarring, inflammation and blockage of the lymphatics. '
In addition to heart disease, Dr. Lemole points out, lymphocytosis may be a contributing cause of cancer. 'Because the lymphatics are blocked,' he says, 'toxic molecules cannot be moved away from the body cells. This constant exposure to toxins may be a cause of malignancy. The cells most affected in this way from lymphocytosis are the epithelial cells [those that line the internal and external surfaces of the body, such as vessels and small cavities].'
Preventing lymphocytosisFortunately, there are several things you can do to help prevent lymphocytosis, and many of those things relate to the way lymph fluid is moved through the body. The lymphatic system doesn't have a heart of its own. 'The lymph is largely moved along by a "milking" effect in your chest, which is created when you breathe,' says Dr. Lemole. 'And backflow of lymph is prevented by a system of valves. '
'When you breathe deeply — when you breathe from your diaphragm it helps the flow of lymph. That may explain why female secretaries have a higher rate of heart disease than female executives. It's almost impossible to take deep breaths while you're sitting down all day.'
'In addition, there are certain conditions that can slow the flow of lymph. We have noticed that cancer sets in about one year after a person has a deep depression or a severe stress. The reason for that may have to do with a lessened lymphatic flow. '
'Hans Selye has shown that stress causes atrophy of the lymphatic,' Dr. Lemole points out. 'Furthermore, stress also causes the body to produce the hormones ACT H, pituitrin, and adrenalin — and those, in turn, can cause spasms of the lymphatics, leading to lymphocytosis. On the other hand, when you are not feeling stressed, when you are feeling good, your body will produce endorphins, which have the opposite effect of ACTH. '
Does Dr. Lemole have a prescription for a healthy lymphatic system? Indeed, he does. 'Many of the things that are good for the blood circulatory system are also good for the lymphatics. In a way, I suppose, that should come as no surprise, since the body is really a dynamic system.'
'First, there's exercise, which will help keep the lymph flowing well. When you exercise, you breathe deeply, and when you run, your body produces endorphins. Yoga is also good for the lymphatics.'
'Second, there's the lessening of stress. Your mental attitude is very important to the health of the lymphatics. Meditation, biofeedback or any stress-reducing method can be a great help in cutting down the amount of ACTH you produce and increasing the number of endorphins. '
'Third, there is dietary control, especially the area of fatty foods. After a fatty meal, much of the fat ends up in the lymphatics. Also, certain fats can increase the cholesterol in your blood, which places a burden on the lymphatics to clear it. '
'You know,' says Dr. Lemole, 'I've seen people running, or doing biofeedback, or putting themselves on low-fat diets for their health, and there is one common denominator I can see at work: They all have a positive mental attitude. Maybe that is the most important thing of all. '
'Those people aren't just sitting around and suffering. They're doing some-thing for themselves, and they feel good about it. I've been trying to find a word for it. Euphoria, Greek for "well-being,' is almost right. Then there's the Gaelic word sales — a feeling of wellness.'
'Of course,' says Dr. Lemole, 'it doesn't matter what you call the feeling. It's the feeling itself that counts. It's the most important feeling of all. '
Lymphatic System Problems - Lymphocytes Reviewed by Healthy Kite on 8/22/2016 Rating: