What is the Lymphatic System?


We all know how big of a role our body’s immune system plays on our overall well being. One of the key components of the immune system is the lymphatic (luhm-fa-tuhk) system. A healthy lymphatic system can help make sure our body is protected from infections and germs. In this article, we will discuss what the lymphatic system is, signs there are issues with your lymphatic system, and natural ways you can cleanse your lymphatic system. 

What are the 6 Lymphatic Organs?

There are many different moving parts that all work in unison in our immune systems. This includes the skin and mucous membranes, blood vessels, blood cells, lymph nodes, lymphatic tissue as well as the organs of the lymphatic system. There are two different main types of lymphoid organs: the primary lymphoid (lim-foyd) organs and the secondary lymphoid organs. Here are the six lymphatic organs:

  • Bone marrow - Bone marrow is found inside of the bones and it’s where most immune system cells are produced. These cells move to other organs and tissues through the blood
  • Thymus (thai-mus) - The thymus is located behind the breastbone and just above the heart. T Cells, some of the most important cells, mature in the thymus. These cells coordinate the process of the innate and adaptive immune systems. T Cells monitor the surfaces of all cells for changes
  • Lymph nodes - These are found in the lymphatic vessels. Lymph nodes act as filters. Swollen or painful lymph nodes are a sign that the immune system is active to fight an infection
  • Spleen - The spleen is incredibly important in regards to the immune system. For example, it stores various immune system cells, breaks down red blood cells, and stores and breaks down platelets which are responsible for blood clots. Unfortunately, the spleen may rupture easily, which will require immediate surgery
  • Tonsils - The tonsils are located in the throat and can stop germs from entering the body through the mouth or nose. The tonsils also contain a lot of white blood cells, which kill germs. There are different types of tonsils: palatine tonsils (pala-tine ton-sils), adenoids (a-duh-noyds), and the lingual tonsil
  • Mucous membranes - Mucous membranes are found in the bowel, which plays a critical role in defending the body. More than half of all the body’s cells that produce antibodies are found in the bowel wall. These cells detect foreign substances and then mark and destroy them

As you may imagine, all of these systems work together in unison to keep your body protected. If something were to go wrong with just one of these systems it could throw the entire immune system off balance. 

How do You Know if Your Lymphatic System is Blocked?

The main sign that you may have a blocked lymphatic system is lymphedema (lim-fuh-dee-muh). Lymphedema causes swelling in your arms or legs. Your fingers or toes may retain fluid and swell. This swelling can limit your range of motion. Here are some of the signs that you may be dealing with lymphedema:

  • Skin changes
  • Skin discoloration
  • Blisters
  • Leaking of fluid from the skin 
  • Infection
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty talking

There are many different treatment options for lymphatic dysfunction. It can be as simple as working out more or it may require surgery. Lymphedema is an ongoing condition that requires ongoing care. In most cases, you’ll deal with some level of swelling on a regular basis, but it can be managed.

How Does the Lymphatic System Work?

The lymphatic system is a vast network of tissues, vessels, and organs that work together to move a colorless, watery fluid called lymph back into your bloodstream. Some 20 liters of plasma flow through your body’s arteries and smaller arteriole blood vessels and capillaries every day.

After delivering nutrients to the body’s cells and tissues and receiving their waste products, about 17 liters are returned to the circulation by way of veins. The remaining three liters seep through the capillaries and into your body’s tissues. The lymphatic system collects this excess fluid, now called lymph, from tissues in your body and moves it along until it ultimately returns it to your bloodstream.

What are the 4 Main Functions of the Lymphatic System?

The lymphatic system serves many different functions. Without it, our body simply wouldn’t be able to function. While there are many different functions here are four of the key functions of the lymphatic system:

  • Maintains fluid levels in your body - The lymphatic system collects excess fluid that drains from cells and tissue throughout the body and returns it to the bloodstream
  • Absorbs fats from the digestive tract - The lymph transports fluids that contain fats and proteins back into the bloodstream
  • Protects your body - As we have already mentioned, the lymphatic system is a key piece of the immune system. It can produce and release white blood cells and T cells, which help monitor the body, searching for foreign invaders
  • Transports and removes waste products and abnormal cells from the lymph

As you can see, the lymphatic system is one of the most important systems in our body. That is why it’s important to take care of your lymphatic system and stay vigilant for signs that something is wrong. 

What are the Symptoms of Poor Lymphatic Drainage?

One of the main functions of the lymphatic system is to help our body drain toxins. When lymphatic fluid is not allowed to flow freely through the lymph nodes, it can cause toxins to build up. This can lead to debilitating symptoms as well as infection and disease. Here are some of the symptoms of poor lymphatic system drainage:

  • Bloating
  • Swelling in your fingers
  • Brain fog
  • Digestive issues
  • Parasites
  • Depression
  • Sinus infections
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Excess weight
  • Constipation
  • Food sensitivities
  • Increased colds and flu

Unlike the circulatory system, in which the heart acts as a pump, this system has no pump.  But there are certain things that you can do to activate your lymphatic system and get it flowing and removing toxins again.

How to Cleanse Your Lymphatic System Naturally

In extreme cases, a lymphatic blockage may require surgery to fix. However, you should be able to clean up a blockage naturally. Unfortunately, the number one cause of lymphatic issues is nutrient deficiencies, high intake of processed foods, and lack of physical activity. Here are some of the ways you can cleanse your lymphatic system naturally:

  • Exercise - Exercising regularly is key for a healthy lymphatic system. It should be noted that too much vigorous exercise can actually be harmful to your immune system
  • Hot and cold showers - Alternating between hot and cold showers can help your lymphatic system. Hot water will help dilate the blood vessels while cold water will shrivel them. This will create a ‘pump’ action that forces out the toxic fluids that have remained in the body
  • Dry brushing - Brush your dry skin in a circular motion for 10 minutes by using a natural bristle brush, and then take a shower. You can combine dry brushing with hot and cold showers for better effects
  • Drink clean water - You should drink up to half your body weight in ounces of water per day to further cleanse your system of toxins
  • Avoid tight clothes - Wearing tight clothes can reduce the circulation in the lymphatic system. This can lead to an accumulation of toxins
  • Breathe deeply - Even though we have three times more lymph fluid than blood, there is no organ to pump it. The pumping action of deep breathing will help the lymphatic system transport the toxins into the blood before they are detoxified by the liver
  • Avoid foods that cause blockages - Foods such as processed foods, conventionally raised meat, artificial sweeteners, sugar, soy, and table salt can cause blockages
  • Eat foods that promote lymph flow - Foods such as leafy green vegetables, low sugar fruits chia seeds, avocados, garlic, almonds, and walnuts can promote lymph flow

Practicing a healthy lifestyle can help improve the circulation of your lymphatic system. 

Why are Lymphatic Vessels Important?

The lymphatic system works to keep body fluid levels in balance and to defend the body against infections. It is made up of a network of lymphatic vessels that carry lymph — a clear, watery fluid that contains proteins, salts, and other substances — throughout the body.

The lymphatic system also helps defend the body against germs that can cause illnesses. Those germs are filtered out in the lymph nodes, small clumps of tissue along with the network of lymph vessels. Inside the lymph nodes, lymphocytes called T-cells and B-cells help the body fight infection. B cells make antibodies — special proteins that stop infections from spreading by trapping disease-causing germs and destroying them.

Supplements Can Help the Immune System

There are several processes our body uses to remove antigens. One of the protective systems involves our bodies producing macrophages (ma-krow-fei-jiz), those macrophages engulf the antigen, and then the antigen is digested (destroyed) through a process of autophagy. Early studies show that spermidine triggers cellular autophagy, which can play a major role in helping to build a more robust immune defense through healthier cells and increased autophagic strength and function.

The positive impacts of spermidine-induced autophagy and spermidine supplementation have been studied worldwide. In addition to boosting our immune system, spermidine offers remarkable supplemental support for the health of our brain, heart, bones, muscles, weight, hair, liver, and overall longevity.


  • Don Moxley - Director of Applied Science

    Don Moxley is the Director of Applied Science at Longevity Labs. Moxley draws upon his career as an athlete, a sports scientist, and an instructor to lead and educate on the science of autophagy and longevity.