Lymphatic system and Immunity

Responding and adapting to illness: how does the immune system protect the body?

Immune system

Lymphatic system and Immunity! The immune system is the body’s defense system against infection and disease.

Immunity is the body’s defense system against infection and disease. White blood cells play an essential role. Some rush to attack the harmful microbes that invade the body. Others specialize and adapt in order to fight against specific pathogens. Altogether, they work to maintain as much as possible the good health of the body.

  • White blood cells defend the body against disease

White blood cells, also called leukocytes, defend the body against disease. They normally only make up 1% of the volume of circulating blood, but their number increases with infection or inflammation. The neutrophils represent the most common type they represent 60 to 70% of all white blood cells. Neutrophils are phagocytes, that is, cells that ingest pathogens that have entered the body. Lymphocytes are the second most common type of white blood cell. They spread throughout the organs and tissues of the lymphatic system. As part of the immune response, lymphocytes target specific pathogens. The other white blood cells include eosinophils, basophils, and monocytes.

White globule

White blood cells defend the body against disease, and their numbers increase during infection or inflammation.

  • Phagocytes devour pathogens

The phagocytes correspond to a group of white blood cells including neutrophils. These cells ingest bacteria and other pathogens to protect the body from infections. The process begins when chemicals from a pathogen or damaged tissue attract a phagocyte. The phagocyte binds to the microbe, envelops it, and then ingests it. The enzymes contained by the phagocyte kill and digest the pathogen. This action is called phagocytosis.

  • Lymphocytes are the second most common type of white blood cell

The lymphocytes are a type of white blood cells produced in the red bone marrow. They multiply in the lymphatic system. They can travel through the lymphatic and circulatory systems. Lymphocytes are made up of several subtypes: B lymphocytes produce antibodies. T cells target viruses or cells infected with fungi, cancer cells or transplanted cells. NK (Natural Killer) lymphocytes attack and destroy foreign microbes. All of these lymphocytes contribute to the body’s immune response.

  • Innate immunity provides rapid and general defense against invading pathogens

When an infection occurs, a fever raises the body temperature in order to speed up the immune response. The reaction can occur relatively quickly. Blood vessels dilate around the injury site, inflaming the area. The dilation of the vessels allows more white blood cells to leave the bloodstream and enter infected tissue. The phagocytes then enter the scene and ingest the microbes that have invaded the area. This rapid response of the body to infection is an example of innate immunity.

  • Adaptive immunity corresponds to a complex and targeted response to pathogens

The activated B cells multiply to make a large number of clones, most of which will become plasma cells. Plasma cells produce antibodies that recognize antigens present on foreign microbes. The antibodies act as “tags” to identify intruders. This process is called the humeral mediated response. The T lymphocytes, activated by the antigens presented by the phagocytes, multiply; they then search for infected cells and destroy them. This is the cell-mediated response. A small number of B and T lymphocyte clones are modified to populate lymphatic organs; they will thus be able to react quickly if they must again find themselves in the presence of the same pathogen. In this way, the adaptive immune system “remembers” the pathogen involved. The entire process, in which the reaction to specific pathogens changes certain B and T lymphocytes, is called adaptive immunity.

What you need to know about the immune system and manual lymphatic drainage

Lymphatic system and Immunity! We often hear that manual lymphatic drainage (DLM) is good for detoxifying the body, increasing vitality, and strengthening the immune system. Is this a myth or a reality? How does DLM relate to the immune system?

The immune system

The immune system is a collection of cells, tissues, and organs designed to defend and protect the body against attack by pathogens. In order to prevent the invaders, we have the physical barrier (also called the mechanical barrier). It is the first line of defense (skin, cornea of ​​the eyes, and membranes of the reproductive, respiratory, and digestive system).

We also have a second internal defense system split into two distinct processes:

  • Innate immunity (non-specific defenses);
  • Acquired immunity (i.e. Specific, activating, among other things, specialized white blood cells and antibodies).

Lymphatic system and Immunity! Innate or natural immunity is the body’s defense system that responds to all types of viruses, bacteria, or pathologies. These are the body’s first lines of defense (skin, mucous membrane, vomiting, inflammation, etc.). Conversely, acquired immunity also called specific is a defense system adapted according to a single antigen type. B lymphocytes (antibodies) and T lymphocytes are involved in this defense. Some lymphocytes also have the ability to remember viruses and the methods used to defeat them. If a pathogen attacks the body again, the immune response will be faster. We can say that it is the equivalent of a tactical team with specialized techniques to defend the organism against the attackers.

It all makes up the immune system.

The lymphatic system

The lymphatic system is the one that takes care of the creation and movement of white blood cells in the body. It also helps eliminate blood waste by transporting it in the lymph. This is why it is a main player in the immune response. It includes all the parts of the body carrying lymph, namely vessels, nodes, and organs. Its main action is to transport the lymph through the lymphatic vessels and the lymph nodes which have the role of filtering the lymph.

The three main roles of the lymphatic system are:

  • Circulate fluids and regulate their level in the body;
  • Absorb the contained fats and liposoluble vitamins in the digestive system.
  • Defend the body against infections, viruses, and bacteria.

Lymphatic system and Immunity! Lymphatic vessels run parallel to blood vessels. However, lymphatic circulation is much slower than blood. Lymphatic circulation is slower since it relies only on respiratory movement and the muscular system. The blood circulation can rely on the pumping effect from the heart.

Did you know that the body has about 3 liters of lymph? In comparison, the body contains 5–6 liters of blood. 1

Lymphatic drainage

The lymphatic drainage manual is a gentle massage technique designed to promote the flow of lymphatic fluid in the body.

That said, it helps speed up lymphatic circulation, stimulate the lymph nodes and reduce edemas as well as inflammation. It also has an effect on intestinal transit. It is for its support for elimination that it is said to have a detoxifying effect while strengthening the immune system.

The research

The link between immunity and the lymphatic network is no longer to be proven. However, to date, there is no research to demonstrate the link between lymphatic drainage and the immune system directly. Rather, research has focused on this technique and its effectiveness when used together in the treatment of different diseases and pathologies.

In the 1930s, Emil Vodder 2 found that his clients with chronic colds had swollen glands in common. He, therefore, decided to study the lymphatic system more in-depth and decided to develop a massage technique aimed at increasing the circulation of lymph. It was not until 30 years later that the scientific community looked into the subject.

In 1996, a study carried out in France in various clinics and hospitals confirmed the effectiveness of lymphatic drainage. Indeed, lymphoscintigraphy 3 (an examination carried out in nuclear medicine) proved the increase in lymph flow and the reduction of edema.

Lymphatic system and Immunity! More recently, in 2015, American researchers from the National Institutes of Health 4 demonstrated that the brain can also drain cerebral fluid via the lymphatic system. It follows, therefore, that there is indeed a link between the brain and the lymphatic vessels. Research could look into the link between the brain and immunity in the near future.

The link between lymphatic drainage and immunity

As we have seen, one could say that the lymphatic vessels play the role of the sewage system of the human body. The blood drains its debris and excess fluid into it. The lymph carries nutrients, hormones, and lymphocytes, and everything passes through the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes filter the lymph and serve as a little benchmark for the defenses. When several invaders are present, a high concentration of lymphocytes is generated. This is why our lymph nodes swell.

In addition, lymphatic circulation is slow. If our physical condition, for various reasons, is not optimal (heredity, lack of physical exercise, poor diet, venous insufficiency, surgery, etc.), circulation could be slowed down. The waste ends up accumulating and transport becomes more difficult.

Lymphatic drainage helps speed up the circulation of lymph which plays an important role in immunity. When immunity fails, the following effects may occur:

  • Persistent fatigue;
  • Increased sensitivity to infections (colds, repetitive vaginal infections, urinary tract infections, herpes);
  • Increased healing time.



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