Lymph system

The Human Lymphatic System (The Immune System)


Lymphatic system (aka the ‘immune system) – organs, tissues, and vessels work as a team to transport lymph (excreted fluid from cells or tissues in the body) back into the bloodstream.

This immune “system” of organs remembers every microbe it has ever fought and defeated.[1] It works in unison to prevent pathogens from invading the body.

Lymph fluid plays an extremely important role in the immune system and evolves over the course of a lifetime. The current body of research suggests that hydration is essential for overall health and can support various bodily functions, including the immune system and definitely cognitive functions including memory, attention, and concentration[10]. However, more targeted research is needed to fully understand the direct impact of hydration on adaptive immunity. The role of hydration in the immune system, particularly its impact on adaptive immunity, remains an area that could benefit from further exploration and research.

The immune system is separated into two parts: Innate (genetic, including phagocytes (macrophages and neutrophils), dendritic cells, mast cells, basophils, eosinophils, natural killer (NK) cells and innate lymphoid cells) and Adaptive (characterized by specificity, immunological memory, and self/nonself recognition). T cells and B cells are the two major components of adaptive immunity[2].

Human Lymphatic System from

Lymph is a clear fluid that contains a high concentration of white blood cells and plays an important role in the immune response. Lymph nodes and organs filter and transmit nutrients, lymph fluid, and waste between the body’s tissues and the bloodstream. Humans have over 4 million exocrine sweat glands and all of them are involved in immune function.

Sweating and the Lymph System

Perspiration[3] is the process of sweating and comes from the Latin word spirae which means to inspire, exhale, blow, breeze, breathe, or emanate. “Physiologists have long regarded sweating as an effective and safe means of detoxification, and heavy metals are excreted through sweat to reduce the levels of such metals in the body.”[6] Heavy metals are excreted through dynamic exercise moreso than simple exposure to a heated environment (saunas, steam rooms, etc). Certain heavy metals are excreted far more effectively through sweating such as Nickel (ni), Lead (pb), and Chromium (cr).[6] Mercury and arsenic can also be added to the list. There is a specifically higher rate of toxicity release through sweat during extreme forms of exercise. One can imagine that a heated yoga room can be extremely effective for the waste removal of heavy metals.

The Organs of the Lymphatic System

Kidneys (Dall-E)

However, this sweating hypothesis doesn’t portray a complete picture of the excretion of toxins from the body because there are several very specific organs that are also involved in this process which include:

Primary Organs of the Immune/Lymphatic System:

Bone Marrow (Dall-E)
  1. Bone marrow: The soft, spongy tissue found in bone cavities. Bone marrow produces all the cells of the human body, including lymph and blood cells and are primary immunological organs.
  2. Lymph nodes: Small organs shaped like beans, which are located all over the body and connect via the lymphatic vessels. This is where Killer T cells mature and differentiate.
  3. Kidney’s: play an underappreciated role in the immune system. While it’s primarily known for its functions in filtering blood, removing waste products, and regulating electrolytes, the kidney also has several key roles in immunity including: barrier function, Innate Immunity, Adaptive Immunity, Cytokine Production, Interplay with Systemic Immune Responses, and Resistance to Infection and Autoimmune Diseases.
  4. Lymphatic vessels: A network of channels all over the body that carries lymphocytes to the lymphoid organs and bloodstream. They play a key role in maintaining fluid balance in the body and in immune surveillance
  5. Thymus : Two lobes that join in front of the windpipe (trachea) behind the breastbone. The primary role of the thymus is in the development of T-lymphocytes (T cells), which are a type of white blood cell crucial for the adaptive immune system. These T cells are responsible for fighting off pathogens and are central to the body’s immune response.
  6. Adenoids : Two glands located at the back of the nasal passage. Infection of the adenoids is called adenoiditis. This can cause symptoms like a sore throat, stuffy nose, swollen neck glands, difficulty swallowing, and breathing problems. Adenoids are more prominent in children. They begin to grow from birth and reach their maximum size between the ages of 3 and 5 years. After this, they usually start to shrink and may nearly disappear by adolescence. Adenoids are part of the Waldeyer’s ring, which includes the tonsils and other lymphatic tissue in the throat and nasal cavity. They help detect and fight off pathogens that enter the body through the nose or mouth.
  7. Spleen: A fist-sized organ located in the belly (abdominal) cavity. One of the spleen’s primary functions is to filter blood. It removes old and damaged red blood cells from the bloodstream. This process is crucial for maintaining healthy blood cells in circulation. The spleen is an integral part of the immune system. It produces lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that fight infection. The spleen also helps identify and destroy bacteria and other pathogens in the blood. When the spleen breaks down red blood cells, it recycles the iron contained within them. This iron is then used to make new blood cells.
  8. Peyer patches: Lymphoid tissue in the small intestine. These patches are rich in B and T lymphocytes. B cells within Peyer’s patches can differentiate into plasma cells that produce immunoglobulins (antibodies), particularly IgA, which is crucial for immune functions in the gut.
  9. Tonsils: Two ovular masses in the back of the throat. Tonsils are part of the body’s lymphatic system and contribute to the immune defense. They act as a first line of defense against pathogens that enter the body through the mouth or nose. Tonsils contain immune cells that help fight infection. This is most likely WHY breathing through the nose can be so beneficial and stimulating for the immune system.
  10. Skin: Often overlooked as part of the immune system, the skin acts as a physical barrier to prevent the entry of pathogens. It also contains specialized cells of the immune system, such as Langerhans cells, which help to detect and fight infections.
  11. Liver: The liver contributes to immune defense by producing acute-phase proteins that increase in response to inflammation and by removing pathogens and toxins from the blood. The liver plays a crucial yet often underappreciated role in the immune system. It’s known primarily for its functions in metabolism, detoxification, and nutrient storage, but its immune-related roles are equally significant. The liver has a unique role in promoting immune tolerance, particularly to food antigens and gut microbial antigens. The liver contains Kupffer cells that are a type of macrophage, which means they can engulf and destroy bacteria, damaged cells, and other potentially harmful substances. Kupffer cells play a vital role in removing debris and pathogens from the blood. In summary, the liver’s role in the immune system is multifaceted. It acts as a sentinel for pathogens, produces vital immune proteins, helps regulate immune responses, and plays a unique role in promoting tolerance to food and gut microbes. This underscores the liver’s importance not just in metabolism and detoxification, but also as a key player in the body’s defense mechanisms.
Liver (Dall-E)
  1. John Hopkins – The immune System
  2. Science Direct – Adaptive Immunity
  3. BioDigital – Lymphatic System
  4. Wikipedia – Spirae
  5. Biology Corner Anatomy
  6. BJD – Sweat Glands
  7. Taylor Francis Online – Physiology of sweat gland function: The roles of sweating and sweat composition in human health
  8. Pub Med – Excretion of Ni, Pb, Cu, As, and Hg in Sweat under Two Sweating Conditions
  9. Science Direct – Sweat and the Skin
  10. PLOS – The impact of water consumption on hydration and cognition among school children
  11. Science Direct – Waldeyer’s Ring
  12. Chat GPT – research
  13. DALL-E (OpenAI’s Image Generation Model)
  14. – Image creation

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The Lymphatic System

The Lymphatic system works in conjunction with the circulatory system to reroute 3 liters of the ~20 processed each day by the body to replace plasma in the blood. Lympha is the Latin word for ‘water’ and refers to the clear liquid that provides autoimmune defense and assists with digestion. The Lymphatic system works alongside the circulatory system to remove waste, toxin, and provide defense for the body from pathogens, infection, and disease.

In order to continue, we have to examine a few of the different fluids in the body:

  • Blood Plasma – the pale yellow liquid in blood, makes up 55% of the bodies total blood, is made up of 95% water, and contains Cellular_Fluid_Contentdissolved proteins, glucose, coagulation factors, electrolytes, hormones, and carbon dioxide
  • Intracellular Fluid –  Cytosol, or intracellular fluid, is the liquid found inside of cells separated into compartmental membranes
  • Extracellular Fluid – fluid outside of cells, mainly blood plasma and interstitial fluid that, in conjunction with intracellular fluid, helps to control movement of electrolytes and water in the body
  • Interstitial Fluid – surrounds the cells of multicellular animals, and is found between the tissue spaces, is very similar to plasma, and pushes water out of capillaries to dispose of waste and continuously reinvigorate the blood stream with water using osmosis and hydrostatic pressure.
  • Transcellular Fluid – the total body water contained within epithelial lined spaces (gastrointestinal, cerebrospinal, peritoneal, and ocular fluids)

We also have to examine the two different parts of the immune system:

  1. the innate immune system – provides immediate defense against infection, found in all plant and animal life. Evolutionarily, this is a much older defense system and is dominant in plants, fungi, insects, and very primitive multicellular organisms. This system activates the adaptive immune system in multicellular organisms
  2. the adaptive immune system –  also known as acquired immunity, this is a subsystem composed of highly specialized, systemic cells and processes that eliminate and/or prevent pathogen growth. This creates immunological memory in response to specific pathogens leading to enhanced responses with subsequent encounters. This is the entire basis of vaccination. Pathogen specific receptors are acquired during the lifetime of the organism. This can be helpful in cases where the body adapts positively, or this can be harmful when autoimmune diseases are acquired. This system is highly adaptable because of somatic hypermutation and somatic recombination (V(D)J recovery) allows for agile re-creation of anti-body cells to fight new pathogens. The antigen receptors are then uniquely expresses on each lymphocyte. This brings us back to where we started….

The Lymph system is therefore extremely involved in the body’s response to pathogens, viruses, and bacteria. Both the innate and adaptive immune systems have humoral and cell mediated immunities (humoral refers to lymph fluid). Remember the two systems, and how blood is contained in a closed system, and lymph is more open. This is a major part of what takes waste out of the bloodstream, and more specifically, how the body fights off infection and eliminates harmful micro-organisms.

So all together, your body is consistently reproducing certain cells to fight off bad guys. and it uses this liquid transport system, which is open around the blood vessels, to do it. This is the final piece of the puzzle, the different types of adaptive immune cells called lymphocytes:

  • Killer T cells – a subgroup of T cells that kills cells infected with a virus or that are damaged or dysfunctional
  • Helper T cells – regulate both innate and adaptive immune responses to help determine the body’s response
  • Gamma Delta T cells – these cells are hard to classify and skirt the border between innate and adaptive cells.
  • B lymphocytes and antibodies – identifies pathogens then (this is where the magic happens, this is from Wikipedia) this antigen/antibody complex is taken up by the B cell and processed by proteolysis into peptides. The B cell then displays these antigenic peptides on its surface MHC class II molecules. This combination of MHC and antigen attracts a matching helper T cell, which releases lymphokines and activates the B cell.[61] As the activated B cell then begins to divide, its offspring (plasma cells) secrete millions of copies of the antibody that recognizes this antigen. These antibodies circulate in blood plasma and lymph, bind to pathogens expressing the antigen and mark them for destruction by complement activation or for uptake and destruction by phagocytes. Antibodies can also neutralize challenges directly, by binding to bacterial toxins or by interfering with the receptors that viruses and bacteria use to infect cells.[62]

So essentially, these specialized cells identity, swarm, and kill pathogens, using the lymph system for circulation and of powerful anti-pathogen cells. This is why the body’s fluid content is so important; it allows the body to regulate and defend itself.

Now let’s talk a bit about the specific organs of the lymphatic system:

  • Lymph vessels – these conduct lymph between the different parts of the body. The lymph vessels transport lymph back to the blood stream replacing the volume lost from the blood during the formation of the interstitial fluid
  • Thymus – The Thymus is extremely important for the immune system, it is where T cells mature, in front of the heart and behind the sternum. It has two lobes that surround the trachea
  • Spleen – an organ found in all vertebrates, this is similar to a very large lymph node to act primarily as a blood filter. It is possible to remove the spleen and maintain life. It recycles iron and stores blood; it also synthesizes antibodies. Its absence will cause predisposition to certain infections. lymph_node_structure
  • lymph nodes – an organized collection of lymph tissue that lymph fluid passes through on its way back to the blood stream.
  • lymph follicle – A lymph follicle is a dense collection of lymphocytes, the number, size and configuration of which change in accordance with the functional state of the lymph node

So you can see that the system works very much in unison with the other bodily systems, mainly the circulatory and gastrointestinal systems to remove wasteful byproducts and toxins involved in consuming food orally. You can feel the concentrations of lymph nodes on the sides of your neck, at the top of the rib cage, and on the soft portion of the elbows and knees.

I think I will post another article on the adaptive immune system, there is just so much here. This should be pretty comprehensive on the lymph system as a whole, but ask any questions and I’ll try to figure it out!




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