The lymphatic system is a network of thin vessels through which a watery fluid called lymph flows. The lymphatic system is a part of the immune system and is essentially the body’s drainage system which cleans up and disposes of all the waste products left behind by other systems of the body. The waste can come from the normal breakdown of active muscle and from the food you eat. The lymphatic system also plays important roles in maintaining the body’s fluid levels, protecting the body from illnesses and helps to absorb fats from the body’s digestive tract.
What are the functions of the Lymphatic System?
- Filters lymphatic fluid and drains fluid back into the bloodstream:
- The lymphatic system collects excess fluids such as; water, minerals, proteins and other substances and brings them back to the blood circulation system to be removed.
- Immune Response:
- The lymph fluid passes through the lymph nodes (or glands which are found in the armpits or base of the neck). The lymph nodes act as a type of filter and trap and destroy anything that may be harmful to the body, such as bacteria or viruses. This may be the case when you have an infection. When lymph nodes are working to fight an infection they can swell. This explains why when we have the flu or sore throat we can sometimes feel the lymph nodes behind the ear or on the back of the neck swelling.
- Fat Absorption and Transportation:
- The final role of the lymphatic system is the absorption and transportation of fats and fat soluble vitamins from the digestive tract. Most nutrients in the digestive tract are absorbed by capillaries within the small intestine. However fat and fat soluble vitamins are absorbed by tiny lymphatic vessels known as lacteals.
Having a healthy active lifestyle (eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, exercising and managing stress) will also help to keep a healthy and well functioning lymphatic system.