THE LYMPHATIC AND BLOOD CIRCULATORY SYSTEMS
The Lymphatic System is the most complex, yet interesting subject I’ve researched to date, it would take me a lifetime to completely understand the lymphatic system, the information below is just an overview. I took the decision to include information on the lymphatic system, having read how a poor or badly functioning lymphatic system can cause some serious medical conditions, which in turn can be a cause of elevated blood pressure, some are listed in this section.
The Lymphatic System is an integral part of the human body’s circulatory system and plays a critical part of the immune system, regulating blood pressure and supporting many bodily functions. Your lymphatic system is responsible for moving lymph, which is a watery clear liquid, through its own one-way valves through vessels. However, the Lymphatic System has no circulatory system of its own, waste is removed from the body by muscle and body movement, as you breathe, your muscles move lymph fluid around your body towards the heart.
Lifestyle can have an adverse effect on removing lymph from your body especially if you eat late or just before going to sleep. Further information on how the lymphatic system works while you are sleeping, is explained in section twenty-five in the members section on sleep. Further information on the Glymphatic System, Sympathetic Nervous System, Obesity, and particularly the “Inguinal Nodes”, and how these conditions can impact the lymphatic system, is included in a new section on Obesity which will be uploaded end of June 2018.
The Lymphatic System works to protect the body from infections and diseases caused by toxins and bacteria that pass into the lymph fluid. This fluid passes through lymph nodes where white blood cells attack intruders to destroy them.
What are White Blood Cells?
What are White Blood Cells, consist of a number of cells including leukocytes? They are the immune cells that protect our bodies from bacteria, viruses, infection and more. Where do they come from? Cells originate in bone marrow which is found in the centre of our bones, they start off as stem cells which split to form Lymphoid Stem Cells, these cells then develop into lymphocytes which is one of many types of White Blood Cells. There are B cells and T cells, for those interested, there are websites that explain more. The white blood cells travel around the lymphatic system fighting the bacteria and viruses. Its these viruses and bacteria that make feel unwell.
As the lymphatic system has no pump to move lymph, it relies on muscles contracting and relaxing and body movement to move lymph to veins at the base of the neck where lymph containing waste is returned into the bloodstream. Once the lymphatic waste is in the circulatory system, the heart pumps the waste to the kidneys where it is excreted with urine, and via the bowels. In addition, waste is also exhaled from the lungs and sweat glands.
High Blood Pressure when related to the lymphatic system is an increase in blood pressure that may be caused when the lymphatics own circulatory system fails to move lymph waste, this can have an effect on the veins and arteries in the blood circulatory system from the heart.
Essential hypertension, known as primary hypertension, doesn’t have a known secondary cause. More about primary and secondary hypertension in the Home Section, titled “Types of Hypertension”.
Remember Ideal Blood Pressure has been said by the medical profession to be between 120/80mmHg and 90/60mmHg.
A sluggish lymphatic system can also have an impact on blood pressure, a blockage in the lymphatic system can cause swollen tissue, although not always, this may cause a condition called lymphodema, these are some of the symptoms:
- Weight gain.
- Swollen fingers.
- Swelling in arms & legs.
- Digestion problems.
- Felling fatigued.
- Dry itchy skin.
- Swollen lymph nodes.
- Feeling depressed.
- Feeling stiff on waking.
- Water retention.
Should you feel any of the symptoms above, be of concern to you, a doctor or health professional should, if required, be able to provide treatment. Several of the symptoms detailed above may also cause high blood pressure, referred to as secondary hypertension, not primary. Secondary hypertension is explained further in section two of this website. However, always remember, the conditions listed above do not necessarily mean your lymphatic system isn’t working as it should, there may be other conditions that need investigating.
Lymphatic massage is one option when your body fails to naturally remove waste lymph. Lymphatic drainage massage is carried out in a warm room using a therapeutic massage treatment, performed with light, long strokes to specific areas of the body, to move the lymph waste from your body which in-turn reduces unwanted toxins. It is possible that lymph drainage can assist in lowering blood pressure.
There are six components that make up the lymphatic system as detailed below:
The Thoracic Duct, also referred to as the left lymphatic duct is the bodies largest lymphatic vessel, which can be compared to veins, carry more than 70% of waste from lymph nodes. This waste is emptied into the subclavian veins, which takes this waste, together with blood to the heart. In turn the heart pumps the lymph and fresh blood into the bloodstream, waste is excreted from the body via the kidneys, bowels, lungs and skin. There is a right lymphatic duct, draining fluid from other parts of the upper body, including the right arm, right side of neck and head etc.
Lymph Nodes, are a part of the lymphatic circulatory system, they’re also part of the immune system, their function is to filter dangerous substances, bacteria, viruses etc. Plus, fight infection, destroying germs, filter out waste and dead cells which are carried in lymph fluid through the lymphatic vessels to the thoracic duct and to the heart.
Lymphatic vessels , which carry lymph fluid through the lymphatic system, can be likened to veins, but only because they both carry fluids. Veins are part of the circulatory system, and carry blood to the heart, have one-way valves to stop backflow. Lymphatic vessels take lymph to the heart. However, as the lymphatic system is not a circulatory system, these vessels are sealed at one end and have one-way valves to stop the backflow of lymph fluid.
The Thymus, gland is the main organ of the lymphatic system, located between the breast bone and the heart. Although the thymus is responsible for other functions connected with the endocrine system, it’s mainly connected with the immune system. This gland assists the development of cells specific to the immune system called T Lymphocytes, these T Cells are part of the body’s immune system, and apart from other functions, T Cells can kill cells that may turn into cancer cells.
The spleen, is the largest lymphatic organ in the body, located just above the kidneys. The spleen is responsible for the amount of red blood cells in the body, removing damaged old blood cells together with any foreign matter that may cause infection with white blood cells, together with macrophages which are a type of large specialised white blood cells, they act like an army digesting any foreign substances, cellular debris, cancer cells and any matter not conducive to a healthy body.
Tonsils together with adenoids are a part of the lymphatic system, the immune system, they work by trapping germs inhaled through the nose and mouth. Unlike other lymph nodes which are beneath the skin, tonsils which are lymph nodes, are visible in the throat. This begs the question, what are the implications when tonsils and adenoids are removed? From the research I’ve carried out, opinions differ slightly, some research indicates the tonsils are no longer needed when people become adults. From the information I’ve read, the consensus of opinions is that once tonsils and adenoids are removed, there doesn’t seem to be a negative effect on the immune system.
Your Lymphatic vessels (Veins) dispose of the fluids (Lymph) into your venous blood stream. As you may have read you have miles of veins and arteries, however you only have around 650 lymph nodes in your body. Unlike your blood system which relies on the heart to circulate, the lymph system doesn’t have a pump, as explained above, lymph is moved around the body by your daily activity, it’s when you sit down or confined to bed your lymph waste doesn’t get drained so easily from the body.
Lymph Nodes that have become swollen can be an indication of disease, and together with other symptoms can assist a doctor in diagnosing underlying conditions. There are on average around 650 lymph nodes in the human body, around 300 lymph nodes are located around the area of the abdomen, the groin and under the armpits account for some 110. There are a large number of lymph nodes around the neck, the remainder are in other areas of the body.
Swollen lymph nodes can be caused by several conditions, some minor, some serious, always best to get them checked. Lymph nodes when enlarged or swollen indicate infection caused by bacteria, a virus or other microorganisms. These intruders are then attacked by white blood cells, all of this causes the lymph node to enlarge or swell.
One interesting fact, people often refer to swollen lymph nodes as swollen lymph glands, this is incorrect. Lymph nodes are not glands as they do not secrete or produce any substances. They contain immune cells (White Blood Cells) and act as filters of the lymph fluid carrying infection, bacteria, viruses etc. There are in principal two circulatory systems in the human body.
- Human blood is continuously being circulated by the heart around the miles if arteries and veins in the body, taking around 60 seconds to complete each round trip.
- The other is the Lymphatic system, although it’s referred to as a circulatory system, veins in the lymphatic system do not circulate, in fact, each lymphatic vein is sealed one end and has non-return valves to stop the backflow of lymph.
When the question is asked about the body’s circulatory system, many thoughts turn to the circulatory system that takes red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma from the heart, through the network of arteries, capillaries, veins, portal veins, not forgetting through the lungs to exhale waste and bring fresh oxygenated blood to the heart to start the journey over again.
It’s this circulatory system that transports blood to the organs in your body, carrying nutrients, electrolytes, hormones, oxygen and in turn carbon dioxide to help keep your body nourished and helps to maintain your immune system that fights infection and disease. The circulatory system is also covered in section one. “Facts” and other sections within this website.
Your heart is the powerhouse of your body pumping blood from the left ventricle passing through the aortic valve to the aorta artery, starting its journey through the thousands of miles of arteries veins and capillaries returning to the right ventricle to be re-oxygenated by your lungs, ready to start the same journey every moment of your life.
Your heart pumps around 2000 gallons of blood around your circulatory system every day, divide that by 24, equals 83 gallons an hour, divide by 60 equals 1.38 gallons an hour, that’s around 11 pints (6.3 Litres. These numbers are based on an average body weight, if the body weighs more, there is more blood, likewise a smaller person would have less volume of blood.
Another question is, where does blood come from, how is it made? It is the body’s bone marrow that makes red and white blood cells. This brings another subject into the frame known as “Stem Cells”, from the research I’ve carried out, it’s such a complex interesting subject that could take a life time to understand. However, I now know that blood stem cells, also called Haematopoietic stem cells produce different cells found in red blood cells and white blood cells required for the body’s immune system. White blood cells increase in number when the body has an infection. Another interesting fact is that stem cells don’t die, they can renew or copy themselves.
The other component making up your volume of blood is plasma. Your body is approximately 45% red blood cells, 1% to 2% white blood cells the remainder is plasma which is made up of different components. 95% of plasma is water, some of the remaining 5% is made up of ions, nutrients hormones, minerals, glucose.
Your arteries as explained stretch for miles’ through your body, red oxygenated blood leaving your heart via the left ventricle goes into one of the largest arteries in your body called the Aorta, this branches off supplying blood to the upper part of your body, then descends through the diaphragm to the abdomen, the pelvis and then to the lower limbs. As you may notice in the picture above the arteries keep branching off like a tree, at each branch they get smaller and smaller until they branch into arterioles and then to capillaries, at this point capillaries join allowing blood to start the return journey back to the heart via the miles of venous veins.
Your veins are blood vessels carrying blood back to the heart, unlike arterial blood which is coloured red, blood returning to the heart is tinged blue. There are two routes into the heart chambers, the vein returning blood from the upper part of your body, (the chest, upper limbs and the head) is called the Superior Vena Cava, the vein returning blood from the lower body, (the stomach, liver, kidneys and lower limbs) is called the Inferior Vena Cava, you can see where the veins come into the heart on the illustration earlier in this section
Your lungs receive deoxygenated blood directly from your heart via two pulmonary arteries, the right pulmonary artery brings deoxygenated blood to the right lung, the left pulmonary artery brings deoxygenated blood to the left lung, the pulmonary arteries are the only arteries that carry deoxygenated blood.
The lungs exchange carbon dioxide and other waste with fresh oxygenated blood that will be returned to the heart through the left and right pulmonary veins, the only veins that carry oxygenated blood. The heart then pumps fresh oxygenated blood through the circulatory system to organs that keep you alive. More on the circulatory system in section five of this website.
The next question is “How does the oxygen we breathe get into our blood stream” We have two lungs; the left lung is slightly smaller to allow space for the heart. Two thin layers cover each lung called the pleura, one layer is attached to the chest wall, the other encases the lung. The inside of the lung looks like a sponge. When we breathe, air travels down our windpipe through the bronchial tubes which keep dividing up to thirty-four times, ending at the bronchiole which connects to the alveoli. There are around 300 million alveoli in our lungs, it is here that the transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged, what is amazing is the thickness of the wall between the alveoli and the blood stream is around one micron thick, that’s really thin, one micron is one millionth of one metre. To give a more visual comparison, a human hair on average is between 20 and 170 microns thick! Capillaries wrap themselves around each alveolus, the capillary brings oxygen deficient blood from the heart and exchanges it with oxygen rich red blood, this oxygen rich red blood is absorbed by a chemical called haemoglobin within the red blood cells that circulates around your body.
Smoking has a negative impact on the circulatory system. There are around 300 million alveoli sacs within the lungs that are critical in the transfer of deoxygenated blood, carbon dioxide, waste from the body, and waste from the lymphatic system, then taking fresh oxygenated blood back to the heart and circulatory system. When people inhale tobacco smoke they also inhale more than 4000 chemicals, these chemicals, cyanide, arsenic and more, travel down the bronchial tubes until they reach the alveoli which become blocked with the thick tar like substance inside the lungs. It restricts the exchange of deoxygenated blood and waste, with fresh oxygenated blood that keeps everyone alive. It’s the restriction in the lungs that eventually make it difficult to breathe which causes other life-threatening conditions. A lot more on smoking in section ten and sixteen.
A HEALTHY LUNG
A DISEASED LUNG
THE LINK BELOW TAKES YOU TO A GREAT WEBSITE THAT EXPLAINS MORE ABOUT THE LYMPHATIC SYSTEMUSE THE PUBLIC AND PRIVATE CHATS ROOMS TO ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT ANY CONDITIONS.