According to the National Institute of Health, The overall function of the immune system is to prevent or limit infection. An example of this principle is found in immune-compromised people, including those with genetic immune disorders, immune-debilitating infections like HIV, and even pregnant women, who are susceptible to a range of microbes that typically do not cause infection in healthy individuals.
The immune system can distinguish between normal, healthy cells and unhealthy cells by recognizing a variety of “danger” cues called danger-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs). Cells may be unhealthy because of infection or because of cellular damage caused by non-infectious agents like sunburn or cancer. Infectious microbes such as viruses and bacteria release another set of signals recognized by the immune system called pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs).
When the immune system first recognizes these signals, it responds to address the problem. If an immune response cannot be activated when there is sufficient need, problems arise, like infection. On the other hand, when an immune response is activated without a real threat or is not turned off once the danger passes, different problems arise, such as allergic reactions and autoimmune disease.
The immune system is complex and pervasive. There are numerous cell types that either circulate throughout the body or reside in a particular tissue. Each cell type plays a unique role, with different ways of recognizing problems, communicating with other cells, and performing their functions. By understanding all the details behind this network, researchers may optimize immune responses to confront specific issues, ranging from infections to cancer.
One of the key contributors to maintaining a healthy immune system is the lymphatic system, a network of vessels and tissues composed of lymph, an extracellular fluid, and lymphoid organs, such as lymph nodes. The lymphatic system is a conduit for travel and communication between tissues and the bloodstream. Immune cells are carried through the lymphatic system and converge in lymph nodes, which are found throughout the body.
Lymph nodes are a communication hub where immune cells sample information brought in from the body. For instance, if adaptive immune cells in the lymph node recognize pieces of a microbe brought in from a distant area, they will activate, replicate, and leave the lymph node to circulate and address the pathogen. Thus, doctors may check patients for swollen lymph nodes, which may indicate an active immune response.
The common lymphoid progenitor stem cell leads to adaptive immune cells—B cells and T cells—that are responsible for mounting responses to specific microbes based on previous encounters (immunological memory). Natural killer (NK) cells also are derived from the common lymphoid progenitor and share features of both innate and adaptive immune cells, as they provide immediate defenses like innate cells but also may be retained as memory cells like adaptive cells. B, T, and NK cells also are called lymphocytes.1
The lymphatic system has the primary role of protecting the body against outside threats — such as infections, bacteria and cancer cells — while helping keep fluid levels in balance.
The best way to protect the complex series of criss-crossing lymphatic vessels and “nodes” that span almost the entire body (except for the central nervous system). The body protects us from infection and illness by trapping microbes found in our tissues (mostly bacteria we pick up from the environment) and sending them to the lymph nodes, where they become “trapped.” This keeps the bacteria from spreading and causing further problems like viruses. Once the bacteria are trapped, lymphocytes attack and kill the bacteria.
A very important job of the immune system is creating lymphocytes, some of which make antibodies, which are proteins that destroy germs and stop infections or mutated cells from spreading. (1)
How to Maintain a Strong Lymphatic System (2)
Ignoring the health of your lymphatic system means your immunity is going to suffer, and you’re more likely to deal with common illnesses and even long-term health problems. Here are five ways to boost your immune system and, moreover, support a healthy lymphatic system:
1. Reduce Inflammation and Improve Circulation
Eating a healthy diet, exercising, not smoking, getting enough sleep and reducing stress are all critical for lowering oxidative stress and halting the body’s natural detoxification processes. The circulatory system and lymphatic system rely on one another.
While blood circulates around the body via blood vessels, some fluid naturally leaks out and makes its way into tissue. This is a normal process that brings nutrients, water and proteins to cells. The fluid also gathers cells’ waste products, like bacteria or even dead or damaged cells like cancer cells.
Tissues located around the body can become inflamed and painful when circulation slows and inflammation builds. A healthy lymphatic system nourishes muscle, joint and other tissue because lymph vessels have tiny openings that let gases, water and nutrients pass through to surrounding cells (called interstitial fluid). The fluid then drains back into the lymph vessels, then goes to the lymph glands to be filtered and finally to a larger lymphatic vessel located at the base of the neck called the thoracic duct.
The thoracic duct dumps cleaned lymph fluid back into the blood, and on and on the cycle goes — which is why circulation is important for keeping the system running smoothly, otherwise tissue can become swollen with excess waste. To keep circulation pumping and the lymphatic system functioning optimally, it’s important to load up on all the essential nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and antioxidants, you need.
2. Follow an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
The more nutrient-dense your diet, and the less chemicals entering your body, the better your lymphatic system can work. Foods that put stress on the digestive, circulatory and immune systems include common allergens (like dairy products, gluten, soy, shellfish or nightshades, for example), low-quality animal products, refined vegetable oils and processed foods that contain chemical toxins.
Anti-inflammatory foods, on the other hand, supply much-needed nutrients and antioxidants while also lowering free radical damage (also called oxidation stress) that ages the body and lowers immunity.
Some of the key high-antioxidant foods to focus on include:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.)
- Omega-3 foods like salmon and wild seafood
- Nuts and seeds (chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin, etc.)
- Unrefined oils like extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil
- Herbs and spices (ginger, turmeric, garlic, for example)
The lymphatic system works best when you move your body, which helps keep fluids circulating and nutrients reaching your cells. There’s a reason why being stagnant causes you to feel more achy, stiff and prone to becoming sick.
Any type of regular exercise and movement (such as simply walking more) is good for keeping lymph fluid flowing, but some exercise seems to be particularly beneficial, including yoga (which twists the body and helps fluid drain), high-intensity interval training (also called HIIT workouts, which is great for improving circulation) or “rebounding.“
Rebounding is growing in popularity and involves jumping a small trampoline that you can keep inside your house. It only takes up a few feet, and just five to 10 minutes of jumping daily can really get your heart rate up and help keep your lymphatic system running smoothly.
4. Red Light Therapy (3)
Utilizing whole body photobiomodulation therapy increases blood flow throughout your entire body. It rids your body of free radicals, reduces inflammation, stimulates lymph nodes by accelerating cleansing of lymph fluids back into the blood system and delivers mitochondrial healing for healthier body cell regeneration. Since your skin is the outer protective layer for defending against germs, bacteria and harmful UV-Rays, red light therapy will also improve skin conditions and produce collagen.
Laying in a Prism Light Pod for 15-minute automated sessions with optimized red lightwave settings 2-3 times a week is a natural non-invasive method for boosting your immune system. It will put your body in a healthier position to fight against the common cold, influenza and other viruses including Covid-19.
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