The human lymphatic system

The human lymphatic system

The human lymphatic system - what is it for?

The lymphatic system is known to the medical layperson primarily through the swollen, painful lymph nodes that develop in the course of inflammation, e.g. Form in the neck area, in the armpits, the back of the knees or in the groin area. The nodes are connected by the lymph vessels, which run parallel to the blood vessels. The spleen and thymus are also part of this organ system. Problems with the lymphatic system arise both primary and secondary, for example in the context of operations such as breast cancer. The history of the discovery and research of this system also exemplifies the history of scientification in medicine. While conventional medicine often reacts to disorders with surgical measures (removal of lymph nodes or spleen), the lymphatic system is supposed to be relieved and supported in naturopathic practice.

Structure and function of the lymphatic system

The lymphatic system consists of its own specially composed fluid, the conduction pathways, the lymph nodes, the spleen and the thymus.

1. Lymph fluid and “milk juice” (chyle) Lymph fluid is a watery, light yellow liquid. It consists of liquid with substances that have not been resorbed from the tissue back into the venous pathways (approx. 10 percent of the tissue fluid), including proteins and fats from the digestive system, foreign bodies, pathogens and blood that has clotted after a tissue injury . After eating high-fat food, the lymph can then look very milky-cloudy - this is known as the chyle. It is characteristic of the lymphatic system that it begins blindly in the periphery - so one always has an influence on the lymphatic system when treating the interstitium (tissue between the organs).

2. The lymphatic vessels The lymphatic system begins “blindly” in the tissue and runs almost parallel to the venous system for drainage in our body by returning its lymph fluid to our bloodstream. With its pathways, it is the most important transport system for nutrients and waste substances, alongside our bloodstream. From a topographical point of view, the superficial, the deep and the system of the organ lymphatic vessels are connected to one another and the deeper in our body the lymph vessels are, the larger they become. This system leads its fluid via the lymph nodes, which are like control points, into the vein corners: the "internal jugular vein" (internal jugular vein) and into the subclavian vein. This means that the lymph fluid flows from the right arm, the right half of the head, the right part of the lungs and the right middle membrane (mediastinum) into the right vein angle and the rest (the left side of the regions mentioned above) and from the legs and abdomen in the left vein angle.

3. The lymph nodes The lymph nodes (we probably have 50-100 in our organism) represent a filter and examination station for the lymph for substances that are harmful to the body. Except in the central nervous system there are lymph nodes everywhere in our body. The purpose of lymph node accumulations (back of the knee / armpit / neck / groin) is, among other things, that toxins and foreign substances cannot penetrate further into our organism and that vital organs such as e.g. the brain will thus be protected. Penetrating fluid is led to the outer area of ​​the lymph node and from there slowly inside. Inside a lymph node there are accumulated lymphocytes and so-called phagocytes. Among other things, they stimulate the proliferation of lymphocytes, which can sometimes be felt well from the outside on lymph nodes, since this can lead to swelling of a lymph node. The specially formed lymphocytes are then distributed throughout the entire organism to combat the foreign substances.

4. The spleen - a superfluous organ? The spleen is the only lymphatic organ that is included in the bloodstream in the left upper abdomen. Prenatal blood formation takes place there. Later it is used to break down old blood cells, to store blood platelets (thrombocytes), to break down coagulation products and to produce blood components that serve the immune system. Because other organs can take over these tasks in adulthood, the spleen is of secondary importance in academic medicine, although coagulation disorders and increasing susceptibility to infections can often be observed after surgical removal.

5. The thymus classroom for young immune cells The thymus is located in the anterior chest above the pericardium. It matures fully up to puberty and then recedes again. Because important defense cells are formed there, the thymus is also known as the school of immune cells. In addition, as a glandular organ, it should produce hormones that are useful for the immune system. However, little attention is paid to the thymus in conventional therapy.

The story of the discovery of the lymphatic system Hippocrates was the first to mention the lymphatic system, or lymph node collections, in his work "On Restricting the Joints" in the 5th century. Gaspare Asselli (1581-1626), an Italian surgeon and anatomist, first described this system in 1622. He discovered it on specimens from dogs and called the lymph ducts milk vessels, probably because of the color of the lymph fluid.

At the beginning of the 17th century, the statements of Clarissimus Galenus (approx. 129- approx. 216), also called Galenios or Galenos of Pergamon, which had been valid for centuries and which were a mixture of his anatomical knowledge of animal carcasses and interpretations of the functioning of our organism, were below partly considerable resistance, discarded. His view of a dynamic balance of our organism and the connection of philosophical and material principles was rejected due to his faulty anatomical and physiological basis.

William Harvey (1578-1657), an English physician and anatomist, gave the first description of the blood vessel system in 1628 in his work "Anatomical Studies on the Movement of the Heart and Blood". His colleague, the Italian anatomist Marcellus Malpighias, was later able to use microscopic studies to demonstrate how the arterial blood gets into the venous part using the capillaries. These two were the first to represent a conception of the doctrine of juices other than that of Von Galen's and generally accepted view.

"When Harvey solved the circulation of the blood, he only reached the banks of the rivers of life." Arthur Taylor Still, founder of osteopathy

Johannes Wesling (Johann Vesling, Veslingius) (1598-1649), a German doctor, professor of anatomy and surgery, discovered and sketched parts of the lymphatic system (at that time still called "milk veins") during his abundant dissections.

The French anatomist Jean Pecquet (1622-1674) discovered the cisterna chyli, the breast duct and the connection to the venous system in 1651 using the preparation of a dog. The Swede Olof Rudbeck (1630-1708) was the first to describe the lymphatic system well in 1652, in which he even discovered it as a separate organ system.

Diseases and complaints of the lymphatic system

Lymphatic system disorders can be both benign and malignant in nature. The benign diseases that are also easily accessible to naturopathic methods include e.g. tonsillar angina, in which the tonsils are acutely inflamed. If the outflow of lymph fluid is disturbed, it can lead to a blockage. Then there is swelling in the affected area (often the legs) due to the accumulation of fluid - the so-called lymphedema. The congestion can be caused by removal of lymph nodes (e.g. as part of a breast operation), worm diseases in tropical countries or other diseases such as causing leukemia. Both lymph vessels and lymph nodes can become inflamed - bacteria are usually responsible for this. One speaks then of a lymphangitis or a lymphadenitis.

Serious diseases of the lymphatic system are malignant (malignant) lymphomas. These include Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and, as special forms, plasmacytoma and chronic lymphatic leukemia.

The rupture of the spleen, which is caused by a blunt trauma from external influences, should be mentioned as a disease of the spleen, e.g. from falls, kicks, blows. This can take hours, days, or weeks to cause symptoms, which sometimes makes diagnosis very difficult. Part 2: The lymphatic system in naturopathic practice (Thorsten Fischer, naturopath & Jeanette Viñals Stein, naturopath, December 28, 2009)

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