People are often surprised when I tell them that the number one function of the Lymphatic System is to transport immune cells around the body. Basically, your lymphatic system IS your immune system. And yet if you go to the doctor because you are constantly getting sick you could be offered a script for antibiotics because they "may" help, but if you ask them about getting a Lymphatic Drainage treatment their response generally goes along the lines of ... "well, it can't hurt you I guess". You can't blame the doctors though, my lecturer (Neil Piller, himself a Doctor and lecturer in medicine) says that GPs have one class on the lymphatic system in all of their training. That's one class, not one semester - four hours. I have no words for this. It makes my blood boil. Apparently it's exactly the same for nutrition - one class. OK, I'm going to move on because I get really riled up thinking about that.
So, what does it mean to say the lymphatic system transports immune cells? Immune cells are stored in lymph nodes for the most part, though there are also some circulating immune cells that do exactly that - circulate around the body looking for infection. Lymph nodes can also be referred to as "glands" and that's probably how you are most familiar with them - your can sometimes feel your glands come up when you are sick, particularly in illnesses like glandular fever (or Mono if you're from the US) or tonsillitis. You go to the doctor and he has a feel in your neck, under your armpits or in the groin area to see if the nodes are "up" (these are some of the areas where there are large collections of nodes). And this is a normal thing to happen when your body is fighting infection - the body is signalled to produce more antibodies so the nodes kick into action to make them (getting bigger in the process) and then circulate them through the body to the site of the infection, via you guessed it - the lymphatic system.
What can happen is that with the winter weather our lymphatic systems can become sluggish and inefficient. That can be due to lots of different things e.g. cold temperatures or exercising less. When this happens the immune cells circulating around the body aren't cleared out and replaced with new ones as efficiently as they should be, so the body is slower to respond to an attack of a virus and we succumb to illness.
A regular maintenance session of lymphatic drainage massage helps to stimulate the immune system, increasing circulation and moving out the old immune cells and replacing them with freshly produced immune cells which are more effective at fighting off the viruses. Immune cells circulating in the lymphatic system can target a pathogen and transport it to the nearest lymph nodes where that cell is neutralised and then the waste material is transported through the heart and kidneys then excreted out of the body. It's a very efficient system when it is fully functioning.
I suggest that people who want to keep on top of their immune systems have a regular Lymphatic Drainage massage. If you are generally healthy and are looking to maintain that health, then I suggest a session at the change of season, so once every three months. If your immune system is more compromised, then I'd aim for once a month, at least during the colder months when we can all be a little more run down.
If you'd like more information on ways to build your immune system using lymphatic drainage please send me a message.