How does the Lymphatic System work?


The Lymphatic System is an efficient, intricate, and vital organ system.  Our bodies have two main circulatory systems transporting fluid, cells, nutrients, and waste:  the cardiovascular or blood system and the lymphatic system.  They are like two mass transient systems with passengers, routes, and destinations.  Both are made up of vessels--the train tracks and roadways.  And passengers--cells, molecules, and fluids--are a part of this system.  These systems transport passengers from all over the body.  The blood system is like a high-speed train, the "Non-stop express."  The blood system carries cells like red blood cells, immune cells, platelets, water, nutrients, oxygen, and carbon dioxide.  The trains depart from the heart--the Grand Central Station--and branch off via smaller and smaller vessels to destinations all over the body.  At some destinations, passengers get off at capillaries, the smallest vessel in the bodies.  At some locations, passengers get off and deliver nutrients and supplies.  At other locations like the lungs, new passengers like oxygen hop onboard.  Each train returns to the heart to be pumped out to the body again.  Only 85% of the passengers riding the blood system get back on.  The other 15% is picked up by the lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system is like a high-tech taxi system that helps several important systems:  the blood system, the immune system, and the digestive system.  First, the lymphatic system returns extra fluid to the blood system.  When passengers are picked up at the lymphatic capillaries, they are called lymph.  Lymph is made up of proteins, fats, immune cells, and extra fluid that have leaked out of the blood system, which needs to be returned.  These capillaries merge with lymphatic vessels which join into larger trunks and ducts which, finally drain into the heart returning the lymph to the blood system.  This is the normal journey of fluid of the body:  from the blood to the tissues, to lymphatics, then back to the blood or heart.  

Second, the lymphatic system helps the immune system fight infection.  On its journey back to the heart, lymph is stopped by many strategically placed checkpoints of the immune system, which helps the body fight infection.  These are called the lymphatic organs.  They include your tonsils, adenoids, Peyer's patches, hundreds of lymph nodes, and spleen which acts like the largest lymph node, the thymus, and bone marrow.  At these checkpoints, immune cells look for threats.  If a threat is detected, the lymphatic organ calls for help.  Extra lymph floods into the cell carrying masses of immune cells.  Increased amounts of lymph causes the organ to swell up.  After the threat is eliminated, the swelling in the organ goes back down,.  

Finally, the lymphatic system helps the digestive system.  At the small intestine, nutrients get on the blood system.  However, some nutrients like fats are too large to get on the blood system and must be picked up by the lymphatic system.  Since this lymph is rich in fats it's called chyle.  Chyle is affected by the kinds of food you eat.  For example, a juicy steak makes chyle much richer in fat and protein compared to a salad.  Chyle travels up the central lymphatics--the main central highway of the lymphatics--up to the heart, enters the bloodstream, and finally travels to the liver where its large rich nutrients are digested.  

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  • Last Updated Feb 22, 2024
  • Views 1
  • Answered By Tamiko Kemp

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