The fluid and white cells that leak from the capillaries pass through the extra-cellular spaces between cells. These spaces drain into more organized channels called lymphatic vessels. The fluid inside these vessels is referred to as lymph and contains white cells, fats, proteins, and other material derived from cell waist or digestion. The lymph travels through the lymphatic vessels, loosely driven by the diminished pressure of the capillaries. These lymphatic vessels eventually drain into the veins. All lymph from the abdomen and below drains into the thoracic duct, the largest lymphatic vessel in the body. This duct drains into the junction between the left internal jugular and left subclavian veins. Lymph from the chest, arms and above drains into either the thoracic duct (described above) or into the right lymphatic duct, which drains into the junction between the right internal jugular and right subclavian veins.
The lymph system's main functions are providing nutrients to cells, removing waste from cells, and providing transportation and reservoirs for white blood cells, which wage war against infection.
Small clusters of lymphatic tissue, most numerous in the armpits, neck and groin. White cells congregate in these nodes, devouring intruders that come along. During an infection, the white cells rapidly multiply within the nodes causing them to swell, and then travel through the lymphatic system to the blood and the rest of the body to wage war on the infection. Swollen nodes can be noticed along the sides of the neck or in the breasts. If you see swellings from the side of your neck, it could indicate mono or some other infection. Swellings in the breast could indicate and infection or breast cancer, so check your breasts monthly.
Because lymph fluid reaches all regions of your body and disposes waste, it is an unfortunate distributor of cancer. Cancer cells travel through your lymph system from lymph node to lymph node, spreading many types of cancers. So, early detection before the cancer enters the lymph system is always key. Men, check your testes once a month. Women, check your breasts once a month. Also regularly check your skin for skin cancer.(See Tanning, Sunburn, Moles & Skin Cancer)
Breathe deeply and produce muscular movement. In other words, exercise! You have 4 times more lymph fluid than blood, but your lymph system has no pump of its own. The circulation of your lymph system is improved and powered by muscular movement and more importantly by breathing. Deep breathing improves the circulation of your lymph fluid, which increases the evacuation of toxins, which allows your cells to last longer and thus allows you to live longer. So start a cardiovascular exercise program that cleanses your body every day by increasing lymph circulation.
You can also do breathing exercises to further your lymph circulation. Here's how...