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The lymphatic system does not 'de-toxify' your body

Updated: May 17, 2023

Also, there is no such thing as a lymph gland, the parasympathetic nervous system cannot be directly simulated by MLD (or anything else) and

MLD does not remove fat cells from the tissues (sorry about that one).

More than any other system the lymphatic system is misunderstood, mislabelled and mis-taught and still a quite a mystery. So lets clarify a few things.

Misconception numero uno: The main role of the lymphatic system is to detoxify the body and eliminate anything harmful

The lymphatic system doesn't detoxify anything, the liver does most of the detoxification work in your body with a lot of help from your kidneys. Any your liver, kidneys, skin and lungs are the organs of elimination.

But its easy to understand the confusion since the lymphatic system is an essential part of your detoxification 'support team'.

The lymph vessels are the secure transport unit. They collect cellular wastes, foreign bodies and toxic molecules from the tissue spaces throughout your body, and then safely transport them to your lymph nodes without letting them infect or invade any other organs along the way. Lymph nodes are passive filtering stations which house another essential member of the detoxification team, the lymphoid tissue. Lymphoid tissue is rich in all types of immune cells and also found in other organs, especially underlying all mucous membranes. These lymphoid aggregates detect foreign material in the lymph (or crossing the mucous membrane) and render it harmless, but they don't detoxify drugs or eliminate anything from the body.

Major misnomer: Lymph glands

I'm always disappointed when I hear a medical person talk about lymph 'glands'. Glands are endocrine or exocrine organs which produce a product to be used elsewhere such as hormones, or sweat. Lymph nodes do not produce anything. As described above, they are filtering stations and the home barracks for much of your immune army.

MLD removes fat cells from the tissues... I wish!!!!

How many times have I been asked if MLD can help reduce fat??? So much confusion about this one. The lymphatic system absorbs the long-chain fatty acids from your digested food, and this is an essential pathway for fat soluble vitamins to enter the body. If your fat cells are ruptured for any reason the spilled lipid globules now floating freely in the tissue spaces is removed by the lymph vessels, along with everything else that shouldn't be there. And MLD can improve the appearance of fat, in particular cellulite which is generally accompanied by localised high protein oedema and changes to the connective tissue septa. So doing MLD certainly helps to smooth this out, but it really shines when we use it to help the tissue to recover from invasive weight loss procedures such as liposuction and abdominoplasty.

But the one that really sets my teeth on edge is reading in a lymph drainage course manual that

"....MLD stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system".

May I just say Aarrrgghh!!

This demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the autonomic nervous system compounded by misinformation on the way MLD influences autonomic tone in the body.

Basically you have two 'automatic pilots' that work together to steer your body while you focus on other things like ordering from the dinner menu.

The sympathetic system is your flight or fight pilot, keeping you alive when anything is going wrong. The parasympathetic pilot takes the controls when you are cruising and you need to do maintenance and repair. Since it is more important to stay alive when something is going wrong than clean out the storage locker, the sympathetic pilot is the dominant one and can override the parasympathetic system whenever necessary. The parasympathetic pilot simply cannot say, I've had enough of this avoiding crashing now, I'm going to take over so I can take the out garbage and we can all have a rest. Just can't happen - thankfully!

So where does this misconception come from? In Vodder-speak we talk about the sympathicolytic effect of MLD. Sympathic- (sympathetic system) o-lytic (to disintegrate or rupture).

Sympathicolysis was coined by Professor Heutzschenreuter who did a lot of research on the Vodder technique last century and measured the profound effect of MLD on reducing sympathetic tonus.

And this is where the crossed wires occur - because if you can convince your sympathetic pilot that there is no danger, the controls are naturally handed over the parasympathetic pilot. But this can only occur by a reduction in sympathetic activity - not by stimulating the parasympathetic system directly. It is the very gentle, relaxing and non-invasive nature of MLD that allows the sympathetic system to be calmed and therefore parasympathetic activity may increase. Heutzschenreuter showed that within 5-minutes of beginning MLD there was a significant reduction in sympathetic activity in BOTH the client AND the therapist - so MLD is good for the practitioner too!


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