The Gut-Lymph Connection
To first understand the connection of the gut and the lymphatic system, it should be known about the functions of the two. The gut (gastrointestinal tract) processes food, with digestion beginning with the mouth, and is either absorbed through the body or passed out as feces. The lymphatic system is a network of many different paths and vessels, which carry the lymphatic fluid through the body. It is essential for absorption and transportation of nutrients, bacteria, viruses, hormones, and numerous medications from the digestive tract to the bloodstream. Lymphocytes are in this fluid, which are the white blood cells. Lymphocytes protect the body and are part of the immune system. They fight infections by producing antibodies, and help remove bacteria, viruses, and other foreign invaders.
The GALT (gut-associated lymphoid tissue) is also part of the lymphatic system, and is essential for protecting the body and creating immune security. The GALT is the biggest mass of lymphoid tissue in the body. A special feature of the intestine is its ability to process antigens from food or commensal bacteria and not create an inflammatory response, all the while being able to recognize and respond to pathogenic stimuli . With the microbiome having fast contact with food, it is exposed to ‘good’ and ‘bad’ antigens. This essentially creates a barrier of dangerous toxins from getting into our body- similar to how the skin works on our body. There is evidence that intestinal bacteria have an important role in maturation of the immune system .
The intestinal epithelial barrier along with GALT tissue plays a key role in controlling the equilibrium and creating homeostasis. If this is not in harmony with antigens, people who are susceptible can obtain intestinal and extraintestinal autoimmune disorders, as well as allergies. Some of these issues from the chronic inflammation, include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.When a person consumes food, the macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrates) are broken down by enzymes in the small intestine and stomach. The protein turns into different amino acids, the fat turns into fatty acids, and the carbohydrates turn into glucose. These micronutrients transport across the GALT layer into the bloodstream and then out to the proper tissues . Then in the intestines, nutrient absorption and amino acid metabolism take place. This is important because protein supports the immune system by powering T-cells. T-cells in turn attack invaders that can cause infection. When the GALT is running smoothly, the person is less likely to be sick, versus when the GALT is weak, there are less nutrients absorbed by the body and the risk of infection increases due to the “bad” items that make their way into the bloodstream. The undigested food is not able to work through the GALT when it is not properly functioning, so it gets eliminated in feces. This can create malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies.
For more information about the lymphatic system, here are 3 Masterclasses from the Lymphatic Rescue Summit that I hosted. I highly recommend you watch these. One hundred thousand (yes! 100,000) people attended the summit and these were three of the most watched masterclasses, packed with useful information. If you are interested in liver health, as we all should be, watch these 3 free masterclasses:
- Lymphatic Truth Bombs with Kelly Kennedy
- Liver Lymphatics Masterclass with Jay Davidson ,DC, PScD
- Going Outside the Box on the Lymphatic and Glymphatic System Masterclass with Dr. Christine Schaffner
Access these 3 masterclasses HERE.