How the Lymphatic System Works

The lymphatic system plays an important role in both removing wastes and toxins from the body and in maintaining its immunity against pathogens. It does this by circulating lymph—a transparent fluid containing white blood cells and proteins—around the body and draining interstitial fluid from between the cells. That extracellular space is where the cells dump their wastes and where other toxins and debris can accumulate. If this gunk builds up, we begin to feel stiff, swollen, heavy, and lifeless.

Lymph channels draw this fluid up from the limbs and down from the head toward the chest, where it dumps into the circulatory system via the veins under the collarbones. Lymph channels run throughout the entire body—both close to the surface and also deep within the torso around every organ. The lymph from the legs and pelvis, for example, drains into the thoracic duct, which originates in the abdomen and travels up the chest to the left collarbone.