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Common Sinus Problems

Is your nose frequently congested? Do you have post-nasal drip? Are you constantly feeling sinus pain or pressure? All of these symptoms may be indicators of a sinus problem. Below, I explain what the sinuses are, the different types of sinus problems that can occur, and what you can do to find relief.

The sinuses are separated into four different categories, and they are as follows:

• Frontal Sinuses
• Sphenoid Sinuses
• Ethmoid Sinuses
• Maxillary Sinus

The frontal sinuses are located in the low-centre are of your forehead, the ethmoid sinuses are located between your eyes, the sphenoid sinuses are located in the bones just behind your nose/between the eyes, and your maxillary sinuses (which are the largest) are located in your cheekbones. The sinuses are lined with a soft, pink tissue known as mucosa; while the inside of our nose has ridges known as turbinates, which help to humidify and filter the air we breathe in through our noses. Dividing the nose is a thin wall known as the septum.

There are many types of sinus problems that one can develop, including:

• Hay Fever (Allergic Rhinitis)
• Acute Sinusitis
• Chronic Sinusitis
• Nasal Polyps
• Deviated Septum
• Turbinate Hypertophy

The most common problem associated with the sinuses is hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis. This condition occurs most commonly during the spring season due to allergens such as pollen. However, allergic rhinitis can also develop due to pet dander and dust. Symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis include nasal congestion, sneezing, itching, and mucus. It is commonly treated with nasal sprays, such as Nasonex. People can also sometimes find relief by using over-the-counter allergy medication, such as Reactine.

Sinusitis.

Acute sinusitis is the result of a virus, bacteria, or fungi which infects the sinus cavity and causes inflammation along with other symptoms such as nasal congestion, mucus, and pain in the cheeks, forehead, and/or around the eyes. Headaches are also a common symptom with acute sinusitis. If an infection is present, patients are usually treated with a course of antibiotics. Sometimes an x-ray will be necessary to determine whether or not an infection is present. However, another telltale sign of infection is if your mucus is green in colour. Chronic sinusitis can also occur, and it is much more than just repeated sinus infections. If you have chronic sinusitis, it means that your sinuses are persistently inflamed. To help get rid of chronic sinusitis, you may need to use nasal steroids as well as saline nasal irrigation. If the aforementioned methods do not provide you any relief, your doctor will likely refer you to an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) specialist, and you may even be a candidate for endoscopic sinus surgery.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning isn’t something you necessarily hear a lot about when it comes to health, but it’s still something you should take precautions against, as well as extremely important to know the warning signs of.

First, you may be wondering, ‘What is carbon monoxide?’ It’s a gas that is produced by burning things like fuel, oil, kerosene, charcoal or wood. Whether you’re in your own home, another building, or a vehicle, it is possible to develop carbon monoxide poisoning. Next, you’re probably wondering what makes carbon monoxide so dangerous in the first place. It is dangerous because, when you breathe it in, the oxygen in your blood gets replaced by it; and when carbon monoxide binds with the blood, cells throughout the body begin to die, and crucial organs (such as the brain and heart) cease functioning. If you breathe in too much carbon monoxide, it can be deadly within a matter of minutes; and it is especially dangerous because it is not something that you can smell, see or taste at all, which is why it is so vital to know the symptoms so that you can keep yourself and others protected from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Early warning signs that you may have developed carbon monoxide poisoning can include symptoms such as headaches, nausea and dizziness. As more carbon monoxide builds up within your blood, the aforementioned symptoms will worsen, and you can also develop drowsiness, confusion, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, and even vision problems. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s essential that you do not ignore them. If you’re in an enclosed area, you should get out of that location immediately and go somewhere where there is fresh air – i.e. outside, seek immediate attention from a neighbour or passerby, and call 911. There are also cases where carbon monoxide poisoning can develop over a long period of time as a result of breathing in lower levels of this deadly gas. You may notice that you are becoming short of breath over time, as well as have mild headaches and feelings of nausea when indoors. Typically, if carbon monoxide is present where you are, others in the same area where you live or work will also experience the same symptoms. Pets may also even get sick. If your symptoms are the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, you will feel better as soon as you leave the area that is contaminated with carbon monoxide.

If it is suspected that your symptoms are the result of carbon monoxide poisoning, you can have a blood test done that measures just how much carbon monoxide there is in your blood. When it comes to treating carbon monoxide poisoning, you will be given oxygen. This can be done by breathing in oxygen through a mask, or through something known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy, in which you will lie inside a chamber that delivers high pressure oxygen to you in a much quicker way. Most people who have experienced carbon monoxide poisoning will fully recover after a few days, though there is a possibility that problems can also develop later on. If you notice any changes in your behaviour, coordination or vision, it’s important to let your doctor know.

To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, make sure you are operating vehicles and fuel-burning tools properly. It is also strongly recommended that everyone have carbon monoxide detectors in their home. For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning, click here.

COVID-19: Delta Variant – Your Questions Answered

With COVID-19 numbers trending upwards again in British Columbia, and a high percentage of those cases (as much as 95%, according to a new report from the BC CDC) now being the highly contagious and more transmissible Delta variant – particularly among those who are unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated – below are some answers to British Columbians most pressing questions.

“Is the Delta variant more contagious than previous variants of COVID-19?”
Yes, the Delta variant is nearly twice as contagious as previous variants of COVID-19. Furthermore, studies conducted in Canada and Scotland found that patients who were infected with the Delta variant were much more likely to be hospitalized than those infected with the original strain of the virus or other variants.

“Who’s most at risk of contracting the Delta variant?”
Individuals most at risk of contracting the Delta variant are those who remain unvaccinated, or those who have only received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In effort to increase the number of those who are fully vaccinated in our Province, the British Columbia government announced their #VaxForBC campaign – as well as announced a reduction in intervals between dose one and dose two (from 49 days to 28 days.)

“Am I still at risk of contracting COVID-19, or the Delta variant, if I am fully vaccinated?”
While the risk is lower for those who are fully vaccinated, it is still possible for fully vaccinated individuals to contract COVID-19 – including the highly contagious Delta variant – as vaccines are not considered 100% effective. In addition, it is also possible for fully vaccinated individuals to develop COVID-19, be asymptomatic, but pass it on to those who are not yet vaccinated or only partially vaccinated, which could result in those individuals developing severe illness.

“If I am fully vaccinated, what precautions should I still be taking to prevent contracting or spreading the Delta variant?”
While the mask mandate in British Columbia was recently lifted, it’s still recommended that individuals wear masks in most situations – such as in healthcare facilities or in other shared public spaces (i.e., shopping malls, on transit), working remote where necessary, as well as practicing good hand hygiene and physical distancing. In addition to getting vaccinated, these additional layers of protection are what will continue to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“Will I need a third COVID-19 vaccine?”
Countries like Germany and France plan on rolling out booster vaccines for those considered most vulnerable in September, while the United States and Canada are preparing for the possibility of additional doses – although this is in early discussions and has yet to be confirmed.

IBS: Foods to Avoid

Irritable Bowel Syndrome – also known as IBS – is a common chronic disorder that affects as much as 20% of the Canadian population. While the cause of IBS is unknown, it’s suspected to be the result of a combination of several different factors, including a disruption in communication between the brain and the body’s gastrointestinal tract, as well as abnormalities within the GI tract itself.

Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome can experience profuse discomfort, which can include some or all of the following symptoms:

• Abdominal pain and cramping that comes and goes
• Pain and cramping that is described as a persisting, dull ache
• Constipation
• Diarrhea
• Urgent need to have a bowel movement
• Unexplained changes in bowel habits
• Mucus in the stool
• Excessive gas
• Bloating

These symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may cause a disruption to one’s routine, such as their ability to work, go to school, or attend social functions.

While there is no specific cure for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, individuals with this condition can manage their symptoms by modifying their lifestyle. The most important change that people with IBS need to consider making starts with their diet, as certain foods can make the aforementioned symptoms worse.

Foods that someone with IBS or suspected IBS should avoid include breads and cereals that are made with refined grains, processed foods (such as cookies and potato chips), fried and fatty foods, carbonated beverages, coffee, alcohol, dairy products (such as milk and cheese), chocolate, foods that are high in protein, wheat, and foods containing insoluble fibre (often found in the skin of fruits and vegetables), as well as vegetables like beans, broccoli and cauliflower, as they can be difficult to digest and cause gas and bloating. People with IBS should also avoid eating large meals, and instead opt for eating smaller, more frequent meals as this can help to reduce abdominal cramping and prevent diarrhea. For those who suffer from IBS-related diarrhea, you should try introducing more soluble fibre into your diet. Good sources of soluble fibre include whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, brown rice, oats, barley, peeled fruits and vegetables, as well as dried fruit. If you suffer from IBS-related constipation, you may need to gradually increase your fibre intake by 2 to 3 grams each day (until you’re up to 25 to 38 grams), as well as drink plenty of water each day.

What Causes Acne?

Acne affects as many as 5.6 million Canadians, a number that accounts for 20% of the country’s population. It occurs when dead skin cells clog the pores, resulting in an accumulation of an oily substance known as sebum, which is produced by oil glands, and is one of the most common skin conditions seen by dermatologists and family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary.

Symptoms commonly associated with acne include:

• Small, red pimple-like lesions
• Redness
• Swelling/inflammation

While acne is most commonly seen on the face, it can also affect other areas of the body including the neck, shoulders, arms and back. Anyone can develop acne, but it usually begins around puberty and can last anywhere from 5 to 10 years, and even well into adulthood if it is severe enough.

There are three different stages of acne:

Mild acne: Only a few small, superficial lesions on the skin/face, which may or may not become inflamed.
Moderate acne: Larger and more inflamed red spots that cover more of the face, and may be present on other areas of the body.
Severe acne: Several spots all over the face, with acne spots being deeper into the skin including other areas of the body, such as the back.

As mentioned, acne is caused when the oil-producing glands (known as sebaceous glands) produce too much sebum, resulting in clogged pores. However, there may also be other factors that can contribute to the cause of acne, such as:

• Certain cosmetic products
• Sweating
• Overwashing
• Menstruation
• Certain foods
• Medications

Cosmetic products known to contribute to acne include foundations and blush, though it is not limited to these specific things. When purchasing cosmetics, it’s important to ensure that they are both hypoallergenic, as well as include acne-friendly terms such as non-acnegenic and non-comedogenic. When it comes to washing the skin, especially the face, washing it too much or with too harsh of a product can also lead to acne. Make sure you’re washing your face with a mild cleanser, while avoiding things like exfoliators and skin toners that contain alcohol, as these will only irritate the skin further. Certain medications such as corticosteroids, anti-convulsants, and oral contraceptives can also cause acne flare-ups. Certain foods such as spicy foods or dairy foods have also been shown to contribute to acne, and you may benefit from switching to a diet with a low glycemic index. Women also tend to notice flare-ups of acne during their menstrual cycles.

If you do have acne, you should avoid picking or popping the lesions. This can lead to bacteria entering into them, and you could develop an infection as a result. The best way to treat acne is to use what has been recommended to you by your family doctor, pharmacist, or dermatologist. In mild cases, acne can often be easily treated with over-the-counter products such as slightly medicated cleansers, creams and gels that contain the anti-inflammatory and bacteria-killing properties known as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. It’s also important that you apply these products all over the affected area, and not just the acne spots themselves. If over-the-counter medications are not enough and provide you with little to no relief, your doctor may prescribe something stronger, including antibiotics, retinoids, and other anti-inflammatory medications.

Cholesterol-Lowering Tips

We all need a little bit of cholesterol. Cholesterol is important in building the structure of our cell membranes, as well as the creation of adrenal hormones and hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, in addition to the production of vitamin D and helping our metabolism. However, it’s also possible to have too much cholesterol in the blood, which can stick to the walls of your arteries and cause them to become narrow or blocked, then increasing your risk of developing coronary artery disease. Essentially, high cholesterol can have quite the domino effect on your health.

There are two main types of cholesterol: LDL (known as the “bad” cholesterol) and HDL (known as the “good” cholesterol.) HDL carries cholesterol from your body to the liver, and then removes it, while LDL causes cholesterol to buildup in your arteries and may lead to the aforementioned complications.

Cholesterol also comes from two different sources: As a result of your liver creating it, or from the foods you eat. Some of the most common foods known to raise levels of cholesterol include foods high in saturated and trans fats, such as baked foods (i.e. cookies and crackers), as well as full-fat dairy products and red meat. You’re also more likely to have higher, unhealthy cholesterol levels if you are obese, don’t get regular exercise, smoke, or have diabetes. As mentioned, high cholesterol can cause the arteries to become narrow or blocked and may reduce blood flow. Complications that can arise from this include chest pain, stroke, and even heart attack – which can be fatal.

In order to prevent these complications and to reduce the bad (LDL) cholesterol in your body, you need to be willing to make some changes – most notably with your lifestyle. The DASH diet (which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is one that focuses on adding more fruits and vegetables into the diet, while reducing foods known to be problematic to your health. Designed to help reduce high blood pressure, the DASH diet has also been known to be of benefit to people with high cholesterol. To keep your cholesterol levels where they need to be, you should also reduce your sodium intake and eat more whole grains. If you’re someone who lives a sedentary lifestyle, start increasing your movement. You need to get some level of exercise almost every day, for a minimum of 30 minutes. By exercising, you will either lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, which will help with your cholesterol levels. If you’re a smoker then you should talk to your doctor about quitting, and also avoid alcohol.

You also need to limit both your total and saturated fat levels – though this depends on how many calories you eat per day. For example, if you consume 1,500 calories per day, you shouldn’t have more than 10 grams of saturated fat and 42 to 58 grams of total fat. 2,000 calories per day = no more than 13 grams of saturated fat, 56 to 78 grams of total fat. 2,500 calories per day = no more than 17 grams of saturated fat and 69 to 97 grams of total fat. Saturated fat is what can cause a significant increase in your LDL levels, which is why these numbers are so important to be aware of.

The most common way to determine what your cholesterol levels are at is through a blood test known as a lipid panel or lipid profile. This type of blood test can measure your LDL and HDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, as well as a type of fat in the blood known as triglycerides. In order to get the most accurate results, it’s recommended you fast for at least 12 hours prior to having your blood drawn (though drinking a small amount of water is acceptable.)

If your cholesterol levels remain high after making dietary changes, then you may need to move to the next step of defense against high cholesterol, which is with medications. The type of medication that your doctor will prescribe depends upon your health, age, any risk factors you may have, as well as potential side effects. However, some of the most common medications that are prescribed to treat high cholesterol include statins, bile-acid-binding resins, cholesterol absorption inhibitors, as well as medications that are injectable.

Controlling the Obesity Epidemic

Obesity is considered to be one of the most common progressive and chronic diseases by various organizations, including the World Health Organization and both the Canadian and American Medical Associations. However, it is also unfortunately one of the most neglected diseases today, therefore making it a global epidemic. Characterized by excessive accumulation of fat, as many as 3 in 5 Canadians say they identify as being either overweight or obese. Obesity can have a wide range of negative effects on your health, including increasing your risk of heart disease or stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and even cancer – and it has been directly attributed to the premature deaths of 1 in 10 Canadians between the ages of 20 and 64. The stigma and stereotypes that are often associated with obesity can also increase one’s risk of being discriminated against – for example, individuals of an average weight may think that someone who is obese is lacking in self-discipline, lazy, or unmotivated – and, as a result of these obesity-related stereotypes, your mental health can also be impacted and could lead to things like stress, anxiety and depression.

Obesity often develops as a result of having an unhealthy diet, eating too much, and not getting enough physical activity – sometimes a combination of all three. However, obesity can also be much more complex than that and could also be the result of a number of other factors, too, including those that are environmental, genetics, emotional, sleeping problems, as well as underlying medical conditions and certain medications.

In order to get a handle on obesity, people often turn to quick-fix solutions (such as fad diets) in effort to lose excess weight. Unfortunately, fad diets are not meant to be followed on a long-term basis, which is why it’s so easy for individuals trying to lose weight to have trouble doing so. When it comes to obesity it’s important to remember that you need to lose weight in order to improve your health. However, weight loss should be looked at as something more than just how much weight you need to lose or how fast you need to lose it. Instead, the focus should be on your overall health and wellbeing – because the healthier you are, the better you will feel and the higher quality of life you will have.

One of the most important steps when it comes to combating obesity is to be able to identify any potential triggers that could be contributing to your weight gain. Are you an emotional eater? Do you eat all the wrong foods? Are your portion sizes too large? Does obesity run in your family? These are all questions that you should know the answer to as well as be willing to address once you have identified them as triggers. Getting down to the root cause of weight problems as well as breaking down those road blocks can ultimately help you be even more successful in your weight loss journey. Next, identify how you define success. Understand the reasons why you’ve made the choice to tackle your weight problem and give yourself a pat on the back, because you’re ultimately one step closer to becoming healthier, and reward yourself when you do reach some weight loss milestones. Knowing there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, as well as knowing you have a healthier, longer life to look forward to can also help keep you motivated.

Visit www.obesitycanada.ca for more information on the obesity epidemic, what’s being done in effort to control it, as well as for different resources to help get you started on your weight loss journey.

Why Sugary Soft Drinks Are Bad For You

5 years ago, it was estimated that Canadians were purchasing as many as 444 millilitres of sugary beverages per capita – which is equal to one can of soda per person, per day, every day. Among some of the research that was done, it found that younger individuals were particularly drawn to these sweet, carbonated beverages – and these drinks were also found to be the single largest contributor of sugar in the average Canadian diet. It’s also not uncommon for someone who drinks one can of soda to drink as many as 2, 3 or even 4 cans in a day. This is because the soda is created to have just the right amount of caffeine, sweetener, and carbonation, which then triggers the release of the brain chemical known as dopamine which gives you that feeling of euphoria. One review conducted by the United States National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health even concluded that drinking soda can be just as, if not more, addictive than illicit drugs such as cocaine, and you ultimately find yourself wanting more of it. There are also many sodas which contain artificial sweeteners as opposed to actual sugar – but don’t let this fool you. It will fool your brain, however, because when you drink a can of soda it triggers your taste receptors which are able to register the sweet flavour and expect to get sugar, but that reward ultimately never comes, which also leads you to drink more of it.

But sugar isn’t the only problem. As mentioned, soda also contains caffeine, which is a stimulant that allows us to feel more awake, alert, and speeds up our thinking process. Similar to sugar, it too can activate the release of dopamine, which also gives it its own addictive-like property, also leading you to want more. When you consume caffeine regularly, your body will also begin to rely on it to increase attentiveness and alertness, and energy – and when you don’t have it, you might start to experience symptoms of withdrawal such as lack of concentration, agitation, and even get headaches or migraines as a result.

Then there’s the fizz factor. Just like sugar and caffeine, carbonation also intensifies that feeling of euphoria you get when drinking soda. But it’s also a trick used to dull the sweet taste by just enough so that you find yourself craving it even more and crack open another can. There’s also the fact that soda is less enjoyed when it loses its carbonation. For example, if you don’t drink a can of soda right away and leave it out sitting, it will lose the fizzy effect, making it less desirable to the taste buds and the brain.

While they’re marketed as being a healthier alternative to regular soda, diet sodas are also just as bad for you – if not worse. While it might offer a brief, short term reprieve in your calorie intake, this isn’t something permanent, and can actually do more harm than good. According to some research, ingesting diet sodas frequently causes an increased desire for high-calorie foods, which puts you at greater risk of gaining weight. Research has also suggested that diet beverages can also change the way the brain reacts to cravings for sweet and high-calorie foods, and cause insulin confusion (including increases in blood glucose levels.) In other words, diet sodas do not do anything in terms of being healthier for you.

Your teeth also won’t be happy if you consume lots of soda, and neither will your dentist. While a dentist might enjoy their field of work, their main goal is to allow you to keep your teeth at their healthiest. The more soda you drink, the less healthy your teeth will be. For example, when you drink soda, it can cause erosion. Erosion is something that occurs when the acids found on sodas come into contact with the outermost protective layer of your teeth known as the tooth enamel. When you drink soda, this surface hardness decreases, which can cause an increase in sensitivity to things like hot, cold, and yes, even sugar. If you find your teeth constantly sensitive to sugar, you may also have developed a cavity as a result of drinking too much soda. When you develop a cavity, this is because the layer underneath the enamel known as the dentin, is damaged, and you will ultimately require fillings when can also sometimes lead to requiring root canals later on if you don’t take care of your teeth.

If you’re craving a sweet beverage, the best thing you can do is create your own – simply by mixing together water and your favourite fruit. While it may not give off the exact same sweet taste as you’re used to with soda or fruit juices, it is a much healthier alternative.

Prevention and Treatment of Blood Clots

Blood clots are likely something you’ve heard about before, but you may not be aware of the dangers that are associated with them. In fact, without urgent care, blood clots can even become fatal – which is why it’s so crucial to know the warning signs and seek immediate treatment upon the first signs that something may be wrong.

First, you should know that there are two different types of blood clot formation that can occur: Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Pulmonary Embolism (PE). Deep vein thrombosis is when a blood clot forms in a vein, often in the leg or pelvis; while a pulmonary embolism, on the other hand, is when the clot breaks and travels from one area of the body up into the lungs and is considered to be a life-threatening medical emergency. However, with the proper diagnosis and treatment, deaths related to blood clots can often be avoided.

In some cases, patients may not notice any bothersome signs or symptoms that they have DVT. However, possible signs and symptoms that can occur as a result of Deep Vein Thrombosis include pain in the affected area (i.e. the leg), swelling of the leg, ankle or foot, warmth, redness, and even discolouration. If you have a Pulmonary Embolism, some symptoms that an individual might experience include shortness of breath, rapid breathing and heart rate, chest pain, feeling lightheaded, and even loss of consciousness. Again, if you or anyone you know develops any of these symptoms, then you should seek immediate medical attention, as the quicker you are seen and treated, the better.

While blood clots can happen to anyone at any time, there are also certain risk factors that can increase your risk of developing them. For example, lack of movement. This can include living a sedentary lifestyle and not getting enough exorcise, having to stay on bed rest, or traveling for long periods of time (i.e. in a plane or vehicle) without being able to get up and walk around. Having certain surgical procedures (such as hip or knee surgery) can also increase your risk of developing blood clots. Things like obesity, pregnancy, use of oral contraceptives, tobacco use, chronic inflammatory disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history and age all also play a role in increasing your chances of developing blood clots, which is why it’s so crucial to stay as healthy as you possibly can.

When it comes to preventing blood clots, you need to be proactive. If you’re someone who doesn’t get much movement or plan on sitting for extended periods of time (i.e. at work/school), then take a break for a few minutes and get up, stretch and walk around, as movement is important for blood flow. If you’re going into the hospital for a surgical procedure, you will likely be assessed for your risk of developing blood clots – though your surgeon will have weighed the risks vs. benefits. It can always be a good idea, however, to ask your doctor if any preventative measures can be taken both before your hospitalization and once you’ve been discharged.

As for treating blood clots, aside from being proactive with your health, there are also a variety of medications that are used. Types of drugs that are most commonly used to prevent and/or treat blood clots include anticoagulants (which inhibit one or more clotting factors – a group of blood proteins that are responsible for blood clotting), thrombolytics (given to dissolve blood clots that are in the process of forming), and anti-platelet medications (which reduce the “stickiness” of blood platelets.) As with any medication, these can all come with side effects. Anticoagulants, such as Warfarin, can also be difficult in terms of getting the dosing correct, while thrombolytic drugs also come with a fairly substantial risk of developing bleeding complications. Compression stockings are also often beneficial in reducing swelling and preventing blood clots from forming. In some cases, a patient may require a surgical procedure known as a catheter-directed thrombolysis procedure in which a small, long tube is directed to the blood clot. Medication is then delivered through the catheter to help dissolve the clot; while another procedure, known as thrombectomy surgery, is when doctors will carefully remove a blood clot. A patient may also require a stent to keep blood vessels open.

The Lymphatic System and Your Health

The lymphatic system is one of the most important systems within the body, playing a central role to your overall health. However, it is also one of the most overlooked systems. It’s complex, but it’s also intuitive in warding off infections, and much more. Within the lymphatic system are lymphatic vessels containing fluid-filled immune cells, in addition to as many as 600 pea-sized, bean-shaped glands known as lymph nodes. Together, these help to fight disease. While on the move, the immune cells scan for any potential threats to your body – such as a virus or bacterium. If a threat is detected, these cells trigger an increase in the number of disease-fighting cells in effort to thwart off whatever the threat may be (such as an infection.) The lymphatic system also works to remove other impurities and waste products from the body, and it also protects you from toxins.

As for where your lymph nodes are located, they are throughout the body in clusters, but they tend to be most prominent in the neck, armpits, and groin. For example, when you develop a common cold, you may notice a tiny, firm lump appear just underneath the side of your neck. This typically isn’t anything to be alarmed about and is usually a sign that your immune system is doing what it needs to do in effort to clear the infection from your body and will usually go away after a week or two. In some instances, having enlarged lymph nodes may be indicative of a more serious health problem, or could even be due to a reaction to a medication. If the enlarged node happens to get bigger and lasts for more than 2 weeks, it’s recommended that you get it checked out by your physician.

In order for your lymphatic system to work as it should, you need to keep it as healthy as possible, which means maintaining your overall health. Having an unhealthy lymphatic system has been associated with many different types of illness, including MS (multiple sclerosis), fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, poor digestion, and other general aches and pains. It has also been linked to an increase in fat deposits, cellulite, as well as obesity.

So, what can you do to ensure your lymphatic system is a healthy as possible? By now, most of us are aware that the foods we eat play an integral role in our health and can be very beneficial in maintaining our weight in addition to reducing the risk of things like heart disease and diabetes – but having a healthy diet is equally as important for the lymphatic system, too. For example, things like preservatives, excess sugar and processed foods can all be quite straining on the lymphatic system without you even realizing it, so you’ll want to make sure the foods you’re eating are as natural and as organic as possible. Fruits and vegetables, in particular, are great for the lymphatic system as they provide it with essential vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. In addition, green vegetables also contain something known as chlorophyll, which is also beneficial to your lymphatic system; while foods containing essential fatty acids (such as flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and almonds) are also great options. You should also make sure you’re drinking plenty of water each day, as the lymphatic system depends upon a constant supply of fluid in order for it to fully function. When you suffer from muscle strains or general aches and pains, a massage can not only help you feel better, but it can also stimulate the lymph nodes and promote fluid movement. Staying active is also key, as your lymphatic system relies on muscle movement to also promote the flow of fluid throughout the lymph vessels. Activity can include everything from walking to yoga, stretching, and even strength training.

Learn more about the lymphatic system here.