Edema, “oedema”, or “dropsy” as it was once known, is an excess of fluid in cells, tissues, or organs and is clinically characterized by swelling. The progressive condition that causes this swelling is referred to as “lymphedema”.
Lymphedema is a condition that occurs when the lymphatic transport system can no longer handle the amount of fluids that flow out of the cells into the lymph system. Fluid is released from the blood capillaries into the tissue but is not removed, so the fluids accumulate and cause the tissues to swell.
In essence, the lymphatic system has become compromised. The arterial capillaries continue to function normally and release their fluid in the interstitial spaces (the space between the cells), but that fluid is not eliminated because of a “faulty” lymphatic system.
What is the “lymphatic” system?
The lymphatic system is your body’s waste disposal method, taking tissue fluid, bacteria, proteins, and waste products away from your cells, such as your skin, fat, muscle, and bone cells.
The lymphatics form part of your immune system, helping to deal with infection at a local level, but just as importantly, they are responsible for cleansing your tissues and maintaining a balance of fluids in your body.
If the lymph fluid is dirty and sluggish, due to unfiltered toxins, then it does not flow efficiently through the body to be eliminated. The lymph begins to pool and becomes stagnant, causing bacteria to thrive.
Imagine this…everyone in your household bathing in the same bath water without ever replacing it with fresh, clean water – you wouldn’t get very clean, would you? In the same way, a poorly functioning lymphatic system would fail to keep the body clean and would be unable to protect it from disease and illness.
Which parts of the body are affected?
Although lymphedema can develop in any area where the normal flow of lymph fluid has been interrupted, it is most commonly seen in the extremities and almost always takes place at the most superficial level of the lymph vessels subcutaneously, i.e. under the skin.
Other areas where lymphedema can develop include the head and neck region, chest, body cavities, pelvic region, and genitals.
When lymph fluid accumulates due to blockage, arms and legs can begin to swell, ache, feel tight, and lose strength. The blockage can reduce the amount of nutrients reaching the cells. This can interfere with wound healing, resulting in increased risk of infection; sepsis and gangrene, with possible amputation, can also be a result.
What helps the lymphatic fluid to circulate, and what prevents it?
There is about twice as much lymphatic fluid in the body as there is blood. Unlike blood, lymphatic fluid does not have a pump. This is one of the reasons why you feel so much better after exercise, fresh air, and rehydration: you have helped your lymphatic system to refresh and circulate, eliminating all of those substances your body needs to get rid of. These substances include heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and excess acidity, the latter as a result of infection, fatigue, stress, and emotional shock.
If this elimination does not happen, however, accumulated toxicity present in your body can cause the lymph vessels to become clogged and the lymphatic fluid prevented from circulating properly – the result is lymphedema.
Is there a solution?
When toxicity is clogging the lymph system, causing lymphedema, the solution is to reduce the body’s overall toxicity. This has become a proven solution to toxicity-induced edema, as you will see in detail later.
Toxic chemicals easily find their way into our body through the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. These toxins must be eliminated before they can disrupt normal metabolic systems and processes.
Your body is designed to eliminate toxins, yet it cannot always handle the overload present in today’s environment. In addition to external toxins, our own bodies produce internal toxins through normal metabolic processes such as digestion, muscle movement, and cellular activity.
The significance of heavy metals?
Heavy metal poisoning is the accumulation of heavy metals, in toxic amounts, in the soft tissues of the body. Symptoms and physical findings associated with heavy metal poisoning vary according to the number of metals accumulated and the years of accumulation.
Many heavy metals, such as zinc, copper, chromium, iron, and manganese, are essential to body function, but in very small amounts. When these metals accumulate in the body in concentrations sufficient to cause poisoning, serious harm may occur. The heavy metals most commonly associated with poisoning of humans are lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium. Heavy metal poisoning may occur as a result of industrial exposure, air or water pollution, foods, medicines, improperly coated food containers, or contact with lead-based paints.
See “Why clearing toxicity matters so much” for more details about toxin accumulation and dealing with the daily toxic load.