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lymphatic system-dynamic wellness solutionsIf the lymphatic system isn't working properly, our bodies can't fight disease or remove toxins. For this reason it's crucial to keep the fluid of the lymphatic system (lymph) moving. Slow moving lymph can lead to disease, even cancer, in some cases.

What is lymph?

The heart pumps blood throughout the body in such a powerful manner that some fluid gets squeezed out via the capillaries. That fluid is known as extracellular fluid and is comprised of varying components such as proteins, water, glucose, electrolytes, enzymes, and hormones. When extracellular fluid enters the lymphatic vessels it's then called lymph. Lymph travels via the lymphatic vessels to the lymph nodes where it is filtered. Bacteria swept up by the lymphatic system is deposited to the nearest lymph node where specialized white blood cells, known as lymphocytes, destroy them. The increased number of lymphocytes fighting the infection will cause the lymph node to expand. Swollen lymph nodes are typically an indication of ongoing war between lymphocytes and pathogens. In rare cases, swollen nodes are caused by lymphatic cancer.

Why is improving lymph flow important?

Filtered lymph eventually returns to the blood. Unlike the heart to the circulatory system, the lymphatic system doesn't have a pump. Instead, lymph relies on smooth muscle and skeletal muscle to propel it through the vessels. This isn't very much movement so exercise is the best way to keep lymph moving. Lymph flow can decrease by as much as 94 percent in people with sedentary lifestyles. Stagnant lymph thickens until it becomes the consistency of cottage cheese. This prevents the lymph from being properly filtered; as a result, disease may manifest.

How to improve lymph flow

The best way to improve lymph circulation is through movement. Running, jumping, walking, and stretching will help keep lymph fluid flowing. It doesn't take much effort; any of the aforementioned exercises performed for 15-20 minutes a day will help keep lymph flowing. If you can't get outside, stretching will also help. A quick 15-minute yoga session is a convenient, healthy, and relaxing way to start or end the day. Massage is also a great way to get lymph moving.

Drink plenty of water to help your lymphatic system do its job properly. Lymph, blood, glandular secretions, and cerebrospinal fluid possess water as their primary ingredient. Water is used across the body for a variety of essential functions. Water holds nutrients in a solution while transporting them into our cells. Waste products from cells, the lymphatic system, blood, the bowels, and other body tissues are also held in a water solution while being transported to be eliminated from the body.

Raw fruits and vegetables are rich in enzymes and acids which are powerful lymph cleansers. Specifically, beets, dark leafy greens, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cranberries, and citrus fruits are fantastic foods for cleansing the lymphatic system. Leafy greens are saturated with chlorophyll which help purify blood and lymph. Astragalus, chaparral, echinacea, ginger, goldenseal, lemon or yarrow can be made into tea to support lymphatic function. These foods improve circulation, fight infection, and help cleanse lymph.

Light Years Ahead of Fish Oil

Many individuals learn about lymph nodes and thelymph nodes lymphatic system only after experiencing issues with the lymph nodes behind the ear. Once the lymph nodes behind the ear are swollen, they typically draw immediate attention to them because of the level of sensitivity swollen lymph nodes often produce. Swollen lymph nodes are usually pretty easy to spot and should not be ignored. Lymph nodes are about .5-1 cm long but can grow to the size of a golf ball in cases of extreme inflammation.

What are lymph nodes?

Lymph_node_regions_PILymph nodes are small round sacks, about 1 cm long, throughout the body. They are part of the lymphatic system and they work in partnership with the body’s immune system to fight pathogens. Lymph node functions include filtering a substance known aslymph and housing lymphocytes—white blood cells that fight disease. There are about 500-700 hundred nodes throughout the body. High concentrations of lymph nodes exist below the ear (cervical), in the underarms (axillary), around the belly button (mesentery), and in the groin (inguinal).

How to identify swollen lymph nodes

Some lymph nodes can be felt by running your fingers across the skin where high concentrations of nodes reside. When lymph nodes are swollen finding them becomes much easier as they will sometimes bulge out and become tender to the touch. Typically  about .5-1 cm long, swollen lymph nodes can swell up to the size of a golf ball—or larger in extreme cases. Severely swollen lymph nodes can be seen protruding from under the skin and can even cause redness or bruised-like discolorations on the skin. Swollen lymph nodes can also be found behind the ear, under the ear, or in front of the ear.

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Symptoms of swollen lymph nodes behind the ear

red swollen lymph node 2

  • Swelling
  • Tenderness/pain
  • Redness 
  • Earache
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy sinuses
  • Sinus infection
  • Trouble swallowing

Causes of swollen lymph nodes

Infection is typically the main cause of swollen lymph nodes. When infection occurs in the body, specialized cells alarm the body to produce more white blood cells (lymphocytes) which fight infection. The surplus of lymphocytes are stored in the lymph nodes causing them to swell. Pathogens are swept into the lymph nodes—via a network of lymphatic vessels—where they are destroyed. Most often, swollen lymph nodes are a sign of war against infection happening in the node. Pain may subside from swollen lymph nodes although the nodes may still be swollen. This is typically an indication that the infection has been eliminated but the node has not yet cleared out the broken down pathogen. It may take another week or two until the node has been cleared and the swelling completely subsides.

Cause of swollen lymph nodes behind the ear

Lymph nodes located in the head and are the most commonly swollen nodes. Common causes of lymph nodes behind the ear include infections such as: 

  • Influenza
  • Strep throat
  • Ear infections
  • Tooth infection
  • Gingivitis
  • Tosilitis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Skin/wound infections
  • Measles
  • Mononucleosis
  • Neck injury

The ears, nose, and mouth are the closest channels of elimination when experiencing oneSide view of the neck and head showing the lymph nodes. of the infections mentioned above. For this reason, lymph nodes behind the ear, in the throat, and under the jaw are some of the most commonly swollen nodes. Other causes include cancers like lymphoma or leukemia, certain medications, and certain autoimmune diseases, although these causes are rare.

What to do if you have swollen lymph nodes behind the ear

A warm compress can be placed behind the ear to help soothe swollen nodes. Although swollen lymph nodes caused by infection typically clear up on their own after about 2 weeks, medical attention should be sought out to rule out any life-threatening conditions associated with swollen lymph nodes.  You can help your body fight infection and recover quickly by eating foods that naturally support immune system function. In times of immune stress, add these foods to your diet to help fight infection and support a speedy recovery: garlic, lemons, ginger, grapefruit, beets, spinach, and turmeric. Stay away from foods that weaken immune function and cause more work for the body. Processed foods, foods containing processed fats, artificial colors and flavoring, processed sugars, refined flour, and most dairy products should be avoided.

If swelling does not subside within 2 weeks, you should seek medical help. A medical professional will typically prescribe antibiotics for swollen lymph nodes, if necessary. Medical attention should be sought out if:

  • Swollen lymph nodes appear for no apparent reason
  • Lymph nodes continue to enlarge
  • Lymph nodes do not move when you push on them
  • Lymph nodes have been present for more than 2 weeks
  • Swollen lymph nodes are accompanied by a cough, trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Swollen lymph nodes are followed by persistent fever, unexplained weight loss, or night sweats

Disclaimer: Our services and information do not diagnose or prescribe for disease conditions. Individuals are encouraged to seek competent medical help when those services may be indicated. Individuals accept total responsibility for their own health care and maintenance.