Apr 19, 2023
There are roughly 700 lymph nodes in the body, 400 of which reside in the abdomen. They carry out many specialized tasks that impact our digestion and overall health.
Lymphatics in the Gut
There are roughly 700 lymph nodes in the body, 400 of which reside in the abdomen. They carry out many specialized tasks that impact our digestion and overall health. The high population of lymph nodes in the abdomen is due removal of intestinal lymph. This lymph takes on a different composure than lymph elsewhere in the body and because of this it is given its own name; “chyle’. Chyle (A.k.a. Intestinal lymph) has a milky appearance because it is abundant with the fats and fat soluble vitamins that it is responsible for removing from the intestines.These fat cells are otherwise too large to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream; they cannot pass through the small pores of the blood capillary.
The lymphatic system also aids in the detoxification of fats and proteins that have not been fully digested in the inceptive portions of the digestive system, such as the stomach and small intestines. This gives us some perception of the important role the lymphatic system plays in our abdomen and how much it differs from our primary lymphatics.
The 2006 NIH study Mesenteric lymph nodes at the center of immune anatomy by Andrew J. Macpherson and Karen Smith, explains further functions of intestinal lymph nodes. These can also be called mesenteric lymph nodes, meaning those that service the intestinal mucosa. These nodes are under constant exposure to food antigens and countless microbes. These are then sampled and tested by dendritic cells. The abstract of this article explores the mesenteric lymph nodes as a very important barricade between intestinal bacteria and the systemic immune system, as well as a station for building tolerance to food proteins.
Without our lymphatic system serving as a monitoring and filtration system for our gut we would swell up limitlessly with fat and fluid. We would also be at the mercy of all of the pathogens we ingest in an already over taxed body. Needless to say we wouldn't survive very long.
Macpherson AJ, Smith K. Mesenteric lymph nodes at the center of immune anatomy. J Exp Med. 2006 Mar 20;203(3):497-500. doi: 10.1084/jem.20060227. Epub 2006 Mar 13. PMID: 16533891; PMCID: PMC2118258.