The headquarters of our immune system is in our lymph nodes. It’s where immune cells congregate and are activated. As you age, your lymph nodes– like much of the rest of your body– accumulate fat. While this phenomenon is well known and common in those over the age of 65, scientists have paid very little attention to it until now.
A team in Sweden performed a first-of-its-kind study and the results reveal important news about how to keep your immune system slim, trim, and healthy to avoid illness and premature aging.
Lymph nodes are pea-sized organs located throughout the body but are prominent in areas close to the skin such as the neck, armpit, and groin. Here the immune cells are activated and proliferate so the body can wage an effective immune response when under attack. This is why you may have noticed them swell up when fighting an infection. Unfortunately, this response grows weaker as you age and can leave you in danger of illness.
Why Your Immune System Weakens Over Time
Beginning in your sixties, your immune system starts to wane. For instance, the thymus, one of the primary lymphoid organs, begins to shrink. There’s also a decline in the production of immature stem cells in the bone marrow.
The reasons behind these changes are complex and many factors are involved. But there’s one factor linked to the functional decline of both the thymus and bone marrow, and that’s the accumulation of adipose tissue (fat).
Yes, Your Immune System Gets Fat With Age
With aging, normal tissue in the lymph nodes (the stroma) is also gradually replaced by adipose, or fatty tissue. This ultimately overwhelms the organ causing it to lose almost all ability to function. Scientists from Uppsala University in Sweden wanted to know how this affects the immune response.
For their study they analyzed more than 200 lymph node samples obtained from Uppsala Biobank using advanced image analysis, as well as experiments using cell cultures and analysis of gene expression from mouse and human samples.
As a result of their extensive analysis, they made the following observations. Replacement of stroma by adipose tissue, called lipomatosis, begins in the central part of the lymph node, known as the medulla.
The supporting cells of the lymph node (fibroblasts) are also turned into adipocytes (fat cells) and this is tied to lipomatosis. Specific types of fibroblasts located in the medulla are more prone to become adipocytes.
For example, even at the early stage of lipomatosis, negative changes prevent the lymph node from providing effective immunity. Specialized blood and lymphatic vessels that normally provide channels for immune cells to enter and leave the lymph node are destroyed in the parts of the node where fat has formed.
As a result, your immune system can’t function as effectively.
Could Explain Poor Response to Vaccines
The authors of the study, published in The Journal of Pathology in November, believe lipomatosis of the lymph nodes, and the resulting harm caused to the immune system, may be an important factor behind the poorer response to vaccinations observed in elderly people.
Maria Ulvmar, who led the study, also notes that “[t]he changes we observe are also highly relevant to cancer research, since in several types of cancer, the lymph nodes are the first place cancer cells spread to.”
She added: “Our publication provides the first chapter of a story about fat and loss of function in our lymph nodes when we age. We will now continue to develop this story by designing new studies to learn more about the underlying causes and consequences of these changes.”
Preventing lipomatosis may not be possible, but there are steps we can take to keep the lymph nodes and the rest of the lymphatic system healthy and slow the development of fatty tissue.
Taking Care of the Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system is made up of tissues and organs that work together through a network of tube-like structures called lymph vessels to move lymph – a colorless, watery fluid – back into the bloodstream. Apart from its role in optimizing immune system function, the lymphatic system maintains body fluid levels, absorbs fat from the intestines, and removes cellular waste.
Unlike the cardiovascular system which has a heart to pump blood around the body, the lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump to move lymph. Instead, it relies on movement of smooth muscle tissue, so it’s important to regularly move the entire body and avoid sitting for extensive periods.
To avoid lymphatic congestion, drink plenty of water each day and eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables to optimize lymph function.
Finally, consider a regular visit to a manual lymphatic drainage practitioner who will apply slow, gentle, rhythmic movements to the skin to stimulate the lymphatic system and promote healthy lymph circulation.
Give Your Immune Cells a Boost
It’s also important to remember that an aging immune system can benefit from specialized immune support to keep it strong and healthy. That’s why our sister company, Green Valley Natural Solutions, formulated Stem Cell Restore to support the very cells that work to keep your immune cells—and all of the cells in your body—healthy.
This revolutionary formula contains a patented form of the Sea Buckthorn berry called CyanthOx™30. A clinical human trial conducted on CyanthOx™30 showed evidence that this powerful nutrient can support your body’s own supply of repair stem cells. You can read more about it here.