Lymph Fluid: Composition & Function

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  • 0:00 What Is Lymph?
  • 0:50 What Is It Made Of?
  • 1:54 Where Is It Found?
  • 2:58 What Does It Do?
  • 3:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Lymph gets the short end of the stick when it comes to bodily fluids. Blood gets all the attention. Have you even heard of a movie being 'lymphy?' However, lymph is where much of the real defense of your body happens.

What Is Lymph?

Think about something for a moment. Your body is around 75% water. So, where do you think all that water is? Of course, around four to six liters of fluid in your body is blood, which does have water in it. Also, your stomach acid is diluted to some degree by water, lest it eat through your entire body.

But what about your organs? They, too, contain water, but that doesn't mean that the cells themselves are tiny water balloons. Instead, a great deal of the soft tissue in your body is comprised of cells floating in a suspension of liquid known as interstitial fluid. Lymph is the result of this interstitial fluid making its way to the lymphatic system, a whole collection of vessels and organs dedicated to maintaining balance and providing immune cells.

What Is It Made Of?

Lymph doesn't always look the same. Throughout most of the body, it looks sort of like a weak milky fluid, somewhere between white and a pale yellow. It gets that pale color from the protein waste products and immune cells that it carries. It takes these cells and proteins away from the cells in question and onward to be processed out of your body. In short, your lymph is like a garbage truck being driven by police officers - it has the primary job of removing waste products, but it isn't afraid to arrest something that looks suspicious.

There is one exception, however. Lymph is also useful for transporting fatty acids throughout the body. This particular kind of lymph is called chyle. Have a diet a little too heavy in deep fried pastries covered in butter? The extra fatty acids are absorbed by this chyle, which is very efficient in collecting fats. From the intestines, the chyle makes its way into the bloodstream, where some of the fatty acid is used as energy, but much of it ends up as the sort of fat that causes cardiovascular health issues.

Where Is It Found?

This transformation from interstitial fluid to lymph is a little difficult to follow, so let's follow it through the cycle. You drink water, and it enters your digestive tract. It's then absorbed by the small intestine and enters the blood stream. The pumping action of the heart pushes some of this water out of the blood vessels and into the space between cells. This is where it becomes interstitial fluid.

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