Who would have thought that jumping on a mini trampoline could do so much good, especially post-cancer? It’s an activity associated with children, wild abandon and fun; not the sobering reality of disease. And yet, its impact on the immune system and general health is in fact quite extraordinary. To understand why, we turn our attention in this Post to the lymphatic system, the body’s “garbage disposal” unit and a key player in our immunity arsenal.
￼[Image courtesy of: Blausen.com staff (2014). “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014”. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2)]
The lymphatic system parallels the circulatory system but rather than conducting blood through veins and capillaries, it transports lymph through vessels located in between cells. This interstitial or “between cell” fluid in the body has a three-fold job, carrying waste and toxins away from cells, delivering absorbed fats and fat soluble vitamins from the intestine to the cells and transporting our infection-fighting lymphocytes or white blood cells (B and T cells) around the body. Lymph nodes, which number in the hundreds and house the lymphocytes as well as other immune cells (macrophages), do the job of filtering the lymph fluid. This is essentially an intricate process of isolating and destroying pathogens (such as bacteria and viruses), cellular waste, dead cells and cancerous cells. Basically, this is done through the “macrophages [engulfing] foreign particles including microorganisms in the lymph and [presenting] them to T and/or B lymphocytes for destruction” (//www.myvmc.com/medical-centres/cancer/lymphatic-system/). Lymphatic organs such as the spleen are also important to this filtering process whilst the thymus, which stores immature lymphocytes, plays a key role in “training” the T cells to perform effectively in the fight against foreign substances. Even tonsils are part of the lymphatic system, providing, through their network of white blood cells, a first line of defence against pathogens entering the airway.
Although the lymphatic system works in tandem with the circulation of blood, it only flows one way, upwards against gravity, until it reaches the right lymph duct and the thoracic duct which empty into the subclavian or major vein either side of the neck. This is where the filtered lymph re-enters the blood, a process that is essential in ensuring the correct blood volume in the body. In the case of an average person weighing 65kg, approximately 8-12 litres of lymph fluid is produced daily (up to 3 times more than blood), with 4 litres of that eventually reabsorbed into the blood after filtration by the lymph nodes (www.myvmc.com/medical-centres/cancer/lymphatic-system). Since the upward flow of lymph fluid in the body occurs only through the contraction of its lymph vessels and our own breathing and muscular actions, regular physical movement is key to its successful operation. This is where rebounding, otherwise known as jumping on a mini trampoline, comes in.
One of the most cited studies about the impact of rebounding is a 1980 NASA study into how trampoline jumping can effectively re-build an astronaut’s muscle mass after exposure to the zero gravity environment of space. What was found was that the gravity force exerted on the body through jumping on a trampoline was almost equal at 3 points, the ankle, back and forehead, highlighting the impact of the exercise on building the overall physical cellular body. Secondly, less energy was required in performing the bio mechanical movements involved in jumping in terms of the vertical force of acceleration and deceleration, which meant less oxygen use and less load on the heart (www.gojumptrampolines.com.au/goJump/images/PDF/nasa_article.pdf). According to Albert Carter, an Olympic gymnast and professional trampolinist who has widely researched the impact of rebounding on health, the act of jumping and associated impact of gravity also causes a dramatic increase in the opening and closing of the one-way valves of the lymphatic system, thereby accelerating both the removal of toxins and the circulation of white blood cells around the body (//www.cancertutor.com/rebounding/). This in turn helps to maintain the efficiency of the immune system in fighting disease. Furthermore, for anyone who has undergone removal of lymph nodes as a result of cancer therapy, regular daily rebounding exercise can help in the process of lymphatic drainage and relief from the swelling associated with the fluid build-up common to lymphedema. This is particularly important when we consider that damaged or removed lymph nodes never regenerate and also the unequal nature of lymphatic drainage in the body: “The right drainage area clears the right arm and chest [whilst] the left drainage area clears all of the other areas of the body including both legs, the lower trunk upper left of the chest, and the left arm” (//www.lymphnotes.com/article.php/id/151/).
In my case, this information is of particular interest, since it helps to explain why I’ve had so many problems on the left side of my body subsequent to the cancer-related removal of lymph nodes in my left armpit area 7 years ago. Apparently we have anywhere from 5-30 lymph nodes under each arm, with the average being about 20. Losing any of them has an impact.
Ultimately, rebounding is another tool that works effectively on a cellular level to energise the cells, protect the body and maintain health. Lymph fluid cannot move of its own accord and it has no pump to propel it against gravity from feet to neck and around the body. It’s up to us to activate it. And for that, rebounding is key.
The Lymphatic System