Is Caffeine Bad for the Lymphatic System?


The lymph system runs through the human body as a network and has a variety of different functions. It's primary function is to serve the body's immune system, creating lymphocytes, or disease-fighting cells to support immunity. Secondarily, it helps remove fluids from bodily tissues and absorb fat, moving it to the circulatory system. The lymphatic system is similar to the circulatory system, except instead of moving blood it moves lymph fluid through the body. Drinking caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and sodas may have a negative impact on the lymphatic system, causing congestion and blockages affecting your health.

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Caffeine may cause congestion in your lymphatic system, weakening your immunity. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)


Consuming caffeine has a stimulating effect on the body's systems and may cause a wide variety of symptoms including insomnia, jitters, alertness, dizziness, elevated heart rate, excessive thirst, irritability, cramping in the muscles, blurred vision and contraction of the blood vessels and lymphatic vessels.

Lymph System

Lymph fluid is filled with white blood cells, which act as the body's main defense during an immune response. Lymph vessels drain toxins from the tissues to be flushed from the system, and lymphocytes fight invading disease cells and foreign matter. Lymphocytes originate in the lymph nodes, and when the body is fighting disease or illness, the white blood cell count increases and collects in the lymph nodes. This is the reason that your lymph nodes become enlarged when you're sick. Lymph doesn't flow at the same rate of speed as does blood through the circulatory system; rather, it moves slowly through the body. As a result of this slow movement, lymph flow can easily become congested, resulting in a condition known as lymphedema. Various conditions and external influences can affect lymph flow such as lymphoma, a type of cancer affecting the lymphatic system, trauma to lymph nodes, radiation therapy, surgery and caffeine consumption.

Poor Lymph Circulation

Improper circulation of lymph throughout the body can have other effects besides contributing to edema. When lymph circulation is compromised, a buildup of metabolic wastes may form in the system causing various conditions that are a result of toxicity such as headaches, constipation, digestive problems and pelvic irritation in women. Although blocked lymph may be the result of muscle contraction around lymph vessels or nerve compression, caffeine may play a role in causing those muscles to contract. Caffeine acts as a vasoconstrictor, or a chemical that causes the capillaries to cramp and tighten, preventing adequate blood flow to the area. When this occurs, it affects surrounding muscles and tissues. Constriction occurs in the tissues surrounding the lymph nodes and vessels, restricting drainage of lymph fluid.

Sources of Caffeine

Caffeine is found in many foods and medicines. The most obvious foods containing caffeine are coffee and caffeinated teas, like black and green tea. Additionally, many sodas contain caffeine as do most energy drinks. Less commonly known places you'll find caffeine are in hot chocolate drinks, cocoa, chocolate candy, prescription and non-prescription medicines, sleep aids and weight-control aids. If you're on a caffeine-restricted diet, check labels for hidden sources of caffeine before buying packaged foods and ask your pharmacist if any of your medications contain caffeine.

REFERENCES & RESOURCES Understanding the Lymphatic System University of Southern Florida College of Education: Headaches Only Nature: Cellulite -- An Article Pharmacology and Therapeutics: Immunomodulatory Effects of Caffeine: Friend or Foe? University of Michigan Health Service: Caffeine Women to Women: Fatigue and Insomnia Caffeine: Cup of Pain