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  • Writer's pictureNina Dmitreff

Notes on Manual Lymphatic Drainage and Autism:

I'm fascinated by what I very much believe to be a strong connection/intersection between lymphatic function and gut health and Autism (and all of the related medical presentations). Because it makes sense. (Think Sherlock Holmes.) It's so clear to me (obvious): If the heart (Circulatory System) pumps nutrients (oxygen, vitamins, minerals, etc.) then Lymphatic System (which has no official "pump" - although lots of helpers) serves as the waste disposal system - of both cellular and environmental debris. And we know our kids are clogged (we are, too). And if we're clogged, it somewhat also prevents the absorption of the good stuff. (Imagine a clogged toilet.)

To that end, this morning I'm beginning to explore the connection between constipation and lymphatic flow. A chicken an egg type of thing for me right now. Does constipation impede lymphatic movement? Or is poor lymphatic flow a contributor to constipation? I don't know yet. But what I do know is that movement (peristalsis) encourages lymphatic flow.

Here are some highlights from the paper below:

1. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is an organ system which critically depends on adequate lymphatic functioning and defects in lymphatics during embryonic development are manifested as ‘chylous’ intestinal disturbances.

2. Normal lymphatic structure and function supports the absorptive and immune functions of the GI tract. Dilated or congested lymphatics fail to transport ISF and exacerbate GI disease [including CROHNS and Ulcerative Colitis] by increasing the GI tracts’ vulnerability to edema, poor perfusion, inflammatory injury and dysregulation of the immune system.

3. Nutrient and fluid absorption in the GI tract requires lymphatic networks to both regulate interstitial fluid balance and transport lipids. GI lymphatics also fulfill important mucosal immune functions in acquired immunity and tolerance because the GI absorptive surface is immense (>200m2) and densely colonized by bacterial commensals (~1014 bacteria). Total lymph formation in humans is approximately 1–4 liters/day, most of which (>50%) is formed in the GI tract.

4. These capacities of lymphatics to clear fluid and immune cells from the gut underscore the critical importance of the lymphatic vascular system in the maintenance of normal gut integrity and function. Several experimental studies [120–123] imply that insufficient gut lymphatic functioning will significantly exacerbate disease. Other essential functions of lymphatics are accomplished in lymph nodes, where bacteria and other pathogens are filtered and phagocytosed, to present antigens for acquired immunity.

5. Lymph formed in the liver is a major contributor to total lymph flow with as much as 50% of total lymph being from hepatic origin.

6. Lymph flow is affected by a variety of factors, including the state of hydration of the interstitial compartment, external compression forces generated by gut motility (extrinsic) and lymphatic contractile (intrinsic) forces. While gastrointestinal lymphatics normally maintain ISF volume by clearing fluid entering the mucosal and submucosal tissue layers, during pathological inflammation, lymphatic clearance is insufficient to prevent accumulation of excess ISF, generating edema and dilating lymph vessels. Another effect of lymphatic insufficiency can be an accumulation of immune cells in the mucosa and submucosa. Prolonged residence times of cytotoxic cells within the gut wall are thought to contribute to the immune cell-mediated tissue injury accompanying chronic gut inflammation.

AND, if you have an ASD child, and are in the Atlanta area, PLEASE contact me privately ( if you would like to do a series of FREE Manual Lymphatic Drainage sessions to see if they can help your child. (Because I want to know, too.) It's very gentle work (and while it is "hands on" it is not a "massage") in the truest sense.

Source: Pathophysiology


Manual Lymphatic Drainage Resolves Toe walking Gait in Boy with ASD

Emerging paradigm of lymphatic and interstitial anatomy provides novel treatment to change the functional status of muscle tissue and tone. Changes in passive and active ankle range of motion were a direct result of mobilizing and evacuating fluids of the gastrocnemii via lymphatic pathways. Spontaneous muscle softening and Achilles tendon lengthening happened instantly. An extremely light touch and pressure input from the therapist is required to perform lymphatic drainage. Lymphatic drainage massage holds promise for further use and study with issues such as toe walking gait and other orthopedic populations.

Source: ClinMed International Library

Manual Lymphatic Drainage in Autism Treatment

"This therapy is utilized for the treatment of dysphonia, and its effects on speech, a function that is typically altered in autism, may contribute to the overall improvement of symptoms. We propose that this type of inexpensive, safe and accessible approach can be beneficial to autistic subjects and constitute a new and promising treatment. We are convinced that the described approach will play a pivotal role in future options for autism treatment, possibly in combination with other therapeutic approaches such as behavioral therapies or nutritional supplementation."

Source: Semantic Scholar

Manual Lymphatic Drainage in Autism Treatment

"The above research suggests that lymphatic clearance of the brain may play an important role in neuro-immunological diseases such as ASD, and that manual lymphatic drainage techniques (MLD) at the level of deep cervical nodes may improve brain lymphatic drainage, possibly resulting in decrease of neuro-inflammation that is typical in autism.

The research furthermore suggests that MLD performed on the neck can be beneficial to autistic patients, as well as other neurological disorders associated with immune system dysfunction, such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease, and represents a new and promising treatment option."

Source: Lymphedema Blog

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