“Call this number.
I swear it's hocus pocus, but people who go are never the same”
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A week later, as I sat waiting for my name to be called, I fumbled nervously with the crumpled slip of paper he'd given me
Nearly twenty-five years had passed since my brush with death that night on a lonely gravel road. After months in the hospital, a broken back and blood clots in my leg, quite honestly the years since have felt like a gift.
Certainly, I didn't come through unscathed, because the blood clots left scar tissue in one of my largest veins, swelling in my leg is something I'd lived with ever since. While it hasn't always been a happy thing, it's seemed like a small price to have paid compared to ..
what could have been
For a long time, I managed the swelling the best I could: elevation, compression hose, and being mindful not to stand for long periods of time.
A painful flare-up three years ago drove me back to the vascular clinic, where I met a new surgeon. One who'd begun sending patients to a relatively new group of physical therapists devoted to the management of
Little did I know, but what they were about to teach me would truly change my life
When I tell others about my condition, their first question mimics mine, “What's the lymphatic system?”
As important as it is, I thought it might be a fun topic for a short series
The lymphatic system is a complicated network of fluid-filled nodes, vessels, glands, and organs that runs from the top of our head all the way down to our toes.
My favorite visual: Picture a city, the circulatory system is the maze of streets and alleys, whereas the lymphatic system is the network of sewer pipes running underground
Its primary purpose is two-fold:
To return fluid back to the blood
Act as a key part of our immune system
It's a system that runs in parallel to the circulatory system.
Whereas the circulatory system is closed (blood flows throughout the body in a continuous loop), the lymphatic system isn't (lymph flows only toward the neck).
It begins on one end with capillaries, and on the other empties back into the circulatory system via the left and right subclavian veins (located near our collar-bone).
Returning fluid back to the blood
The left ventricle of the heart pumps out a lot of blood, which makes its way through our arteries and down into capillaries (which are really thin single-cell layers). In the blood, we have plasma, blood cells, salt, and proteins of various shapes and sizes.
It's at the capillary level that a lot of really great things are happening in the exchange between the blood and our cells. Gasses will diffuse, white blood cells will travel out to fight intruders, oxygen, water, plasma, and smaller proteins will leak out into the tissues.
The blood cells stay in
Remember that the heart is pumping with a heck of a lot of pressure. It has to for all of these important things to be removed from the capillaries and find their way into the tissues.
What if all of this water (+ everything else) that's being squeezed out of the circulatory system isn't replenished? What if it stayed in our tissues? Certainly, there would be swelling. Not to mention, eventually, there will be such a loss of fluid, and our blood pressure would drop
Here's where the lymphatic system goes to work. Its capillaries pick up (from the tissues) what's leaked out of the blood, along with bacteria, dead cells, and other waste. The total of which is now referred to as lymph.
As the lymph winds its way through the lymphatic system, all of the waste is cleaned before it's returned to the circulatory system
What role does our lymphatic system play when it comes to protecting us against disease? Since this system doesn't have a pump of its own, what keeps it moving? What happens when it becomes congested or stagnant?
My husband's work found him traveling around the state last week, and this goji berry and crispy chickpea trail mix was tucked in his bag for snacking
Traditional trail mix has a bad rap for either being nutritious (but bland and boring) or loaded up with sugar, salt, and other additives.
Chickpeas are a high-protein, high-fiber, but low-fat legume that can become really crunchy when roasted in the oven. For a different and delicious twist, it was fun to toss them in coconut oil, salt, maple syrup, cinnamon and a pinch of cayenne
Crunchy chickpeas are also great on their own as a snack. Just beware, they're highly addictive(!)
pps: You can read more about Lymphedema in Part II | Part III | Part IV of the series
References used for this series include The One Simple Thing Podcast – Julia Loggins .. Lymphatic System (Human Body Systems) by Julie McDowell and Michael Windelspect .. How the Immune System Works by Lauren Sompayrac .. LiveScience.com .. National Lymphedema Network
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~ Adapted from The Chalkboard
Happy Trails Goji Berry Snack Mix
- 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas, or 1 (15 oz) can
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1 Tbsp maple syrup
- pinch of sea salt
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- ¼ cup goji berries, or other dried fruit
- ¼ cup dark chocolate pieces
- 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
- 2 Tbsp sunflower seeds
- ¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted
- Preheat oven to 400° F
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Pat chickpeas dry as much as possible and remove whatever skins are loose.
- Place chickpeas on the baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and add coconut oil, maple syrup and salt and toss to coat.
- Put back in the oven and roast for another 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. (If a few pop, that’s ok). Turn the oven off.
- Toss the chickpeas with the spices.
- Return pan to the oven and with the oven door closed and the heat off, allow the chickpeas to sit in the warm oven for another hour or until perfectly crunchy.
- (You’ll have to test one to be sure. It should be dry and airy. If they’re still not crunchy, leave in the oven with the door closed and the heat off until they are crunchy through and through)
- Set aside to cool at room temperature.
- Combine chickpeas with dried fruit, dark chocolate, and pumpkin seeds.
- The crunchy chickpeas combine well with many different ingredients for a snack mix, so feel free to make swaps according to what you have on hand or what you like.