The Cholesterol Plot Thickens: The Lymphatic System and Cardiovascular Disease

[This interview series is continued from Part III: Toxins, Lymph, and Fat Digestion]

I Heart Lymph!  The Lymphatic System and Cardiovascular Disease

In our discussion of the connection between digestion and the lymphatic system, Dr. Chikly points me to the research of his colleague, heart surgeon Gerald Lemole, MD, a Professor of Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University and a member of the team that performed the first successful heart transplant in the United States.  Dr. Lemole believes the lymphatic system plays a critical role in heart disease. 

Dr. Lemole began to research the link between lymphatics and cardiovascular disease when a colleague wondered if the accelerated rate of atherosclerosis in heart transplant patients was caused by the severed lymph vessels, a necessary aspect of heart transplant surgery.1 Lemole tested the hypothesis by interrupting the lymphatic vessels of laboratory monkeys and feeding them a high cholesterol diet for several weeks. As Dr. Chikly recounts, the monkeys developed “galloping atherosclerosis” within two to three weeks. Further laboratory studies corroborate his findings.

“Without a functioning lymphatic system, fat and cholesterol cannot be taken away from the heart,” Dr. Chikly explains. At least 30 percent of heart attacks may be related to the lymphatic system, a condition called lymphostatic angiopathy. In over 90 percent of coronary atherosclerosis postmortem exams, the patient shows scarring, inflammation, and blockage of the lymph.2

Laughing Your Way to Lymphatic Health

“The lymphatic system is sluggish and slow in many people,” Dr. Chikly explains, “and most people don’t know what to do to improve it.”  Lucky for us cellulite sufferers, Dr. Chikly points out many natural ways to improve lymphatic flow.

The first one he recommends is laughing. It might not solve all your lymph woes, but it’s free, easy, and a fun place to start. According to Dr. Chikly, strong and frequent laughing stimulates the overall lymph system through expansion and compression of the thorax and the activation of the thoracic duct (the largest lymph vessel in the body).

Laughing also encourages deep breathing, another important lymph remedy. Dr. Chikly stresses the importance of proper nutrition and exercise for lymphatic health, but these cures are very general. Oftentimes we need a specific and helping hand to get the lymph flowing freely again.

As Dr. Chikly explains, the lymphatic system is usually the last line of defense because it transports the larger and heavier molecules that no other system can transport. When substances are trapped in collagen fibers deep in the skin, as is the case with cellulite, the only course of action that can help is for the lymphatic system to drain these substances out of the skin and put them back in circulation. This is why Dr. Chikly believes, unlike with obesity, a successful cellulite treatment must be local and hands-on.

*In Part V, we will discuss Lymph Drainage Therapy and how it can be used to heal cellulite-prone areas.


Bruno Chikly, MD, DO, is the author of Silent Waves: Theory and Practice of Lymph Drainage Therapy. His book is the first comprehensive text on the lymphatic system and lymphedema in North America. Dr. Chikly is also the developer of Lymph Drainage Therapy (LDT), a hands-on method of lymphatic manipulation now used by thousands of health care professional throughout the world. Learn more at

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday hosted by Cheeseslave.

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Celluscience says:

It's interesting to read about how the Lymphatic System is directly related to the amount of fat that flows away from the heart. It also is directly related to deposits along certain areas of the body in the form of cellulite. So in this instance, by improving the flow of the lymphatic system, the better the chance of larger molecules to flow quicker.

Anything Fits A Naked Man says:

This is a little over my head today. Can we go back to the roller thingy? OK, I'll try harder and read it again!


AFNM– I was wondering if anyone else would be into learning about the lymphatic system. For some reason, this stuff is actually really exciting to me. I hope it made more sense the second time through. Thanks for giving it a good effort. I try to keep a mix of posts, so tomorrow I promise some lighter material.

autumn says:

Great post. I have cardiomyopathy from chemo and lympodema from breast cancer surgery. Can't wait to read the other posts.

Ps sorry for the misspellings!

Karen (KCLAnderson) says:

It's amazing to me how EVERTYHING is so interconnected!! So in addition to laughing, how else can we improve our lymphatic system?


There are a lot of ways to improve the lymphatic system, and we've only been able to touch on a few of them this month (it's Love Your Lymph month here at the Cellulite Investigation). It's important to eat lymph friendly foods, especially avoiding the trans fats, and to exercise the lymphatic system through movement and breath. Dry brushing is another technique we've seen good results with here at CI. In the next part of this interview, Dr. Chikly talks about using manual lymphatic drainage as a cellulite treatment. Thanks for stopping by and participating in the conversation!


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