Lymphedema: Nutrition and Lymphedema

There is no special diet that will prevent or control lymphedema; however, good nutrition promotes good health and this helps the body manage with the stresses related to lymphedema.  The main recommendations are eat a low sodium diet and keep hydrated.

Eating a Balanced Diet

Eating a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables is recommended for maintaining good general health. It also aids the body in coping with the added stress caused by lymphedema.

High salt foods, which encourage the body to retain fluids, are not part of a recommended healthy diet.  High sodium foods cause the body to retain fluid in general, and will make the lymphedema swelling worse.

Staying Hydrated

The term hydrated describes the state of having adequate fluids in the body. Maintaining this state helps the body remove impurities from the blood and this is important to good health.

Drinking plenty of fluids, particularly water, is essential to maintaining this balance within the body. Cutting back on fluid intake in an effort to reduce the swelling of lymphedema doesn’t work! Instead of the desired effect, the protein-rich lymph of lymphedema attracts more fluid from the other parts of the body. This can cause increased swelling in the affected area.

Drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day is recommended to maintain good health; however this need increases in hot weather, or in very dry conditions, when the body looses fluids more rapidly.

Being well hydrated, by drinking plenty of water, is particularly important after an MLD or pump treatment because it is necessary to flush out the impurities that were moved during treatment.

Caffeine, which is a mild diuretic, reduces the level of body fluids by encouraging the kidneys to excrete more urine. For this reason caffeine containing substances (coffee, tea, chocolate and many soft drinks) should be consumed only in moderation.

Alcohol also has a diuretic effect that stimulates the kidneys to excrete more water and thereby increasing dehydration.

 

Sonja M. Maul PT, CLT-LANA

National Board Certified Lymphedema Therapist

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