Lymphedema: Protein-Rich Lymph Fluid and the Roll of Dietary Protein

Since the fluid associated with lymphedema is protein-rich a question that often arises is, “Should I stop eating protein so there won’t be protein in this fluid?” The answer to this question is, No! Do not stop eating protein. It won’t solve your problem because proteins are essential nutrients.”

Dietary proteins are present in the foods we eat and are important to good health because:

·  Proteins are the building blocks of the body.

·  Proteins are the only nutrients that can repair worn-out tissue and build new ones.

·  Proteins are used by the body in manufacturing hormones.

·  Proteins have a role in building antibodies to fight infections.

·  Proteins aid the blood in transporting oxygen and nutrients.

·  Proteins are essential to the clotting of blood.

When There is a Shortage of Dietary Proteins

The goal for each individual should be to eat the appropriate amount of dietary protein to meet nutritional needs. This protein should come from a variety of sources, not only meat, and include only a minimum amount of fat.

When there are not enough dietary proteins available to meet the daily needs of the body, proteins are taken from the tissues and muscles to maintain the proper protein level of the blood. A severe shortage of dietary proteins will weaken connective tissues and causes them to swell. This is known as hunger edema and it can be seen in the swollen bellies of starving children.

Seriously restricting the intake of dietary protein in an effort to control the swelling of lymphedema does not help. It has just the opposite effect: It increases the amount of swelling that is present. It also weakens the muscles and other tissues.

 

Sonja M. Maul PT, CLT-LANA

National Board Certified Lymphedema Therapist

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