by Sarah Gill
As a lymphoedema therapist I am often asked by patients “What about diet?” “Should I change my diet?” The first response I have is “Well, let’s talk about your nutrition then”. Immediately, I take the focus away from the word diet, which often has a negative connotation and replace it with the word nutrition. Trying to get the patient to look at it from the perspective of what we add in to help treat our lymphoedema rather than what we leave out. Nutrition is one of the pillars of lymphoedema treatment along with bandaging, manual lymphatic drainage, compression garments, skin care and exercise. For optimal nutrition, eating a balanced and healthy diet is the best, not for just those of who have lymphoedema but for all of us.
Try and boost your nutrition and health by:
Sprinkling herbs and spices instead of salt: Common salt contains sodium, which binds water in the body. In other words: if you consume too much salt, your body will retain unnecessary body fluid and therefore enhance oedema formation. A high salt diet also increases blood pressure, no matter whether you use table salt, herb salt, sea salt or Himalayan salt. Convenience foods, ready made sauces, etc., contain a lot of salt, so try and avoid them and instead focus on adding natural foods that you prepare yourself. So, sprinkle some herbs or spices instead of salt.
Drinking more water: It is important to ensure that you drink an adequate amount of fluid each day. Reducing your fluid intake will not help reduce lymphoedema and may actually worsen it. Try to drink eight glasses of fluid each day to meet your requirements. Good hydration (water) is also essential for basic cell function and especially important before and after lymphoedema treatment to assist the body in eliminating waste products.
Eat Protein: There is a common misconception that lymphoedema may be positively affected by limiting protein intake. This is not the case – although lymphoedema is defined as an accumulation of water and protein in the tissues, it is essential to understand that lymphoedema cannot be reduced by the limitation of protein ingestion. Also, if you have lymphoedema it is important to ensure you eat and adequate amount of protein each day as this helps to prevent your body’s muscle being broken down which can make fluid build-up worse.
Focusing on nutrition may help your patient maintain their ideal body weight or lose weight if needed. Research studies indicate that obesity does have an influence on lymph fluid level and that even small amounts of weight loss can be helpful in reducing oedema.