lymphedema Nutrition Principles
Lymphedema is a condition caused as a result of damage to the lymphatic system. Hence, there is little that a specific lymphedema nutrition plan can achieve. Moreover, there is no special diet that would help to control or prevent lymphedema. A common question in the minds of patients is whether they should stop protein intake since the condition is associated with a protein-rich fluid. Stopping protein intake does not solve the problem but in actual fact may cause further complications due to lack of essential dietary protein in the body. In addition, lymphedema patients sometimes have other illnesses like diabetes or heart disease which requires the diet intake to be adjusted accordingly.
A balanced diet contains the essential dietary proteins needed by the body to maintain good health. Proteins build the worn out tissues and strengthen muscles; they are the building blocks for the body. They play an important role in fighting infections and help the blood to transport oxygen and nutrients to various parts of the body. Lack of proteins can weaken the connective tissues causing swelling. Controlling protein intake has an opposite effect; the patient may actually cause the lymphedema to increase rather than improve the situation.
Staying hydrated is another lymphedema nutrition principle that the patient has to strictly follow. For that matter, any individual must maintain adequate fluid levels in the body so as to aid it in reducing the harmful constituents in the blood. If the body is starved of fluids, the lymphedema lymph will attract more fluids from other parts to the affected area, thus causing a swelling. So, it is best to drink adequate amount of water to maintain a healthy fluid balance. Generally, it is recommended to drink minimum eight glasses of water a day, depending on the weather conditions. In case of lymphedema patients, it is crucial to drink enough water after manual lymph drainage because it is essential to flush out the harmful elements that were directed to the excretory system. Tea, coffee, soft drinks, chocolate and alcohol should be taken in moderation as they have diuretic properties and may lead to extra loss of fluids.
Excess weight increases the risk of lymphedema. A person suffering form lymphedema and who is overweight is prone to more health complications. Gaining weight strains the already weak lymphatic system causing the fluids to stagnate in particular areas of the body. Since there is no increase in the capillaries and veins despite the weight gain, the lymphatic system is overwhelmed and cannot function effectively to remove the impurities. Another disadvantage of weight gain is the inability to exercise. Exercise is an essential part of lymphedema treatment to improve the mobility of the lymphatic fluids. Lack of exercise can have serious ill effects for the patient; therefore, it is quite essential to maintain an ideal body weight to combat the disease. This can be achieved with proper lymphedema nutrition intake.
Although a low-salt diet may not improve lymphedema conditions, it is generally advisable to control the salt intake. It has been observed that swelling increases after a particularly salty meal, so it is best to consume salt in moderation. Vitamins and supplements are also necessary to maintain a healthy body. There is a loss of essential nutrients due to the stress of coping with lymphedema. These nutrients may be replenished with the help of a balanced diet consisting of green leafy vegetables, lean meats, fruits, nuts and drinking plenty of water. In some cases however, the doctor may prescribe dietary supplements to the patient if he feels that the lymphedema nutrition obtained from food is not sufficient.
Definition of lymphedema - NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms ...