Lymphedema is a condition wherein protein-rich fluids start collecting in the tissues. This swelling can happen in one or more areas of our body. With no cure in sight researchers and doctors are trying to manage this condition in patients with proper nutrition during cancer lymphedema treatment.

What is Lymphedema?

Are you aware that the lymphatic system is responsible for removing fluid from the tissues? When this system doesn’t function properly, it can lead to a condition called lymphedema, which is of two types: primary and secondary. Primary lymphedema occurs when the lymph system is not properly developed; while secondary lymphedema can happen in individuals with cancer due to surgical removal of lymph nodes or radiation therapies which can cause damage to the lymph nodes.

Individuals with primary lymphedema exhibit minimal symptoms during the early stages. However, it can progress in children during hormonal changes after puberty and in pregnant women.

Symptoms of Lymphedema :

1) Swelling in arms or legs, including fingers and toes

2) It can cause fibrosis – skin hardening or thickening

3) You might experience heaviness or tightness along with discomfort

4) Due to swelling it can affect your motor functions

5) You might experience recurring infections

Regular screenings at the best oncology hospitals in Salem can help detect lymphedema in the early stages and the symptoms can be managed with proper diet and nutrition, minimizing damage to your limbs.

Lymphedema Dieting Tips to Address Symptoms:

Following a healthy diet during lymphedema treatment can help relieve lymphedema symptoms since high fat intake affects the ability of the lymphatic system to drain fluid properly. Certain foods help you to fight both lymphedema and cancer, so it would be best to include them in your diet and specific foods contribute to symptoms so avoid them.

Listed here are five lymphedema dieting tips that help you tackle lymphedema during treatments and alleviate its symptoms:

1) Stay away from Alcohol, Caffeine and Diuretics:

  • Do you know that drinking water can actually help with lymphedema? Because our body stores excess liquid in a dehydrated state, drinking more water helps you to balance fluids and chemicals in your body. Be mindful while consuming water, since too much water can overwhelm your body and worsen swelling.
  • Alcohol and caffeine cause dehydration so it’s best to stay away from them. While diuretics or water pills, may offer short-term relief by reducing swelling, they can actually worsen lymphedema symptoms in the long run.
  • This is because they cause dehydration leaving a higher concentration of protein in the lymph fluid which in turn draws more water to the swollen area once the diuretic wears off. Before stopping diuretics, it’s best to consult our lymphedema cancer consultant to explore other options.

2) Include protein in your lymphedema diet:

  • Protein keeps your body healthy and supports essential bodily functions. A shortage of protein in your diet makes the fluid seep from your bloodstream into your tissues, worsening your lymphedema condition.
  • Make sure to include a variety of protein rich foods in your meals like seeds, nuts, eggs, legumes, fish, poultry and tofu.
  • Getting the right amount of protein helps your body regulate fluids during the lymphedema treatment process. Just be mindful not to overdo it, as consuming too much protein can strain your kidneys and lead to other fluid retention issues.

3) Reduce your salt intake:

  • When you consume too much sodium, your body retains water, which can make your lymphedema symptoms worse.
  • To reduce your salt intake, steer clear of processed foods like canned goods, pickled foods, frozen meals, and fast food.
  • Check food labels for nutritional information to keep an eye on your sodium intake and opt for fresh, whole foods whenever possible. By making small changes to your diet, you can help alleviate your symptoms and feel better overall.

4) Include whole foods into your lymphedema diet:

  • Don’t forget to include whole foods in your diet! Whole foods are the top choice for those with lymphedema because they are unprocessed and free of added sugars, soy, salt, unhealthy fats, and other artificial additives commonly found in prepared foods.
  • If you are unable to eat solid whole foods, you can consider taking them in the form of juices. However, if you can eat solid foods, it’s best to stick to them because juicing removes valuable fiber, an essential health benefit of whole foods.
  • Also, keep in mind that fruit juices can cause a rapid spike in blood glucose levels compared to whole fruits.

5) Limit certain foods when you are on lymphedema diet:

  • In addition to adding whole foods to your diet, it’s important to limit certain foods.
  • Some processed foods can worsen lymphedema symptoms during the lymphedema treatment process due to their additives or high salt content.
  • It’s best to avoid added sugars like fructose, refined grains, chemically modified fats, and most animal and dairy products.

Other Ways to Manage Lymphedema Symptoms

In addition to following a healthy lymphedema diet, you can also do the following to lower lymphedema symptoms.

  • Regular Exercise :Exercise regularly to promote joint motion, it helps in blood circulation and boost lymph vessel activity.
  • Compression therapy :Applying pressure helps you to move and filter fluid through the lymphatic system. Pressure is applied to prevent the buildup of lymphatic fluid in the affected area.
  • Massage therapy :This is similar to compression therapy; it can help manually push fluid through the lymphatic system and reduce swelling.
  • Proper skin care :It’s vital to follow good skin care hygiene and watch out for the presence of spots, changes or breaks on your arms and legs. Take care of cuts or scrapes quickly to prevent infection.
  • Wear loose clothing:Avoid wearing tight fitting outfits as they can constrict your leg or arm, restricting the lymphatic system.
  • Elevate your limb:Elevate your affected arm or leg above the level of your heart. Its always best to place a pillow under your arm or leg, while sleeping sleeping.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures:Do not to expose your affected limbs to extreme cold or heat so avoid ice or a heating pad to the swollen arm or leg.

Combining a proper lymphedema diet during cancer lymphedema treatments with the other strategies discussed here will help you manage lymphedema and mitigate the condition’s impact.