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Standard Treatment of Lymphedema--Nutrition and Diet

Nutrition and Diet Page

By Jane Dweck

By Pat O'Connor  (1972-2013)

By Jane Dweck

Sadly, in this day and age of fast food, junk food, processed, bleached, regurgitated, irradiated, genetically modified, hormone infused, loaded with antibiotics, micro-waved, and "phoney" food, diet and nutrition are still not considered by most physicians and people in general as a standard prevention of diseases and a treatment of diseases to support our bodies' immune system and assist in our healing.

It was not always so.  And it does not have to be so. And I think it is beginning to change.

As brought to our attention by Michael Pollan in his book "In Defense of Food" most of what we're consuming today is not food, and how we're consuming it -- in the car, in front of the TV, and increasingly alone -- this is not really eating.  Instead of food, we're consuming "edible food-like substances" -- no longer the products of nature but of food science.  Many of them come packaged with health claims that should be our first clue they are anything but healthy.  In the so-called Western diet, food has been replaced by nutrients, and common sense by confusion. The result is what Michael Pollan calls the American paradox: The more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to become.  And the more weight we gain.

But if real food -- the sort of food our great- grandmothers would recognize as food -- stands in need of defense, from whom does it need defending?  From the food industry on one side and nutritional science on the other.

Both stand to gain much from widespread confusion about what to eat, a question that for most of human history people have been able to answer without expert help. Yet the professionalization of eating has failed to make Americans healthier. Thirty years of official nutritional advice has only made us sicker and fatter.

So, what should we eat?  As stated by Mr. Pollan, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plantsDon't eat any food that will not rot."  And may I add to that: "Eat real food--in as close to nature's wrapper as possible, organic when possible.   And not too fast.  If it won't sprout, rot or mold, its not real food." 

Read an Interview with Michael Pollan regarding his theory of eating real food.  It is truly worth reading and you will learn a lot!

Okay, I see you jumping up and down and telling me you don't have time for this. You are too busy.  The "kids" won't eat it.  You know what?  With a few pieces of inexpensive equipment, you do have the time and energy for cooking "real food" for you and your family, and the "kids" will love it!

More to come on easily and quickly preparing whole, real nutritious food with the help of a few simple appliances--a crock pot and a rice cooker.  All it takes is a little planning ahead, and you will be surprised at how easy it is for you and the entire family to eat healthful, real, whole foods.

In the meantime:

  • The first thing to do in improving the healthfulness of your diet is to start reading food labels, if the food is not in "natures wrapper."  Every time you pick up a packaged food, read the label.  The ingredients are listed in order of the proportion of that ingredient to the other ingredients in the whole.  If high fructose corn syrup is listed as the first ingredient, that means that prepared food contains more high fructose corn syrup than any other ingredient in that packaged food.  If you have a hormonal positive breast cancer, be sure to watch for all the hidden soy in packaged foods.  Avoid them.  And look at the list of all of the chemicals and things you have never heard of before, and cannot pronounce, and think "What would my great-grandmother think of this?  Would it have been in her kitchen cupboard and served to her family?"  

  • Maintain ideal weight through a well-balanced, low-sodium, low fat, high-fiber diet. Obesity aggravates lymphedema.

  • Drink plenty of water, 8-10 glasses per day is recommended.

  • Drink green tea everyday.

  • Do not smoke.

  • Avoid alcohol.

  • Avoid foods containing MSG (mainly in Chinese and Thai foods).

  • Get plenty of exercise, fresh air and sunshine everyday possible.

More to come on supplements, also. 



By Pat O'Connor (1952-2013)

There is no “special” diet that lymphedema patients must follow, just because they have lymphedema. If you have no other medical conditions involved, your diet will be fairly normal (healthy diet of course).


The rules on foods to avoid or consume in moderation are much like the guidelines given for non-lymphedema people.



  • Restrict high fat foods or high cholesterol foods.
  • Limit sodium intake as it causes fluid retention.
  • Limit or avoid caffeine as it is a natural diuretic.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol.

Having said that however, I have always been a proponent of vitamins, supplements, good nutrition, exercise and weight control. It just makes sense whether or not you have lymphedema.  I am a proponent of vitamin supplements for three reasons:

1. Stress, whether if be mental or physical, depletes your bodies' reserves. A body with a depleted vitamin reserve is less likely to heal from wounds and infections, is less likely to cope with stress, and is much more vulnerable to further illnesses.

2. In our modern world of processed, bleached, regurgitated and fast food products, much of the nutrient is gone before it reaches your table. Therefore, it is necessary to help in our
vitamin requirements by taking supplements.

3. Lymphedema and the constant battle with infections and usage of antibiotics changes our
vitamin requirements. Infections and antibiotics both can deplete vitamin reserves and it is necessary to take supplements.

It is well established that stress depletes your body of vitamins and nutrients as it tries to cope with whatever threat you are under, physically and mentally. Once these reserves are depleted, it becomes even more difficult for your “system” to take care of and rejuvenate itself.

These supplements will help give it that extra boost needed.

However, having said that, I also need to say that there is no clinical evidence to support any claim that vitamins will cure or treat lymphedema and this page is for information only. Vitamins are essential for overall health which does improve our resistance to many of the complications of lymphedema such as infections.

Before you begin any vitamin regiment, check with you doctor to make sure it is safe and does not conflict with any medication or other condition you may have.

I am also a proponent of the concept that it is up to the patient to take the responsibility for taking care of themselves. This is especially true in lymphedema.

At some point, you must care enough about yourself and your life to step forward. You must understand no one else can take care of you, but you.



Page Last Modified 09/29/2015

All medical information presented on this page is the opinion of our Editorial Board and Experts.  See our "About us"  and "Resources" pages.