What is the best diet for lymphedema?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 23, 2016
Meveazey asked...

Is there a special diet for lymphedema? I have bi-lateral lymphedema which I have had since I was 13 years old, maybe younger. I had trauma to my groin area as a young child and now I am faced with major heart issues and want to eat healthy for my grandchildren.


Expert Answers

Beth Reardon, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., is Caring.com senior food and nutrition editor and the director of integrative nutrition at Duke Integrative Medicine. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet. As a practitioner of integrative nutrition, Reardon takes a holistic approach to wellness, recognizing that the foundation for optimal health and healing begins with a health-promoting diet.

You have done well to manage this difficult condition for so long. While there is no diet specific to the prevention or control of lymphedema, the best nutrition advice would include maintaining a healthy weight, limiting excess sodium and eating well to improve your overall health to help your body better manage the stress of the condition and protect your heart. Following a Mediterranean type diet rich in oily fish, vegetables and nuts, as part of an overall healthy lifestyle is associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Be sure to also stay well hydrated by drinking at least 48- 64 oz of water each day. Here are some easy suggestions to get you started - and best of luck:

Begin by getting 3-5 daily servings of whole grains (one serving equals ½ cup of cooked quinoa, one slice of whole grain bread, brown rice, or barley) and 2-3 servings of low or non-fat dairy (such as Greek yogurt, cottage cheese or milk).

Consume oily fish, rich in heart healthy omega 3 fats like wild salmon (canned, frozen or fresh), Spanish mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring at least twice a week. If you do not care for these fishes ask your doctor about taking a fish oil supplement.

Use Extra virgin olive oil as your oil of choice in cooking, salad dressings and marinades.

Consume a small handful (about ¼ cup) of nuts daily like almonds, walnuts, and/or pistachios.

Choose 7-9 servings of brightly colored vegetables and fruits daily (a serving size is ½ cup cooked; 1 cup leafy greens or ½ - ¾ cup berries).

The following link will provide more information on the Mediterranean diet pyramid: http://www.oldwayspt.org/mediterraneandiet