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This Diet Helps Reduction Lymphedema


Diuretics promote excess fluid in the body to be excreted. Although diuretics may be beneficial in the short-term, and may be indicated in those cases when lymphedema is associated with systemic conditions (ascites, hydrothorax, protein-loosing enteropathy), they may be harmful and contribute to the worsening of lymphedema-related symptoms if used long-term.

Here is why: Lymphedema is an abnormal accumulation of water and protein molecules in the body’s soft tissues, which is caused by a dysfunction of the lymphatic system. Swelling (edema) other than lymphedema may be caused by a variety of conditions, such as congestive heart failure, renal diseases, or venous insufficiencies. These swellings do not contain a higher level of proteins in the accumulated fluid, and are defined as edemas.

Diuretics used for lymphedema are limited to remove the water content of the swelling, while the protein molecules remain in the soft tissues. The dehydration effect of diuretics causes a higher concentration of the protein mass in the edema fluid, which may cause the tissues to become more fibrotic and increase the potential for secondary inflammations. In addition, the remaining proteins characteristically draw more water to the swollen areas as soon as the diuretic loses its effectiveness and may cause the volume of the lymphedema to increase.

The 2009 Consensus Document (4) of the International Society of Lymphology states: “Diuretic agents are occasionally useful during the initial treatment phase of complete decongestive therapy (CDT). Long-term administration, however, is discouraged for its marginal benefits in treatment of peripheral lymphedema and potentially may induce fluid and electrolyte imbalance”

What about Vitamins and other Supplements?

There are no vitamins, food supplements or herbs that have been proven to be effective in the reduction of lymphedema. In the United States, dietary supplements are regulated as food, not drugs. Pre-market approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are not required unless specific disease prevention or treatment claims are made. Because there is no requirement to review dietary supplements for manufacturing consistency, and no specific standards for dosage or purity exist, there may be considerable variation within the products marketed as dietary supplements.

However, individuals affected by lymphedema are often in need of additional vitamins and supplements, especially if they battle recurrent episodes of infections. To determine which supplements and vitamins are beneficial, patients should consult with their physicians and/or nutritional specialist.

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