Self-Care for Lymphedema: Exercise and Diet


Each year millions of Americans are impacted by lymphedema and the serious symptoms it brings. Current research shows that more than three million individuals are currently diagnosed with this disease. Lymphedema is swelling that occurs in the arm or leg and is due to lymphatic system blockage; it cannot be cured. After the onset of lymphedema, patients will need to make drastic life changes in order to care for themselves. Typically, exercise and dieting are highly encouraged for those diagnosed with lymphedema to alleviate some of its symptoms. Here are the changes you should make:

Exercising with Lymphedema

Exercise is extremely important to help reduce the swelling associated with lymphedema. Exercises that promote lymph movement are especially ideal and can be beneficial. Most exercises should not be excessively strenuous, with stretching always done before starting. Simple exercises such as lifting your legs, curling your toes, and bending at the knee can be simple exercises done while sitting down. Additional exercises that are recommended are aerobic exercises that raise your heart rate. Recommended aerobic exercises include walking, riding a bicycle, jogging, or using an elliptical machine. Walking or swimming in a pool can help alleviate any pain during your exercise. The most important thing to remember when exercising with lymphedema is to keep your exercise pain-free, low in intensity level, and only exercise while wearing your compression garments.

Lymphedema Diet

There is no prescribed lymphedema diet for patients, but a general rule of thumb is to maintain a balanced nutritional intake. Obesity can influence your lymphatic fluids and potentially make lymphedema symptoms worse. Start by working whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet while avoiding any fatty foods. Brightly colored veggies and berries are especially helpful in a balanced diet. It is also recommended to avoid processed meats and sugary beverages that can dehydrate your body. Always keep a bottle of water with you so you can stay hydrated throughout the day. It can be difficult to make that initial change in your diet, but the results will help alleviate symptoms associated with lymphedema.

Lymphedema Help at the St. Louis Vein Treatment Center

Living with lymphedema can be difficult, but Dr. Wright and his team at the St. Louis Laser Vein Center are here to help you. We have been helping the residents of St. Louis live with the symptoms of lymphedema and figure out possible treatment options. Call today for your free consultation to see what is available for you.