Hi folks,

So, there are many misconceptions around reducing swelling. If we view lymphoedema as water retention then it is understandable that some people believe it is better to drink less water, so there is less to send to a swollen area. Unfortunately this is not how our bodies work!

Likewise, I've heard some people say that too much protein causes swelling and others say that a protein deficient diet can lead to swelling!!! Sodium is another hot topic.

As with all things health related, it's a bit of a mine-field. So let's keep it simple.

First things first: there is no special meal plan that will make your swelling disappear or go away. However, there are certain eating habits that you can practice to promote good health, control your swelling, and help your body manage the stresses related to lymphoedema.


The facts:

  • Sodium is the main component of the body’s extracellular fluids, and helps carry nutrients into cells

  • Sodium helps regulate other body functions, such as blood pressure and fluid volume.

  • Excess salt intake causes too much water to be drawn into the blood vessels, increasing the pressure on the artery walls and causing hypertension ( high blood pressure)

Simply...where Sodium goes, water will follow.

What you can do:

  • Consume no more than 1,500-2,300 milligrams of salt per day

  • Fresh fruits and veggies are a good source of appropriate amounts of sodium

  • Use pure sea salt or rock salt in your cooking


The facts:

  • Lymphoedema is associated with the collection of high protein fluid in the tissue spaces – however, the high concentration of protein in lymphatic fluids has no connection with the protein-rich food you consume!

  • Proteins are the building blocks for tissue and muscle repair.

  • Proteins play a crucial role in the manufacturing of hormones and antibodies to fight off infections, so are hugely vital to a cancer survivor!

  • A shortage of proteins will cause the body to take the necessary proteins from the muscles and tissues, which will further weaken the body and may actually cause connective tissue to swell and your lymphoedema to worsen!

What you can do:

  • Make sure to get your protein from a variety of sources – not just meat  - such as quinoa, beans and nuts.

  • Try easily digestible protein, such as fish and eggs


The facts:

  • Having adequate fluids in the body removes impurities from the blood

  • Cutting back on fluid intake in an effort to reduce the swelling of lymphedema does not work! Instead, the protein-rich lymph attracts more fluid from other parts of the body, increasing the swelling in the affected area

What you can do:

  • Drink eight glasses of water daily

  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol, which are mild diuretics and reduce the levels of body fluids


The facts:

  • Excess weight gain creates more work for the lymphatic system and increases the amount of fluid in the already swollen tissues

What you can do:

  • Aim for and maintain a healthy body weight - ask your GP for sound dietary advice

None of the above suggestions are controversial. None of the advice will conflict with a healthy diet for you or others eating with you, but can make a big difference to the severity of your lymphoedema.

Happy cooking!

Nic x


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