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L-W-O Community

For those living with Primary, Secondary & Paediatric Lymphoedema Online & in the Community

Alcohol and Lymphoedema

Is there a link between drinking alcohol and damage to the lymphatic system?  At the beginning I was told that drinking alcohol would cause swelling however, there doesn't appear to be any definitive proof therefore follow our government guidelines. In the meantime there are some good articles written by others on the subject.




Health professionals have different ideas on what constitutes drinking too much. 

Someone I know, was asked how much they drink?  The answer 3 or 4 pints once a week.   A consultant said he thought that was reasonable, but someone else in the same group stated because it was all in one go, that was binge drinking.  Conflicting?  

To reduce the risk of harming your health if you drink most weeks:

  • men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week
  • spread your drinking over three days or more if you drink as much as 14 units a week

Drinks and units

A 750ml bottle of red, white or rosé wine (ABV 13.5%) contains 10 units.

*Gin, rum, vodka, whisky, tequila, sambuca. Large (35ml) single measures of spirits are 1.4 units.


The reason that all this is important to lymphoedema, is that, alcohol does increase swelling.

I have given you the guidelines and trust you with your own management.

Please make sure you drink plenty of water.

One last word, when drinking at home we rarely drink the advised measurements so be aware.


Alcohol and Heart

You will often see articles on Alcohol and the damage to organs such as the Liver, but we do not often see articles on alcohol and the heart.  Too much alcohol can damage the heart muscle, increase blood pressure, and lead to weight gain.  Binge drinking can increase your risk of having a heart attack so you really should try to limit your intake to two units a day and wherever possible have rest days when you do not drink at all.

In conversation with one heart consultant who used the scenario that if you took a syringe of alcohol and pumped it directly into the heart muscle that muscle would die.

Drink water in between alcoholic drinks


We all know of the health risks associated with smoking. However, your circulation is affected by smoking and you do need to look after your skin as it will have been damaged by your lymphoedema.

If you live in the UK;

  • Talk to your GP
  • Join your local stop smoking service

For further advice;

Page first published July 2014 as part of our Healthy Living Page

Republished independently 12/05/2020

Page last updated 06/04/2021