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L-W-O Community

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

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Welcome to L-W-O's series of Healthy Living pages.  The aim of these pages is to encourage lifestyle changes for those of us who live with Lymphoedema. 



The effects of food and drink

Nobody likes being told that they can't or shouldn't do something.  Living with the lifelong condition of lymphoedema, even though, this condition is manageable, means that, we need to look after ourselves.  (It is important to eat a healthy balanced diet and drink plenty of fluid especially water.

Certain foods, such as spicy and salty food, or alcohol (especially wine) can cause an increase in swelling.  Alcohol turns to sugar, sugar becomes bacteria.

There is no specific diet for Lymphoedema

It is important to eat healthily which will improve our general health and well-being whilst coping with our lymphoedema.  No dietary protein restriction is recommended for lymphoedema even though lymph is a protein-rich fluid.

Controlling weight will also help but especially for those who have this condition in their legs.  Lots of us eat too much but we can't always be on a roller coaster of dieting.  

Keep a Diary

Living with lymphoedema we often find that inflammation flare-ups in addition to any swelling we already live with happen for no specific reason or pain increases and we don't understand why.  We know salt, fat and sugar increase swelling keep a record of what you eat and see if you can pinpoint why one day is worse than another.  Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Use a food diary or notebook
  • Do you have a enough space to track your days intake
  • Or use an online app to track your intake
  • Track your water intake


Inflammation & Food


The above question is often asked whether there is any definitive proof that food might cause inflammation?  Looking at this from a patient point of view our members think it does.  We are all different, so what might affect me, won't necessarily affect someone else... Read more

Why is Weight Control Important?

Our closed support group members have discussed just about every diet going from the 5.2 diet, Low Carb, Atkins, Paleo, Slimming World, Weight Watchers, Rosemary Conley, Sugar Free, The Rad diet and now the Keto diet is the one everyone is talking about. Why is weight control important?  Weight control is essential because it has been suggested that the extra fatty tissue affects the lymphatic channels, reducing the flow of fluid through them. 

The Eatwell guide explains the different food groups and shows you how to have a healthy, balanced diet.

Portion Control

On the go - a portion of food fits into the palm of your hand

  • eat off a tea plate or small bowl
  • try a Mediterranean diet, in my case this made a real difference
  • six days a week eat healthy and then have what I call my "rubbish day", on this day I can eat what I want 

It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to tell the brain it is full


Using portion control is not a quick fix.  Using a smaller plate get the stomach use to smaller portions without counting calories or weighing food.

The British Heart Foundation have a good article on portion control

5 Portions Fruit & Veg

Following NHS Guidelines five portions of fruit and vegetables a day

  • more chicken and fish, especially oily fish
  • more high-fibre foods (whole grain cereals, seeded or granary bread)
  • less red and processed meat
  • less saturated fat (pastries, samosas, cheese)
  • less salt   

In many European countries it is recommended you eat seven portions of fruit and vegetables a day. 

We often get asked about vitamin D so this handy fact sheet from the Self-Care Forum you might find useful.  

All the research for this Healthy Living page was taken from NHS websites on Lymphoedema, Live Well Eat Well, Alcohol Units and the British Heart Foundation, links will take your directly to those websites.  As always interpretations are mine.

Take a look at the blog I wrote for Nutrition & Hydration week with reminisces from my childhood.

Al Fresco

Not always easy in the UK but when you can eat outside.

Get that much needed vitamin D from the sun.  Just make sure you don't get sunburnt.

If there are insects around light a citronella candle to keep them away.

Invite friends around, make it a social occasion.

Page first published July 2014

Page last updated 07/05/2020