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L-W-O Community

Primary, Secondary & Paediatric Lymphoedema Online & in the Community

Welcome to L-W-O's Healthy Living page.  The aim of this page is about the lifestyle changes for those of us who live with Lymphoedema often must make, it is so important to eat a healthy balanced diet and drink water.



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. 

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.  

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.

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


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.

 Think of it, as being a lifestyle change rather than a diet.

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. 

Tip for Fruit & Vegetables

In this day and age where incomes are limited and organic food is often more expensive, my tip would be to have a small scrubbing brush in the kitchen so that you can buy whatever fruit and vegetables you can afford.  Keep a small nail brush in the kitchen so that when you buy non-organic fruit and vegetables you can wash and scrub them to remove any lurking pesticides or bacteria. There has been a rise in the cases of E Coli.  It has been suggested that this might have come from unwashed fruit and vegetables.

You have enough to deal with so please wash all fruit and vegetables before you use them.


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.

Healthy Snacking

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