5 Tips to Help You Manage Lymphedema
Living with the side effects of lymphedema can be difficult, and treating it can feel like a full time job. You may even feel overwhelmed. To help guide you during those overwhelming times we've created a list of 5 tips to help you manage your lymphedema.
1. Drink plenty of water
This is number one because it's the easiest and most important. If your body isn't hydrated, it hangs on to every ounce of fluid making it harder for your lymphatic system to flush out what it doesn't need. When you don't drink enough water your lymph vessels are not adequately lubricated and fluid will collect and swell. Give your body the water it needs (around 14 cups a day) and your lymphatic system will thank you.
2. Stay on track with treatment
Staying on track with treatment is a crucial step to managing life with lymphedema. It can be hard, but the reward is worth it, you'll feel better. Your massage therapist alleviates pain and edema by manually moving lymph away from the broken vessels into an area that can properly drain the lymphatic fluid. Exercises prescribed by your therapist will also stimulate lymphatic flow.
Put yourself and your needs first: set a timer to remind yourself to get up and move your body. If you need a trainer or friend to annoy you into exercising you should consider accessories like a FitBit or iWatch. Both have the capability to remind you it's time to take a walk, or that you have been sitting too long.
Reward yourself after completing therapy or doing an exercise (because it's hard!) with a phone call to a family member or treat yourself to a movie night.
Check out one woman's lymphedema journey as she chronicles her experience with bilateral lower extremity therapy.
3. Choose snacks that promote lymph flow
In the spirit of the season here's the perfect fall snack: Sweet Pumpkin Seeds. It's festive, healthy and the key ingredients promote lymph flow. Pumpkin seeds are a healthy source of fiber that clean out your digestive track, which then frees up lymphatic fluid. Spices, such as cinnamon, can promote digestion, which in turn assists lymph drainage. There are also antioxidants in cinnamon that strengthen your brain by preventing cell damage. This sweet treat mimics all the goodness of pumpkin pie with less calories and more health benefits.
Visit the recipe for sweet, baked pumpkin seeds.
4. Try dry brushing
Dry brushing* has been around for centuries because it has so many positive side effects. It softens skin, boosts energy and can even reduce the appearance of cellulite. It's cheap. It's easy. But the best part? Brushing gets your lymphatic system moving. The brush promotes circulation and acts as a pump for your lymphatic fluid and helps move and remove it. Before your next shower, try dry brushing, because improved circulation of your lymphatic system means a better feeling you.
*If you have thin or newly radiated skin you should talk to your lymph therapist before dry brushing
5. Wear compression garments
Compression garments apply outside pressure to your inside systems. The pressure squeezes your extremity and pushes on the extra fluid to help move it. When your affected extremity is decongested you can use products like the ones above to help keep them decongested. Life long care is important with lymphedema, and compression plays a large role in that care. Click the above pictures to shop those products, and more.
We understand there are stages with lymphedema and sometimes elastic compression is not the right fit. Wraps, padding and bandages also play a role in caring and managing lymphedema. Take a look at other commonly used lymphedema products.
If you are looking for more support and want to connect with other people who have a lymphedema diagnosis we have compiled a list of lymphedema blogs and communities. Comment below if you have any tips to add!