Nutritional information for lymphedema and lipedema: Things to consider
The information included in this blog is intended for informational purposes and should not be used as an end all be all! Everybody's body is different and you should consult with your physician regarding starting a new regimen. Keep in mind that you should not treat any changes as a "quick fix". Making healthy habit changes takes time and patience, and should be considered a lifestyle. Don't give up! I like to practice the 80:20 rule, if I do really good 80% of the time. I am not going to be hard on myself when I indulge at a family gathering or on an occasional special treat. Just remember that this needs to be done in moderation. The 20% does not include binging on a whole quart of your favorite ice cream, no matter how good it makes you feel! Sometimes we have to think about the reasons behind why we eat! For me, mindless eating while watching TV happens easily, even if I am not hungry. Perhaps for you, you might be an emotional eater? Food is fuel! The majority of this information was derived from "Lymphedema and Lipedema Nutrition Guide", a book I reference regularly for guidance.
Total Fat: All fats are not created equal. Some fats are necessary for our health, while others can be harmful. Because fat provides more than twice as much food energy (calories) per gram as protein or carbs, fats leave us feeling full and satisfied. Here are some foods to consider adding and cutting out of your diet.
Unsaturated fats: Avocados are an excellent source of this type of fat. You can also eat eggs, nuts and olive oil, but in limited quantities.
Omega-3: Chia seeds, flaxseed and walnuts. Eat cold-water wild fatty fish.
Saturated fats: Eat primarily coconut oil, kefir, and yogurt. Eat in limited quantities butter, ghee, goat and sheep milk cheese, chocolate, milk, poultry and red meat s. Please with lymphedema may want to avoid certain animal products because they contribute to the overgrowth of gram-negative gut microbes. Grain fed meat and dairy products are less desirable than grass-fed meats and organic dairy products.
Trans-Fat: Avoid hydrogenated oils, margarine and shortening. The FDA has banned trans-fats, but these are now being replaced with chemically modified fats, which are not a healthier option.
Sodium: Keep salt intake low, between 500-1,500 mg/day. This means limiting fast food, processed foods and any meats injected or cured with salts/sauces to name a few.
Carbohydrates: Carbohydrate information on food labels includes total carbs, dietary fiber and sugars. There are three types of carbs:
Refined carbs: Processed sugars, refined starches such as flour milled from wheat or other grains.
Natural sugars: Found in fruits, vegetables and dairy products.
Starches or complex carbs: Include starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn, beans, brown rice, etc.
A general guideline for carb intake: if you eat meat/dairy products, plan on 65% of total calories to be from carbs. Without animal products, plan on 80%. Look for options with the lowest net carbs (total carbs-fiber), and try to avoid added sugars.
Dietary fiber: Fiber is only found in plant-based foods including veggies, whole grains, fruits and beans. Be careful of fortified foods. Look for whole grains like quinoa, brown rice, wild rice, buckwheat, sorghum, tapioca, and gluten free oats. Fiber helps support proper gut microbiome and helps regulate appetite and digestion.
Protein: Protein is a building block for muscle and is used as an energy source. Proteins come from plants including beans, legumes, soy, nuts, vegetables and whole grains. Animal products also contain high levels of protein. Did you know that plants can provide all the proteins and amino acids human require? That means vegetarians can get the adequate protein intake, however it needs to be from a variety of plant foods. Recommended intake for women is 46 grams/day (increased to 71 grams/day if pregnant or breast-feeding) and men 56 grams/day.
Inulin: Inulin is a specific type of dietary fiber that supports beneficial gut bacteria. Adequate inulin intake helps prevent chronic inflammation and improve immune function. A recommended 2.5 grams/day appears to be the minimum. Be cautious to rapidly increase your intake as this could cause diarrhea. Inulin can be found in bananas, asparagus, dandelion greens, raw garlic, artichoke, raw leeks, chicory root and onions.
Fermented foods: Fermented foods contain live bacteria that are essential for a balanced gut microbes. This includes Kefir, yogurt with active cultures, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, miso, and dill or kosher pickles (non-refrigerated pickles do not provide bacteria from fermentation).
Artificial sweeteners: Should be avoided. This includes saccharin sucralose, aspartame, isomalt, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol. Instead of using artificial sugars, try use regular sugar in lesser amounts or coconut sugar. However these should be avoided if possible.
Whew, that is alot of information and hardly the tip of the iceberg. If you are interested in a complete list of foods, feel free to contact me. Or even better yet, you can purchase your own copy of the book "Lymphedema and Lipedema Nutrition Guide" by Chuck Ehrlich, et al on amazon for only $17.95!! This book is an excellent resource and includes sample meal plans, recipes and a shopping guide.