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Top Ten Ways to Control Lymphedema Naturally

These steps helped me partially reverse my lymphedema—so much so that I no longer need to wear compression stockings, do self-massage, or elevate. While there’s no guarantees it will work for you, these are all healthy things to do. Of course, always consult your health care provider for advice.
  • 1.  Chinese Herbs

    I worked with a Chinese herb practitioner and took herbs every morning for about a year and a half. This was a significant investment in both money and time, but I got the biggest improvement right around month four. So my advice would be to try it for about 4 to 6 months if you can and continue while you keep getting results. Of course it is possible that if I had done it longer I would have completely eliminated the lymphedema. I don’t know. I will be trying this again shortly so will report my latest results.

  • 2.  Tui na (Chinese Massage)

    This can be hard to find, but Tui Na is a unique type of massage designed to help correct systemic health issues.  As a therapeutic form of massage, it is capable of removing scar tissue.  Apparently this scar tissue can block some of the lymphatic flow too.  It certainly did for me.  I apparently had significant scar tissue in my back that caused my lymphatic system to be weakened.  The theory here is to make the most of what you DO have left of your lymphatic system.   Please note this is not a feel-good massage, it is a therapeutic massage.  It can be very firm and can hurt, so be mentally prepared.  Be sure to communicate that early on if you’re in too much discomfort.  Tell the masseuse to back off if you feel too uncomfortable at first.  Leave enough time in between massages since you may well be very sore.

  • 3.  Get to a Healthy Weight

    Some research shows that extra weight will dramatically impact your lymphedema.  That makes sense, since extra weight is a drag on your entire body.  The extra, non-essential fat forces every system to work harder than it should have to.  So do what you need to do to lose any extra weight. Of course, I realize that is easier said than done.  My recommendation is to convert to a plant-based diet, which has been shown to help you drop weight without having to count calories or limit the amount you eat.  It is a great diet for lymphedema and overall health in my opinion.  As importantly, it is a healthy way to live and not be forced to watch how much you eat.  Here’s a blog I wrote about my experiences with a plant-based diet for lymphedema.

  • 4.  Eat More Green Vegetables

    During my fight with lymphedema I started eating green veggies as often as possible. These foods have so many antioxidants, are anti-inflammatory and many have also been shown to help repair DNA faster.  Cook with them, blend them up in green smoothies, eat salads or soups, whatever it takes.  Just eat more of them.  Starting the year that I had success reducing my lymphedema, I would try to eat some form of green veggie at every meal.  Even if it was just a small amount, it was not that hard. If I had some whole grain toast for breakfast, I’d put hummus and add some sprouts or baby spinach leaves on it.  Roasted brussel sprouts or some veggie soup make a great snack anytime.  Lunch and dinner were easier of course, but once you are in the habit of it, it’s quite easy to incorporate kale, spinach, cabbage, broccoli and other greens at most meals.  The goal is to give your body the healthiest nutrition to support it in both healing and operating more efficiently.

  • 5.  Go Plant-Based (or Mostly Plant-Based)

    Switching to a vegan, whole-food plant based diet has helped me feel healthier and fitter in my 40s and 50s than I felt in my 20s. It helps support your body in healing.  I haven’t found anything better and it’s an easy diet to live with.  Even if you can’t go 100%, try eating more plant based meals.  You’ll likely see how much better you feel then the transition to eating this way more often will take care of itself. Aim for 90% of your diet to come from plants, not animal foods.  Along with helping to support your lymphatic system with natural foods, you’ll be helping prevent a myriad of other diseases at the same time.

  • 6.  Walk as Much As Possible

    Your lymphatic system needs help, so you need to start looking at activity as part of your life. Can you walk places instead of drive?  Or ride a bike? Look for any opportunity as this will keep your body moving, your blood pumping and your lymph recirculating.  Fitbit or other fitness trackers are a great help here, especially if you tend to work at a desk.  I aim to just stay active and also walk at least 45 minutes a day.   More is better, so you can support your body in maintaining a more efficient lymphatic system.  Walk with friends, walk with your partner, adopt a rescue dog, listen to audiobooks…do whatever you need to do to move more.

  • 7.  Rebound at Least 10 Minutes a Day

    When you use a rebounder, you can feel your circulation improving.  Especially if you’re like me and sit at a desk frequently, you need movement breaks, and a rebounder is a quick way to get your whole body moving fast.  It also gets your heart rate up quickly which is great for your metabolism.  Initially I always tried to do 20 or 30 minutes and found it brutally boring, so I didn’t do it often enough.   So finally I bought a small foldable rebounder and made a deal with myself to use it 10 minutes a day.  That worked!  I work at home so I have more flexibility here, but you could certainly do it at the end or beginning of the day instead (ideally far apart from your normal workout time).  Ten minutes is fast and easy, especially if you do it in front of a TV.  It’s a great habit and an easy way to keep your lymph and circulation moving.

  • 8.  Do Yoga Often, Even in Short Stints

    Another great tool for your lymphatic system is yoga. Yoga keeps you moving and gets you twisting and turning your body different directions.  It can help keep away those blockages which can inhibit your lymphatic system.  I use streaming yoga services as a great way to do yoga at home.  They have classes as short as 10 or 20 minutes which are fun and well-rounded, or you can do long classes too.  You won’t get bored if you choose a streaming service with great instructors.

  • 9.  Switch to Natural Skin Products

    When you’re trying to optimize your lymphatic flow, you’ve got to remove anything and everything that might be overloading your system.  Your skin has no filter like your lungs, so any chemicals you put on it your skin have to be filtered out, and guess what system does it…the lymphatic system.  So don’t overwork your already underpowered system.  Instead, work with it by making things easier.  I took inventory and replaced all soaps, lotions and cosmetics with non-natural ingredients to simpler, natural products.  That means no more perfume or cologne on a regular basis, too.   I switched to natural soap made from shea butter or olive oil, with no preservatives, which I actually now love.  I found body lotions that were all natural too.  Makeup’s a tough one, so I just only wear it when I absolutely have to, and then I”ll avoid face makeup and just use eye makeup.  I also switched to purely mineral sunscreens, too.  Iherb.com and Vitacost.com are great places to find all of these products at very reasonable prices….way less than at health food stores. (They ship internationally too, to most countries).

  • 10.  Clean Up Your Environment

    While you’re trying to help your body function more efficiently, try to limit other toxins which might tax your lymphatic system as well.   That includes cleaning products that you may come in contact with.    For anything that comes in contact with your skin, opt for a natural product when possible (kitchen cleaners, glass cleaners, etc).  This includes anything you’re going to breathe in too.  You can even make your own cleaners with vinegar, baking soda, etc.  Then if you have to use something that is not natural, always use gloves and/or a mask to minimize impact on your body.

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