To understand lymphedema and the Atkins Diet’s affect on it, you first need to understand how lymphedema affects the body. Lymphedema, while relatively rare, does affect between two and four million Americans. The symptoms can vary from mild to extremely severe and life-threatening.
Lymphedema is excessive fluid retention in the body caused by an imbalance in pressure between the veins and tissues. It is usually the result of an impaired lymph system. Sometimes this is because of a hereditary condition, while others develop it after undergoing cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy, which can damage the immune system.
There have been reports that using the Atkins diet to lose weight can help keep lymphedema under control and lessen the severity of the symptoms. While there haven’t been any clinical trials about this yet, there are some indications that this may be true.
First and foremost, many people with lymphedema are also overweight. Unfortunately for sufferers, the more excess weight they carry, the more severe their lymphedema becomes. Obviously, losing weight (as with the Atkins diet) in general will help reduce their discomfort and the possible complications of the swelling caused by this disease.
The reason many people with lymphedema swear by the Atkins Diet, however, is that many doctors have determined that a low salt, low carbohydrate diet helps reduce the symptoms. The Atkins Diet suggests controlling both salt and carbs, so it is a very good fit for someone with lymphedema who wants to diet. Protein in the diet can also help reduce symptoms.
Because the Atkins diet also means limiting alcohol and caffeine (or eliminating them completely), it is a good weight loss choice for those with lymphedema. Why? Because both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, and diuretics should not be used to treat lymphedema. You see, the fluid built up in tissues of people with this condition isn’t water – it’s a protein-containing fluid that is produced by the lymph nodes and pools in the tissues. If you don’t use the proper medications to flush out the waste products in this fluid, it will remain behind even if you get rid of water retention. The Atkins Diet, which suggests avoiding any diuretic-type drinks, would fall right in line with this.
You cannot treat lymphedema just by using the Atkins Diet, but if you want to lose weight in order to lessen the severity of your symptoms, it is probably one of your best diet choices. Since it is low carb, low salt and balanced with nutritional supplements and plenty of water, it can only help enhance any treatment used to treat lymphedema.