Nutritional Considerations for Lymphedema

Posted April 19th, 2012 in Breast Cancer, Cancer Surgery, Recipes by Rebecca Lane

The function of a healthy lymphatic system is to collect
excess fluid, proteins, fats, inorganics and organics from the tissues, filter
it and return it to the bloodstream. Through its capacity as a filter, it protects
our body against disease and illness.

With lymphedema, excess protein-rich fluid leaks from the
lymph causing swelling, which decreases the oxygenation of tissues and
interferes with normal cell function. If the lymph stagnates, there is
potential for infection to occur (since the lymph contains bacteria) and excess
protein which remains in the tissues can begin to align and cause fibrosis.

Nutritional considerations for lymphedema include the
following key factors:

CALCIUM

The healthy flow of lymph is dependent on the presence of free calcium for good peristaltic action of the smooth muscles.  We have a tendency to look to milk as a good source of calcium (Ca), however milk contains too much protein to be an adequate supply of Ca. In fact, one of the key factors influencing Ca loss is high protein intake since protein creates an acidic environment in the body (the body constantly seeks to maintain blood pH at about 7.35). When the blood becomes too acidic it takes calcium from the bones and pulls it into the bloodstream where it acts to restore the proper balance.

Good food sources:

  • Green vegetables – spinach, collard greens, swiss chard, kale, romaine lettuce,
    celery, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus
  • Citrus fruits
  • Herbs – basil, cinnamon, rosemary, garlic, mustard seeds
  • Nuts and seeds – steel cut oats, sesame seeds, almond
  • Sea vegetables

PROTEIN

Lymphedema is associated with the accumulation of protein in
the interstitial spaces. At the same time, protein is essential for repairing
and replacing tissues and muscles and building hormones, chemical messengers
and antibodies (to name only a few roles) in your body. Your body requires
protein with every meal.

Consider:

  • Choose healthy lean meat and fish protein – just one serving per day.
  • Use nuts, seeds, and legumes as alternative protein sources. Add them to
    salads, whole grains and steamed veggies for new taste options.

WATER

Water is an important component of lymph and is the
transport medium of the lymph system. It is very important to stay well
hydrated when dealing with lymphedema. Cutting back on fluid intake in an
effort to reduce the swelling can actually increase the swelling.

Consider:

  • Here’s a good rule of thumb to determine proper hydration levels: Drink enough water to turn your urine
    a light-coloured yellow
    – no odour and very little colour!
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol which are mild diuretics. You can enjoy 1 to 2 cups
    of green tea which is full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory
    compounds.

FATS

Since the lymph is also responsible for removing fats from the tissues and bloodstream, it is important to choose your fats wisely. Reduce the amount of saturated fat (from animal
protein), polyunsaturated fats and completely eliminate hydrogenated and trans fats from your diet (found in margarine and fried foods).

Choose good fats:

  • All of the hype about omega-3 fatty acids is completely valid. You need these
    essential oils for healthy cell membranes and brain health. They are found
    in fish oils, flax oil, hemp oil, walnut oil. I supplement my fish intake
    with EPA/DHA capsules, then use the nut and seed oils as dressing for
    salads, and steamed vegetables. They cannot be heated without going
    rancid.
  • For low heat cooking (less than 350 degrees F) you can use olive oil combined
    with vegetable or chicken stock to keep it cool – for steaming vegetables
    and light sautéing. For higher heat cooking used small amounts of coconut
    oil or butter.

SODIUM

Excess salt intake can increase the swelling of lymphedema as well as cause other health issues within the
body. High intake of sodium can lead to dehydration and is linked to high blood
pressure and heart disease. At the same time, sodium is an important mineral
necessary for the regulation of blood pressure and fluid volume to name just a
few of its roles.

Consider:

  • Consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of salt per day.
  • Take the salt shaker off the table, instead flavour with herbs, spices, seaweed
    and lemon juice
  • Limit the amount of processed foods you eat. When you do, read food labels
    carefully to determine the amounts of sodium and learn to recognize
    ingredients that contain sodium: a food with salt, soy sauce, salt brine,
    or any ingredient with sodium, such as monosodium glutamate, or baking
    soda (sodium bicarbonate).
  • In reading menus, look for words that signal a high sodium content, such as
    barbecued, broth, marinated, pickled, smoked and tomato base.
  • Fresh vegetables and fruits are a good source of appropriate amounts of sodium.

BODY WEIGHT

Excess body mass creates more work for the lymphatic system,
further with excess weight can come limited mobility, which reduces the
movement of the lymph and leads to stagnation and more swelling.

Consider:

  • Maintain a healthy, active body weight
  • Eat a balanced, healthy diet.  We strongly
    recommend eating 6 to 9 cups of vegetables and fruits per day, one to two
    servings of whole grains, and only one serving of animal protein per day –
    make that fish two to three times each week.
  • Make exercise an important part of your everyday routine. Whether walking,
    dancing, visiting the gym or enjoying fitness classes – find time to move
    and sweat every day.

Herbal Salt Substitute Recipe

Source: http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Herbal-Salt-Substitute

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground mustard

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I use less – my family finds this a little too picante!)

1 teaspoon paprika

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container in a cool
dry place for up to 1 year. Yield: 1/2 cup.

I also use Dulse or Kelp flakes instead of salt – or add large pieces of seaweed (Nori) to cooking water of soups, stews, and to flavour
pasta and rice.

 

Thanks to the following resources:

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/hbp/prevent/sodium/tips.htm

http://lymphalexa.com/2011/03/08/nutrition-lymphedema/

http://whfoods.org

The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods by Michael Murray, ND pp. 27-28

Lymphedema: Finding the Holistic Approach by Phillip J. Pollot, LMT

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Simple Ways to Bring Greens into your Life

Posted April 11th, 2012 in Cooking classes, Drinks, Nutrition Articles, Recipes, Salads by Rebecca Lane

Life is much easier if I plan out the meals for the week ahead of time. Now life doesn’t always go the way I planned it, so I allow for a couple of meals where I only have 15 to 20 minutes from the time I get home until the time food is on the table. It’s all about the preparation.

When I sit down to plan, I often choose a couple of new recipes to try. Nothing too complicated because I’m usually tired by the time supper rolls around. I have several favourite web sites: whfoods.org (really easy, fast and healthy recipes), 101cookbooks.com (these are a little more challenging, but always delicious), nourishingmeals.com, domesticaffair.blogspot.ca – and several favourite cookbooks: Get it Ripe by jae steele, Enlightened Eating by Caroline Dupont and refresh by Ruth Tal are my top three at the moment.

From these recipes write out all of the ingredients – and make a list of what you need to get! The easiest way to go grocery shopping and not forget half of what you need is to create a list – checking it against what you already have in the pantry. I find if I have a list, I’m more focussed and not as easily swayed by tempting prepared foods and treats.

Coming home from the store

Unpack everything and put the dry goods away. If you buy in bulk, transfer to mason jars for ease of use. I keep all of my flours, grains, nuts and seeds right where I do my food preparation so I have them right at hand. I put most of the bread in the freezer, taking out only what we will eat in three days. That way it doesn’t get wasted.

Right away, I get my veggies ready to use for the next couple of days. That way I don’t have to chop, grate and wash every night – it’s already done! Here are some suggestions:

  • Greens – wash and tear what you are going to be using for salads in the next couple of days. I usually put them in the salad spinner and spin them just once, leave the water in the container and put the whole thing in the fridge. My family uses more than a spinner full per day so I put the separate greens in a vented bag because they take up less space. If they are going to be there for more than a day, wrap them in wet towels.
  • Carrots – I usually wash and chop in large coins about 4 carrots, cut some into snack-sized pieces and grate 4 carrots in the food processor. I put them in separate containers and store in the fridge.
  • Sweet peppers – wash and chop half at a time into small enough pieces to throw into an omelette or salad at a moments notice. Cut the other half into snack-sized pieces for dipping.
  • Celery – wash, chop into snack-sized pieces, dry and place in a container.
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, etc) – chop into serving sizes, wash, dry and store in container.
  • Beets – I love beets and they are delicious grated in a salad, or throw a handful into your green smoothie. Grate some up after you’ve done your carrots and put them in a separate container.
  • Squash, turnip – I put off these until the last because I find them so hard to work with but peel them, cube them and store in container. Do it now or you won’t later!
  • Asparagus – wash, snap stems wherever they break and store upright in a glass of water. Somehow these always get knocked over in my fridge so push them to the back where they are out of the way but not out of mind!
  • Fresh herbs – make sure they are dry before you put them away, then wash only when you are about to use them. They don’t like to be prep’d ahead of time.
  • Parsley/cilantro – wash them, dry them, cut off the tips of the stems and store upright in water, lots of water.
  • Garlic – press a whole bulb at a time, that way you’ve always got it ready. Store in a jar.
  • Sprouts – I usually leave them in the carton they come in. They are so easy to make yourself and the kids enjoy watching them grow.

So now that you’ve got everything ready to go, adding vegetables to your meals will be easy and quick. I came across a great resource – The Periodic Table of Produce from Simple Life, Fall 2006 and here’s a link where you can print it out: http://www.slashfood.com/2006/09/22/periodic-table-of-storing-produce/. Slashfood is also a great recipe resource, just beware of the sugar content in some of the recipes!

Building a salad

Fresh greens Sulfur veggies Bright colours Herbs Toppings
Start with a bed of fresh greens (about 2 cups per serving). Choose organic if possible, I like a mix of spinach, arugula, romaine, red lettuce, radicchio. Kale, swiss chard, broccoli, bok choy, cauliflower, cabbage (red and green) Brighly coloured veggies and fruit add lots of phytonutrients to the mix. Try cucumber, tomatoes, carrots, beets, celery, fennel, fresh berries Full of nutrients and vitamins: fresh mint, basil, parsley, chives, dill, cilantro, dandelion greens Top off your salad with sprouts – like broccoli, mung bean, alfalfa, sunflower – and nuts and seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, pine nuts)

Don’t forget the dressing

 A great way to get your daily dose of essential fatty acids (EFAs) for healthy cell membranes and immune function (among other things) is with a tasty dressing to pull all the flavours together. Here are a couple of quick and easy recipes.

House Dressing (from Get it Ripe by jae steele – this will quickly become your favourite!)

1 tbsp miso paste
1 tbsp nut butter
1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup
3 medium cloves garlic, pressed
Freshly ground pepper
¾ cup flax seed oil (or olive oil, walnut oil – your choice)
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar 

Mix everything together in a jam jar. Stores in the fridge for up to one week.

Easy Balsamic Vinegar Dressing

6 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, pressed
Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 Mix everything together in a jam jar, then pour on salad!

Green Vegetable Smoothie (this smoothie is like having a salad in a glass – another easy and fast way to bring greens into your daily routine)

1 handful baby spinach leaves
10 stalks parsley
6 stalks celery
1 lemon, peeled
1 cucumber, whole
Pineapple juice 

Throw everything into a blender, in opposite order. You can use a sieve to remove most of the fibre, or leave some to help with digestion.

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