SKIN AND NAIL CARE
I am very meticulous about my skin and nail care, because improper care can lead to infections and other complications for us lymphies. I never shave my legs, I only wax. This helps reduce the risk of cutting my skin or getting ingrown hairs. I never, ever have pedicures! I am very careful when cutting my toe nails that I don’t go too short and give myself an ingrown nail. I had this happen from a pedicure I had when I was pregnant in 2013 and I ended up in hospital with a cellulitis infection. I also moisturise regularly to keep my skin hydrated.
Perhaps one of the most important things we can do to help our lymphedema is exercise regularly! Keep the blood flowing and those muscles contracting to squeeze liquid up and out. My ultimate favourite thing to do for my leg is to swim. Nothing beats the free lymphatic massage that the water gives naturally as it passes over the skin. I see a HUGE improvement in my Lymphedema when I swim regularly and cannot stress enough the enormous benefits of swimming. Seriously, water therapy is a must.
I try to swim every second day (I haven’t been doing this lately because I am pretty busy with my two small babies), or at least twice a week. Combined with my MLD’s, swimming does wonders for my leg, keeping the skin soft and moving the lymph.
Another great exercise I’ve recently discovered is Aqua Biking. Its the most perfect workout for people with Lymphedema!!
Nope, it’s not me on the bike!
I also do squats, lunges, any kind of leg work that makes the muscles contract to pump the liquid. (I’m not a professional about the exercise side of things but if any of you are and want to send me some information about types of exercises that are best for lymphies, please email me so I can share this!)
This is an area I could really improve on, so for the moment I don’t have much advice to offer here. I just feel like I have to put so much effort into every other aspect of my life to help reduce my leg swelling, that my food is not something I’m ready to change just yet. I eat very healthy, fresh fruits and vegetables from the markets, I naturally avoid processed foods because I’m just not keen on them. I don’t drink carbonated sodas, eat many sugary treats (like candy all day!)… I think I have a pretty balanced, fresh diet. I’m slowly trying to cut down on gluten (many people have told me this contributes to their swelling) which it pretty easy these days because lots of yummy alternative to gluten exist (I’ve discovered its actually not that hard to be ‘gluten free’). I like to drink wine (yes, every night I have a few glasses of red wine! Im a mother, I need it!), but I avoid white wine and champagne if I can because I immediately feel a tightness in my leg when I drink “white alcoholic beverages.” Weird, but there you go.
ELEVATION and SLEEP!
I try to elevate my leg as much as possible. If I’m sitting down I try to put it up on something in front of me (eg: the coffee table!). If I’m a passenger in the car I put it on the dashboard (not if I’m driving of course!!). At the end of the day I lay on my bed and put my leg up against the wall for 30 minutes. Any opportunity I get to elevate I do it. 10 minutes is better than nothing!
Sleep, as I was told recently by a proper Lymphedema physiotherapist, is crucial to this condition… and I couldn’t agree more. I have noticed how lack of sleep has effected my leg. Since having my second baby 8 months ago, my leg is much worse than before. I haven’t been sleeping much or resting with my legs up. I can totally see how this is impacting my Lymphedema. Resting properly during the evenings lets the liquid drain out of the limbs. I elevate the end of my bed with pillows to help this further. It seems like a weird thing to include here, but sleep is just as important as exercising or eating healthy. We tend to forget this in today’s busy world.
HEALTH FOOD SUPPLEMENTS
To be honest, I don’t really believe these work. I’ve had many people swear by them but for me personally I haven’t seen any results. I have taken some herbal pills in the past were made of natural products like dandelion leaf and ginko but I didn’t see a difference in swelling. People with Lymphedem have a mechanical problem with our lymphatic systems. Pills will not help the fact that I have significantly less lymph nodes in my left leg. What I really need is more lymphatic structures to move the fluid better (hence my lymph node transfer).