A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.
A disorder in the lymphatic system gives rise to the condition known as lymphedema. This disease is characterized by the development of a swelling in the lymph nodes; the lymph is a clear fluid that bathes all the cells in the body and functions as the filtration system for filtering out pathogens, during the condition lymphatic fluid cannot circulate properly within the body and the lymph may collect in certain areas of the skin-visible as swollen areas on the surface of the body. Lymph vessels are the areas where the lymph collects in a normal body, the vessels return this fluid back to the bloodstream after absorbing the pathogens and microbes. The flow of lymph within the lymphatic vessels is in one direction as the vessels have valves that allow for unidirectional flow only. The lymphatic fluid can remain in the tissue spaces if the lymphatic vessels are blocked, due to some reason-this causing swelling in the area where the fluid accumulates. The presence of any sort of infections will lead to a stimulation of the immune system which will respond by producing more lymphatic fluid, this situation will aggravate the condition, and the disorder known as lymphedema results-additionally, the presence of the disorder itself again creates the right conditions for infections of all kinds to develop in the body of the affected individual-this aggravates the condition.
The majority of patients develop lymphedema due to treatment for some other disease such as the procedures that occur during cancer surgery during which various parts of the lymphatic system-in particular the lymph vessels and the nodes, which are small structures occurring all over the body (which filter the fluid)-are excised. This is the reason that at least 35 to 40 percent of the approximately 161,000 women suffering from breast cancer who have had lymph nodes excised in surgical procedures every year, often develop lymphedema and its attendant complications. The natural drainage of the tissues in an area is blocked and eliminated when a tumor and all the adjacent lymph nodes are excised during surgery, this causes swelling as lymphatic fluid collects in these areas. Therefore in the limbs closest to the site of excision, all the lymphatic fluid will accumulate and become stagnant over time, and in all the tissues of the limb this blockage will cause noticeable swelling. This results in the swelling of the limb, sometimes the swelling may cause the limb to increase several times its normal size-this causes a great deal of real and aesthetic discomfort. The recurrence of cancer may severely aggravate the lymphedema, this is because the presence of tumors attracts the mineral sodium and this causes further fluid retention in the affected tissues.
While it is not suggested that herbs and nutritional supplements be used along in treating or managing edema, these remedies should not be used alone and must be utilized to support conventional treatment methodologies. Topical techniques such as regular massages, the use of compression garments on the affected areas, and the use of prescription medications is suggested along with the herbs and various supplements-the combination of these two treatment regimens will bring maximum relief to patients afflicted with this disorder.
Supplements and herbs
The use of supplements of the compound bromelain in tablet form is strongly suggested for all patients suffering from the condition. Dosage of this compound in tablet form can be 250-500 mg taken thrice every day, once between every meal of the day. The compound bromelain will reduce the swelling in the affected tissues, and it will cause the breaking up of immune complexes that are the main cause for the symptomatic inflammation in the affected tissues. Bromelain may be avoided by affected individuals who have a known allergy to pineapple as the chances for developing a rash from the use of the bromelain exists. The use of this compound as a supplement must be stopped at once, if any itching sensation develops in the skin of the patient.
Another supplement suggested for individual affected with the condition is the butcher's broom Ruscogenin in tablet form. Dosage of this supplement can be a 100 mg taken once a day for a treatment period lasting at least three months at a time. The use of this supplement will lead to the strengthening of lymphatic vessel walls. The supplement will also relieve the attendant swelling and symptomatic inflammation in the tissues of the affected individual.
Herbal supplements of the ginger tea can be taken as a supportive measure, this herbal tea can be prepared by mixing about half a tsp or a gm of powdered ginger in a cup of water-boil this solution, let it steep for some time and then strain. Drink at least one cup of this herbal ginger tea thrice every day on a regular basis. The ginger tea will help increase the circulation of lymph and will also cause a reduction in the inflammation present in the affected tissues.
Topical herbal treatments can consist of applications of the horse chestnut Aescin cream directly on the affected areas of the body. The label will have instructions on how to apply the cream. If preferred, Aescin tablets can also be used instead of the topical cream. Dosage of these tablets can be a 150 mg tablet taken every day on a regular basis. The herbal supplement will cause a reduction in the swelling and will lead to an increase in the strength of the lymphatic vessel walls. If an affected individual is trying to get pregnant, the use of the horse chestnut can complicate things and such women must not use the herbal supplement.
Lymphedema patients can also benefit from taking oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) grape seed or pine bark extract tablets as regular supplements. Dosages of this supplemental compound can be a 200 mg tablet taken on a daily basis.
Additional things you may do
Several techniques and measures can be taken to bring about a reduction in the swollen tissues present in the body of the affected individual, before using any of this techniques-go over them with the physician for suitability to your case. The various measures are techniques such as massage, with special reference to a specialized form of light-pressure massage which is known as manual lymph drainage-this massage is especially beneficial for individuals suffering from lymphedema. The affected limbs can also be treated by regularly wearing or applying compression garments over them, these can be replaced once every three to six months - these garments serve both in putting pressure on the affected area as well as in covering them. Patients can also benefit from the use of compression pumps which will force the lymphatic fluid from the impaired lymph glands towards the lymph vessels which are still in a functional condition. Patients suffering from the condition can also get great benefit from increasing their physical flexibility through aerobic and weight-training exercises carried out on a regular basis. Patients can also benefit from the use of the herbal supplement known as Varicosin manufactured by the Phyto Pharmica firm, this supplement combines herbs such as the butcher's broom, the gotu kola herb, and the herbal extract of the horse chestnut, the combination supplement can be used as a substitute for any of the individual herbs that it contains. To being about greater strength in the walls of the lymph vessels, take regular doses of 500 milligrams of the rutin two times every day. Follow the instructions on the product level while taking the enzyme preparation known as Wobenzym-which is widely available in many stores. Women who had surgical procedures because of breast cancer were seen to benefit immensely from the use of this supplement as per the results of an Austrian clinical test-here the supplement used was Wobenzym, this internal remedy was followed by a topical remedy consisting of sessions of manual lymph drainage. The positive effects observed in the women include a reduction in the size of the swollen arm, the lessening of pain and other symptoms, and an improvement in the skin conditions, these results were observed within two months of starting supplementation. Dietary regimens must also undergo a change to avoid all food products that contain the long-chain triglycerides; those found primarily in fats that remain solid at room temperature-food sources for these triglycerides must be removed from the diet immediately. A positive impact can result for all patients who reduce the amount of this type of fat present in their diet-the symptoms of the condition seem to abate with this modification in the diet. Drinking a smaller amount of water will not reduce the symptomatic swelling and this is not a good way to try to reduce the amount of inflammation and swelling. Make sure that you drink at least an ounce of water -20 milliliters, daily for every 2 pounds-kg of body weight as this is the ideal minimum. Water is important for other reasons, as an example an individual weighing 128 pounds should drink at least 64 ounces, or 8 cups, of water every day to maintain the metabolic rate at normal levels. The affected limb must be kept clean at all times of the day and the night. All the bandages, the compressed garments and the clothing or other fabric coming into contact with the skin must be regularly laundered and kept clean ready for use. A break in the skin on the affected limb, an accidental cut or a scrape, must be treated immediately by an application of a topical antibiotic-consult with your doctor on the appropriate treatment measures to take when such injuries occur. A significant relief from the symptoms of the condition was reported in only about twenty five per cent of women taking oral coumarin medications according to the results of a study appearing in The New England Journal of Medicine. This is not to suggest that the use of both internal and external herbal remedies or medications that contain coumarin simultaneously will not benefit the affected individual. In fact, it has been noted that such an approach increases the effectiveness of the remedy in bringing about a reduction in the swollen tissue by 150 to 300 percent over both forms of herbal remedy used singly. Trying two herbs at the same time, one as internal medication and the other as topical remedy is another approach. To do this, a prescribed coumarin medication can be taken orally and simultaneous use may be made of a topical cream or ointment made form the horse chestnut or the sweet clover herbal cream. The management of edemas in the leg can be greatly aided by the use of compression stockings and most patients affected in this way find these stockings very useful in beating back symptoms of the condition. The leg edemas were kept from worsening by the use of such stockings in nineteen out of twenty affected individuals who used them according to the results of a Japanese study found that nineteen out of twenty people-this is in contrast to the fact that the conditions did not worsen in only one of four individuals who did not use the compression stockings at all. Individuals who have had their lymph nodes excised must not be administered the suggested medications through IV or via syringes while they are still in the hospital. In addition, tests like blood pressure measurements, testing for allergies or the drawing of blood must not be done from the arms of patients. Lymphedema and its symptoms can be aggravated at high altitudes as such a decrease in the barometric pressure found at high altitudes places greater stress on the body. If an affected individual must travel by air or stay in an area with high altitude, he or she must make sure that a compression garment is worn at all times-this is extremely important to minimize the impact of the decreased pressure at a high elevation.