Food and Lipoedema
At Talk Lipoedema we are frequently asked for information about what foods are helpful for lipoedema. In this section you will find a overview of general healthy eating advice, and guidance on where to go for more help and support. Unfortunately, there is currently very limited research evidence about what foods can benefit someone with lipoedema. At Talk Lipoedema, we are working with various professionals with a keen interest in lipoedema, and will soon be developing more information about food and lipoedema that will become available here.
A survey of 190 women with lipoedema showed that many had tried and tested different ways of managing their body shape and size through changing their eating habits (Alsop and Smith 2019). A total of 45 different types of diets were listed by those taking part in this research. The study also showed that some women with lipoedema had challenges with managing their weight, or had experienced eating disorders. We therefore know how important it is to talk about food and nutrition, and provide practical and realistic advice on food and lipoedema.
Eating a healthy and balanced range of foods is important to our physical and emotional health. Lipoedema symptoms such as pain and swelling can be influenced by what we eat. Some people with lipoedema also experience additional weight gain that can be difficult to control. Trying to lose weight by restrictive dieting (and calorie counting for example) is usually not effective in the long term. This is probably due to how the body adjusts its’ metabolism, resetting it when someone stops ‘dieting’, so weight is quickly regained.
Caring for ourselves through making small, healthy changes in what we eat, is a great first step. Read below for more information and scroll to the end for useful links.
General advice on eating for health
- check food labels as these will give information on levels of salt, sugar and fat in foods
- try to prepare food from scratch as this gives you more control on portion sizes
- eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day (your 5 a day)
- make simple swaps, eating brown bread and wholegrains instead of white bread and grains
- eat more beans, pulses, or oily fish, eggs, meat and other proteins from naturally-fed sources
- choose unsaturated fats and oils
- take at least 6 to 8 glasses of fluid each day, avoiding sugar-filled drinks (and those with sugared alternatives)
Weight gain in lipoedema
Many people with lipoedema experience generalised weight gain. It is possible that this is linked to the genetic influences in lipoedema, but we need more research to understand the processes.
For many complex reasons, there has been a gradual increase in the average weight of the general population. Having lipoedema means that we are caught up in the focus on ‘obesity’ within the NHS.
The International Lipoedema Association suggest that being overweight can aggravate lipoedema, making it more difficult to manage and treat, and resulting in reduced mobility and a lack of fitness.
NHS clinics often use weight, height and body mass index (BMI) as ways of monitoring weight and identifying what is required for a person. It is thought that this can be misleading in lipoedema, as weight can increase because muscles become larger from carrying around the lipoedema fat, and bones can be denser.
Support with managing your weight and healthy eating
If you have difficulties in managing your weight, ask your doctor or practitioner for more information and support. If you meet the criteria they may refer you to the healthy weight/weight management services in your local Health Board or Health Trust. This is usually a multi-disciplinary team including nurses, psychologists, dieticians and physical activity therapists. Some of these services are not familiar with lipoedema, so getting an accurate diagnosis is important. They may be interested to read the section called For Professionals on this website.
If you have additional weight gain alongside lipoedema, it can be difficult for a doctor or practitioner to make a diagnosis of lipoedema. Be prepared to talk to them about your history, experiences and symptoms of lipoedema. It is worth knowing that anyone who is keen to have weight loss surgery, will be asked to follow a conservative weight management programme before being considered for surgery.
Eating to manage symptoms of lipoedema
There is no one way of eating that suits everyone. We often have busy lives, feeding families, and juggling budgets. Making decisions about healthy eating needs to take all this into account.
Start by making small changes. Be patient with yourself. Some small changes you might like to consider include reducing your intake of one or more of the following:
- Processed foods – if the list of ingredients includes anything you don’t have in your kitchen, then its processed
- Refined carbohydrates, sugar and anything with added sugar
- Vegetable oils including sunflower oil, corn oil, palm oil and rapeseed oil
- Starchy vegetable such as potatoes and parsnips
- Grain fed meats including chicken, soya, whey protein & processed meat such as sausages and bacon
- Canned, dried and very sweet fruit such as bananas, mangos and pineapple.
Other help with healthy eating
BEAT can offer support on disordered eating
https://nimh.org.uk/ Find a herbalist practitioner who can advise you on supplements that are right for you.