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Drinking Alcohol with Lymphoedema

For many, alcohol is simply a part of our daily life like having dinner. We may not give it a second thought as it is often the norm to have a drink when socialising with family and friends, to celebrate a special occasion, or to unwind after a long and stressful day. 

Drinking Alcohol with Lymphoedema

Drinking alcohol is a personal choice. Having lymphoedema means your body tissues are already strained with excess lymphatic fluid. Alcohol has a diuretic effect, stimulating the kidneys to pass more fluid. An already compromised lymphatic system struggles to cope with the extra pressure alcohol creates. Alcohol also works as a vasodilator, causing blood vessels to relax and expand. This increases the flow rate of lymph it doesn’t increase the flow rate of lymph, it increases the fluid leaking out of the vessels into the tissue spaces and the amount of fluid in your body tissues. This may result in increased swelling or feeling of heaviness in the area affected by lymphoedema.

Consuming alcohol puts the brakes on your immune system, slowing your body's ability to produce cytokines. Cytokines help regulate the immune response. Alcohol makes it harder for the body to produce the numbers of white blood cells it needs to fight off infection or disease. You are generally at a higher risk of infection when you have lymphoedema.

The rate we process alcohol and feel its effect is different from person to person, several factors such as gender, physiology and genetics play their part. Having lymphoedema and drinking alcohol reduces your ability to fight off infection for up to 24 hours after getting intoxicated. With this in mind, it is good to be aware of how alcohol affects you and your lymphoedema should you choose to drink:

  • Check with your doctor that it is okay to consume alcohol
  • Drink more water, this will rehydrate your body and flush out toxin from your body
  • Elevating your affected limb is also very helpful in reducing swelling
  • Wear your compression garment, this may help to lessen the effects of alcohol and provide additional support for your lymphatic system
  • Lymphatic drainage massage, this will ease swelling and help clear toxins from your body

Monitor your alcohol consumption and how it affects your affected limb to save repeating affected, could we put lymphatic limb, or swollen limb. Take care and adjust your drinking habits if you notice your swelling has worsened.

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