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The 20 Worst Foods for the Lymphatic System

red meat

It is a well-known fact that the foods and beverages we choose to consume have a direct effect upon our overall health, and our lymphatic system is no exception. In general, when it comes to our lymphatic system low fiber, high sodium, high sugar and high fat diets are among the worst foods for the lymphatic system. Since engaging in any dietary change can be confusing, we've taken the liberty to get you off on the right foot by creating a basic guide on what foods to eat in moderation or avoid entirely.

What is the Lymphatic System and What Does it Do?

While most of us are familiar with the circulatory system, not many know about the lymphatic system. Without the lymphatic system, we would cease to function. It's crucial to our body's immune system by creating the white blood cells, or lymphocytes, which help us fight infection and disease. It also removes impurities from our body via lymph fluid. Have you ever gone to the Doctors because of the flu? If so, they probably felt around your neck. They did this to see if your glands were swollen, a sure sign they are busy helping you fight an infection.

Your lymphatic system is made up of a variety of organs which include lymph nodes, spleen, tonsils, glands, ducts and thymus gland. When the lymphatic system isn't performing up to par, lymphedema can result. This is when lymph fluid escapes into the surrounding tissues. This fluid cannot drain properly due to a blockage in the lymphatic system. As a result, the areas affected begin to swell. Lymphedema can be managed through proper medical care and diet. Paying attention to the foods and beverages you consume can play a vital role in helping manage this condition.

What is the Result of Sluggish Lymph Flow?

When the lymphatic system off, the flow becomes sluggish. Remember that it's this system's job to filter the blood, fight infection and remove dangerous pathogens from our body. A sluggish flow means that these impurities won't be exiting the body any time soon and the results will show in the state of our overall health. Results of a sluggish lymph flow may include:

  • Rashes
  • Allergies
  • Excess belly fat
  • Recurring colds and flu
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Puffy glands
  • Chronic pain
  • Cancer

1. Fatty Foods: A Dietary Trap

Diets with a high fat content should be avoided for those who desire a healthy lymphatic system. This translates to avoiding ketogenic diets if one suffers from lymphedema. When it comes to foods that have a negative impact on the lymph system, then foods that have trans fats are definitely at the top of the list. These are synthetic fats, known as partially hydrogenated oils. Trans fats encourage inflammation of the lymph system and should always be avoided with those suffering from lymphedema or swollen lymph nodes.

2. Ready to Eat Foods: Convenience is Not Always Healthy

We've all enjoyed the convenience afforded us by using ready to eat foods. What is a ready to eat food? Well, these are foods that are quick to prepare and include cake mixes, pancake mixes, microwave popcorn and so on. Ready to eat foods have a negative effect on swollen lymph nodes, due to the hydrogenated oils, artificial ingredients, sugar content and high caloric count.

3. Red Meat: A Source of Lymphoid Malignancies?

Red meat, salted meat, and milk were positively associated with risk of lymphoid cancers. On the other hand, plant foods, particularly total fruits, and alcoholic beverages (mainly red wine) were protective. We could conclude that these foods could play a significant role in the etiology of lymphoid malignancies. As you can see by the study sited above, red meats as well as dairy play a part in contributing to lymphoid malignancies. Fortunately today, there are plenty of red meat alternatives for you to enjoy. Brands such as Tofurky, Gardein, Beyond Meat and Impossible Burgers are paving a way to a more sustainable way of living as well as a more healthy way of life for all.

4. Processed Meats: Premature Death at the Deli Counter?

Stay away from that deli counter! Processed meats are one of the worst food choices that you could make for yourself when it comes to your lymph system. Basically, these high fat, high sodium foods are filled with artificial chemicals as well. Meats are considered processed if they've gone through a process involving salting or curing, which is designed to preserve the meat. Also included are canned meats like Spam, smoked and preservative ridden meats. Processed meats include:

  • Hot dogs
  • Sausages
  • Lunch meat
  • Pepperoni
  • Ham

Above is only a partial list of processed meats. To see a more complete list visit nutrition tribune. Did you know that companies who initially made these meats knew that they harmed people? It took much pressure from activists, governmental agencies and scientific research to uncover the truth and tell it to the people.

5. Foods with Acrylamide: Little Known Carcinogen with an Impact on Health

Acrylamide is a carcinogen that is found in many common foods, and has an adverse effect on lymph tissues. In 2012 it was found that acrylamide in foods may assist in causing follicular lymphoma. Foods with Acrylamide include:

  • Peanut butter
  • Cookies, biscuits, crackers
  • Coffee
  • Potato chips
  • Canned black olives
  • Toasted nuts
  • French fries

6. Caffeine: Can Adversely Affects Lymph Drainage

Drinking beverages with caffeine in moderation is not an issue with the lymphatic system. However, in excess, caffeine can actually make your lymph nodes swell. Not only that, but to assist in proper lymphatic drainage, it's crucial to keep oneself hydrated. Sadly, drinks like caffeinated coffee can actually cause the body to undergo dehydration. When this happens, your lymphatic fluid can become sluggish, which may lead to lymphedema.

7. High Sodium Foods: Why are These Foods so Destructive?

According to the natural health care center, high sodium foods should be withheld for those with lymphedema: "A low salt diet needs to be followed with lymphedema and lipedema...Keeping your salt intake at less than 1500 mg/day and increasing your potassium containing vegetables will improve the lymph and blood circulation. Himalayan salt has a natural balanced sodium and potassium and might be a good choice when using salt". Sadly, high sodium foods are also considered by many to be our fun foods, and these are contraindicated for those with lymphedema. Lymphedema occurs when your lymphatic system is so damaged, that lymph fluid leaks into the surrounding tissues. As sodium encourages water retention, it makes the situation all the worse. Foods rich in sodium include:

  • Processed meats
  • Canned goods
  • Chips
  • Junk food

8. Processed Dairy Products: Choose Plant-Based Alternatives Instead.

Processed dairy products should be left off the list when it comes to those suffering from lymphatic system issues such as lymphedema. These foods are high in both sodium and fats, and both sodium and fats are considered inflammatory foods for those with lymphatic issues. Processed dairy products include processed cheeses like Velveeta and margarine. If you're stuck check out plant-based alternatives as evidence points to those alternatives as being better suited for overall health.

9. Junk Foods: Tasty Treats that Lead to Trouble

Ah, potato, corn and tortilla chips and dips what could be more inviting after a long day? Junk foods are something we've been used to since childhood, but no matter how we crave them, they are damaging to our body. It's a well-known fact that those with lymphedema must observe an anti-inflammatory and anti-edema diet. So, no microwave popcorn, bear claws, Twinkies or Sara Lee cakes, as such foods are loaded with all things unhealthy like high sodium, fats, preservatives and sugars.

10. Alcohol: Moderation is Fine, Excess isn't

Alcohol has an adverse effect on your immune system by blocking immune pathways. It also has an adverse effect on your gut bacteria. To clarify, we're talking about extensive consumption of alcohol. After all, there have been recent studies which suggest a drink or two per day can be helpful for some. That being said, when an individual consumes large quantities of alcohol, one of the side effects is leaky gut. Leaky gut can wreak havoc to your body as it allows waste to enter your body. This then has a negative effect on your lymphatic system.

11. Gluten: Inflammatory and Unnecessary

Foods with gluten are known to tear away at the immune system. Gluten is also known to cause people to experience bloating and abdominal distress. An individual dealing with swollen lymph nodes experience some of the same symptoms, so adding gluten foods would only exacerbate the problem. What are gluten rich foods? Foods with gluten include certain breads, pastas, oats, wheat barley and rye.

12. Low Fiber Foods: Contribute to an Unhealthy Gut

Low fiber foods are those which contribute to constipation and general abdominal discomfort. The lymphatic systems performance is connected to a healthy gut. When you consume low fiber foods, your ability to evacuate fecal matter is decreased. When your lymph nodes are swollen, it's crucial to steer clear of low fiber foods unless your physician puts you on a low residue diet.

13. Baked Goods: Sumptuous and Flavorful Bundles of Inflammation

Rich and creamy Long Johns, Jelly filled Bismarks and decant pies, cakes and cookies. You already know that they're bad for your lymphatic system, but why? Baked goods are packed with fat, rich in calories, low in fiber and nutrients and packed with sugar. Commercially sold baked goods hit you from all sides it seems. However, you can make your own using healthy ingredients like whole wheat flour and fresh fruits. Did you know that you can make delicious baked goods from black beans? Well, it's true, so you could give that a try.

14. Candy: Moderation is the Key

Oh, this is going to be a tough one for people. Candy has been a big part of our life since childhood. Everything from sticky, pink cotton candy to rich decadent chocolates and everything in between is a no-no when it comes to strengthening your lymphatic system. Candy is laden with sugars, additives, gums and artificial colors. All of this means that candy increases inflammation and is a burden to the system.

15. Fast Food: Greasy, Salt Ridden but Tasty Nuggets of Fat

The fast food category contains some of the worst foods for the lymphatic system out there. Where do we begin? Let's just say that fast food restaurants are loaded with food choices that are counterproductive to having a healthy lymphatic system. After all, fast food is crawling with salt, sugar, and dangerous saturated fats, not to mention the calories. Not only is fast food bad for the immune system, but it doesn't do your heart much good either. -

16. White Bread: Seemingly Harmless--Anything But

You may be wondering what is wrong with white sandwich bread. After all, it seems harmless enough. However, looks can be deceiving and in this case the culprit is refined white flour, which encourages inflammation. Keeping in mind that for a healthy lymphatic system, one should adhere to an anti-inflammatory and anti-edema diet, it's not a good choice. It also raises blood sugar levels. So eliminate white bread and all foods made with refined white flour. This means cutting back on those Krispy Kreme donuts, bagels, pancakes and waffles too.

17. Soda: Sugary Bottles of Empty Calories

Sodas are packed with excess sugars, the biggest culprits being corn syrup and fructose. Soda is loaded with empty calories as well. By saying empty calories, we are referring to the fact that soda has no nutritional value whatsoever. Not only that, but some also have caffeine, which some believe isn't too healthy for your lymphatic system as it can cause dehydration which adversely affects lymphatic drainage.

18. Fried Foods: Gobs of Grease Dripping in Sugary Ketchup

Let's face it, sometimes there's nothing like a hot, steaming plate piled high with greasy, ketchup laden French fries. We seem to be geared to crave crappy foods, and those in the fried category are among the worst. After all, a healthy gut micro biome is crucial for a healthy lymphatic system, and all that greasy fat suppresses a healthy gut.

19. Energy Drinks: Is That Quick Energy Pump Worth It?

If you're concerned about your lymphatic system's performance, then energy drinks aren't the way to go. You'd be better off sipping a fruit smoothie. First, energy drinks are packed with sugar as well as caffeine, and too much caffeine isn't good for your immune system as it causes a rise in inflammation. Too much caffeine can also cause the body to become dehydrated. Dehydration hinders proper lymphatic drainage.

20. Ice Cream: Cold and Creamy, Loaded with Fats, Sodium and Sugars

Sure, it's known as a wholesome, all-American treat, but traditional ice cream is nothing but sugar, sodium and saturated fats, all of which cause inflammation. But don't lose hope. Today there are plenty of dairy alternatives. Plant-based ice creams can be purchased in most supermarkets. These alternatives are delicious and for some, taste better than the original! Also, it's a great alternative for the lactose intolerant.

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Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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