Overheard at the Clinic – Part 2

There are many myths and misconceptions about Lymphoedema, Manual Lymphatic Drainage and the do’s and don’ts if you have issues with your lymphatic system.

So, based on the questions and statements I hear frequently in my clinic, I’ve decided to address some of these points with the ‘Overheard in the Clinic’ blog series.

Part 2 – “I thought I should drink less water, because water retention is causing the swelling.”


This is a pretty common misconception about Lymphoedema and swelling in general.

Firstly, even if you’ve not been diagnosed with Lymphoedema, your swelling/water retention could be due to an issue with your lymphatic system. So it’s pretty much the same thing. Of course it’s important to rule out issues with your veins (such as venous insufficiency) or your heart, but if there’s no apparent reason for the swelling, it’s more than likely down to an issue with the lymph nodes or lymph vessels.

Secondly, lymphoedema (which basically means lymph swelling) is not caused by your body retaining water. It’s a fault, a malfunction, or in some cases a temporary blockage in the lymph nodes or slowing down of your lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system is a network of vessels that runs throughout the body, just like your blood vessels, ranging in size from microscopic, to… well… the size of a blood vessel! These vessels carry a straw-coloured fluid called lymph.

I always refer to the lymphatic system as the engine of your immune system. It’s responsible for the waste management in your body, collecting waste that’s not picked up by the blood vessels, carrying it to the lymph nodes where it is filtered, and where any infections are identified and the appropriate response is actioned.

This detox or waste disposal system needs a lot of water to keep doing its job. If you get dehydrated this hinders the lymphatic system and slows it down. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, if you have problems with your lymphatic system you need to drink more water, not less.

Think of it like keeping your car topped up with oil. If you run low on oil it can cause your engine to seize up. Don’t let the engine of your immune system run low on water…

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