What is it?
Edema is visible swelling in certain parts of the body, especially the feet and legs. This swelling occurs as a result of excess fluid accumulating under the skin in the spaces around blood vessels. Edema is a symptom of serious disease until proven otherwise, requiring complete medical evaluation and physician monitoring.
What causes it?
Edema can occur as a result of certain situations (e.g., being pregnant, prolonged standing, or long airplane rides), obesity, age, or injury. Certain conditions, such as failure of the heart, kidney, or liver, a blood clot in the leg, insulin resistance syndrome (IRS), varicose veins, burns, bites, malnutrition, or surgery, can cause swelling in one or both legs.
What role might cytokines play?
Fat tissue produces a cytokine protein (angiotensinogen) that causes salt retention. Synthesis or release of this protein can be induced by a single meal if high in calories, fat, and/or carbohydrates. Fluid retention is maintained chronically by continuing to eat a high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie diet. Inflammatory cytokines damage small blood vessels and cause them to leak with resultant fluid retention. Cytokines also affect hormones secreted from the adrenal gland, heart, and brain that further promote fluid retention.
What results could I expect with MNT?
Edema from any cause typically responds to the MNT Plan, usually by Food Phases 1 or 2. Patients on diuretics (fluid pills) or vasodilators (heart or high blood pressure medication) should be very alert to hypotension (low blood pressure) in Food Phase 1 or 2. Rapid fluid loss may occur, requiring discontinuance of medication. After your edema subsides in Food Phase 1 or 2, stay alert for signs of relapse. Depending on cause, relapse may occur after a single meal of a higher fat, higher carbohydrate food or for other reasons (e.g., large salt intake, menstrual swelling, or certain arthritis medicine). Swelling should quickly resolve with resumption of the plan.
How can I measure symptom change on the plan?
Talk with your doctor about what may be causing your swelling – cardiac illness, hypothyroidism, hypertension, OR perhaps a medication. If the latter, MNT will not reduce your symptoms; however, it can help determine if your edema is related to medication, depending on how quickly you see results without reducing medication dose or discontinuing altogether. Take a baseline measurement before beginning the Plan and again after each Food Phase or every four weeks.