Have you ever been injured and developed swelling at the site of injury? This is a normal part of the body’s healing process, where any excess fluid from the swelling decreases in time as the area heals. Sometimes, you may notice a bit of swelling in your body if you eat too much salt. Or, women may develop fluid retention during pregnancy. What happens though, if you are faced with something more serious, like a heart, liver, or kidney condition, or cancer that causes you to develop edema?
Edema is a swelling that is caused by excess fluid accumulation in the body’s tissues. If the fluid develops in the arms and legs, then it’s called peripheral edema. Lymphedema occurs specifically from damage to the lymphatic system, for example, perhaps from a tumor that is blocking the flow of lymph fluid. The lymphatic system is an important part of the immune system as it carries white blood cells that help us to fight pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and fungi. However, this fluid can accumulate in the soft tissues of the body due to cancer or cancer treatment, such as that which occurs from the removal of lymph nodes, performed in surgery quite commonly in those diagnosed with cancer. If the fluid accumulation is occurring in the peritoneal, or abdominal cavity, then that fluid is referred to as ascites. The most common cause of ascites can be caused by liver cirrhosis of the liver, where the liver has become hardened and scarred. However, cancer of the colon, stomach, pancreas, as well as breast, lung, ovarian cancer, and lymphoma, can also to the development of ascites.
When I was in hospice with ovarian cancer, struggling with this is not an experience that I would ever want to go through again. I initially had ascites, fluid that accumulates in the peritoneal or abdominal cavity. Then, whenever I exhaled, the air coming out sounded like the crackling salt being fried dry on a pan. However, after some time, both of my lungs collapsing and filling up with fluid, where the sounds emanating from my lungs began to roar, like the rumbling sounds from a revving motorcycle, where I could actually feel a thumping sensation in my back every time I breathed.
Then, the rapid deluge of fluid accumulated throughout my abdomen, feet, legs, arms, and hands. Even after doctors drained several liters of ascites from my abdomen, I was dismayed when, within 5 hours, all the fluid would return, leaving me just as uncomfortable as I continued to struggle to breathe.
My entire body became more swollen and weighed down with fluid where, at its worse, I would gain 10 pounds in just one day. The pain that radiated from my lungs could be felt as an extremely sharp pain between my ribs in the back. The pain was so excruciating, that it would literally take me an hour to transition from laying down to being able to sit up. I was suffocating and drowning in my own sea of fluids.
Trying to inhale and not having enough air go into my body was very distressing. Eventually, I had to be placed on oxygen, but that didn’t seem to help because even then, there came a point in time where I was literally gasping for air. This was when I decided to have the fluids drained because no matter how much the nurses increased the oxygen flow, my blood oxygen saturation levels were dwindling, causing me to experience frequent headaches, brain fog, shortness of breath, and elevated heart rates as my heart worked hard to pump blood much-needed oxygen to my organs. However, my blood levels were critically low, so I received 5 blood transfusions. There was so much fluid that my abdomen swelled until it looked like I was 8 months pregnant. There was also fluid around my heart so doctors thought I was experiencing heart failure as well.
I underwent different procedures to drain several liters of fluid from my abdomen as well as from my lungs. These procedures are known as a paracentesis and a thoracentesis, for the abdomen and lungs, respectively, and involves inserting a long catheter to a bottle that contains a vacuum, which draws the fluid out. Even after miraculously surviving major open surgery to remove the large, 27 cm tumor from my left ovary, when I came to, the fluid insidiously returned again, so I had to be put back on oxygen.
While the nurses informed me that I would have to be put on medication to be rid of the fluids, when I was in the midst of going through months of physical and occupational therapy, the fluid started to drain out naturally on its own, without any medication, where I had to use the bathroom every 2 hours throughout the night, as the draining of fluid seemed to accelerate during the night hours. I went from weighing 150 pounds prior down to 96 pounds when all the ascites fluid had completely disappeared, on its own, from my body.
How did this happen? What I didn’t mention earlier was that after receiving the diagnosis of ovarian cancer, I immediately changed my diet to an organic raw vegan diet, drinking a lot of fresh green vegetable juices, wheatgrass juice, and barley grass juice. I also went through extensive detoxification protocols, from using bentonite clay to activated charcoal, to sweating it out in infrared saunas, to doing regular enemas. I worked with many different practitioners to address not only the physical, but the emotional, and spiritual, as well as using amazing plant-based products like essential oils.
I am extremely grateful for God’s intervention in preserving my life through this ordeal, as well as to my doctors, and especially those who supported me in my effort to heal using nutrition. I believe that true healing can come, even in the most seemingly impossible situations, when we work wholeheartedly to integrate the mind, body, and spirit.
What are five things that you can do when you’re dealing with edema?
1. Take natural diuretics to increase the production of urine.
Corn silk. This is the silky white threads that you see on the end of a corn stalk when you eat corn on the cob. You can save some of the silk and dry it to use in your tea. I would recommend using organic corn since most of the corn in this country is genetically modified. You can also go to your natural health market to purchase corn silk. It is sold in a dried form and is brown in color. You can add a third cup of corn silk to your mug. Then, add boiling water and steep it for a minimum of 3 minutes, or as long as 15-20 minutes, and drink it up to three times a day.
Dandelion. Yes, this is the same weed that grows outside in your backyard. I like to use dandelion leaves in my salad, I juice dandelion leaves, and I also like to drink dandelion root tea. If you don’t want to use the dandelions from your yard, you can purchase it at your natural health foods market. It’s very helpful to encourage the flow of the fluids out of your body, in addition to being a powerful antimicrobial.
Black cumin seed. If you’re not familiar with them, these seeds look a lot like black sesame seeds. Therefore, they’re very tiny. Coming out of the Middle East, they have a very pungent flavor and aroma. If you’re not used to it, the taste may be a bit strong, but I actually like it. I incorporate black cumin seeds into my salad dressings and I like to sprinkle them on my food. They have been shown to be very helpful as a diuretic.1
Hawthorne berry and hibiscus flower. Both are very high in Vitamin C. In particular, hibiscus flower is very helpful for improving your kidney filtration. If you’re dealing with any kind of kidney issues I would definitely recommend that you incorporate hawthorne berry and hibiscus flower into your regimen.
The horsetail plant is super high in silica which is very beneficial for your teeth, your nails, your bones, and your hair. If you’re not familiar with this plant, learn more about it from an article I wrote on it here. It’s also a helpful diuretic.2
Green tea is a natural diuretic which also contains a natural, cancer-fighting component called epigallocatechin gallate (ECGC). Green tea contains L-theanine which acts as a diuretic. I would not recommend drinking more than a cup a day, as drinking too much of it can overstimulate your adrenal glands, which can lead to further problems down the line.
2. Incorporate more vegetables into your diet.
Vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals which aid in supporting your body’s immune function. Incorporating vegetables that are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties aid the body in relieving the body of excess swelling, which can cause blockages in your lymphatic system. Some of the very helpful vegetables would be asparagus, onion, garlic, turmeric root, and ginger. Turmeric, which is in the same family as ginger, is a powerful anti-inflammatory. You can watch the video I created about it here.
3. Use essential oils.
Lavender essential oil is one of the most familiar essential oils because it is often used in aromatherapy, where inhaling the lavender can be very calming and soothing to your nerves. However, it’s also a very powerful anti-inflammatory. If your legs, feet, or ankles are swollen with fluid, you can use some lavender essential oil topically to reduce the inflammation.
Juniper berry essential oil can actually extract fluid from your skin. Research has shown that it’s very effective in fighting infection as it has a high proportion of alpha-pinene, a monoterpene, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory, broad-spectrum antibiotic, anti-fungal, and has cancer-fighting properties.3,4,5,6
Cypress essential oil is extracted from cypress trees and is very helpful for fighting infection, detoxify the body, and improving circulation7. Because of this, it increases sweating, and can, therefore, help to reduce edema.
If you use essential oils, it’s important to use high quality, therapeutic grade essential oils that do not contain harmful solvents or other contaminants. You can find excellent quality essential oils here.
Because the lymphatic fluid contains the white blood cells, keeping the system moving is important to support good health. Since it does not have its own pump, like the cardiovascular system has with the heart, the only way for the fluid to move is through exercise and movement.
If you’re not able to engage in these activities, I highly recommend using a rebounder which is a mini trampoline. With a rebounder, your feet don’t have to leave the surface. Just gently bounce on it. This bouncing motion will help to stimulate the flow of the lymphatic fluid.
5. Seek out a manual lymph drainage therapist.
At times, there may be areas in your body where there’s lymphatic congestion. For this, I have found it very helpful to have someone who is skilled at very gently manipulating areas in your body to open up these areas congestion, helping to stimulate the flow of lymp fluid throughout your lymphatic system
6. Use Compression Stockings.
These are elastic stockings that you wear on legs to apply gentle pressure to support veinous return so that the fluids don’t accumulate as much in the lower extremities. In extreme cases, you may need to actually use pneumatic compression pumps, which uses air pressure to fill and release in a sequential, gradual, upward direction to help pump your blood and lymphatic fluid back up your legs and into your body.
The most important thing that I learned through this whole process, which can be a frightening one, is not to be fearful. It’s important to fight the fears because the more fear and tension that exists in the body, the more difficult it is to breathe calmly, which further aggravates the situation. To do this, I suggest meditating on what is good and positive and to trust in the process. If you have cancer, consider looking at your situation as a big wake-up call and take it as an opportunity to evaluate what is and what isn’t working in your life, and as much as you are able, take steps to completely change every aspect of your life.
Knowing how painful and distressing my experience was with edema, I want you to know that, if this is happening to you, you don’t have to go through this alone. These are five ways to naturally drain this excess fluid from your body. As soon as you notice that there is some fluid build-up or if you’re feeling shortness of breath, you may want to begin implementing some of these recommendations into your regimen. If you need additional help, be sure to check out my website where you can request a consultation with me and receive my support and advice on resolving this, or other health issues.
Which of these five tips jumped out at you or grabbed you? Or, do you have some additional tips that you would like to share? If so, please share them in the comments below. Some of the best tips can show up in the comments below.
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1. Aftab Ahmad-Asif Husain-Mohd Mujeeb-Shah Khan-Abul Najmi-Nasir Siddique-Zoheir Damanhouri-Firoz Anwar. (2013) Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3642442/
2. (2015, January 2). University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved from https://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/horsetail.
3. Nissen, L., Zatta, A., Stefanini, I., Grandi, S., Sgorbati, B., Biavati, B., et al. (2010). “Characterization and antimicrobial activity of essential oils of industrial hemp varieties (Cannabis sativa L.)”. Fitoterapia. 81: 413–419. doi: 10.1016/j.ftote.2009.11.010.
4. Fragrant environment with α-pinene decreases tumor growth in mice. Masatoshi Kusuhara, Kenichi Urakami, Yoko Masuda, Vicent Zangiacomi, Hidee Ishii, Sachiko Tai, Koj Maruyama, Ken Yamaguchi. Biomed Res. 2012 Feb; 33(1): 57–61. Retrieved from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22361888.
5. Page C, Michael C, Sutter M, Walker M, Hoffman BB (2002). Integrated Pharmacology (2nd ed.). C.V. ISBN 978-0-7234-3221-0.
6. Filipowicz, N., Kamiński, M., Kurlenda, J., Asztemborska, M., Ochocka, J.R. (2003, March). Antibacterial and antifungal ativity of juniper berry oil and its selected components. Phytother Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12672151
7. Rivas da Silva AC, Lopes PM, Barros de Azevedo MM, Costa DC, Alviano CS, Alviano DS. (2012, May). Biological activities of a-pinene and ß-pinene enantiomers. Molecules. 17(6):6305-16. doi: 10.3390/molecules17066305.