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Lymphedema Vitamins and Nutrition

Vitamins for a Healthy Life

Vitamins are a part of the crucial nutrition circle for a healthy life. Vitamin deficiency causes many diseases and medical conditions, or contributes to them.

I am a proponent of vitamins supplement for three reasons:

1. Stress, whether if be mental or physical depletes your bodies reserves. A body with a depleted vitamin reserve is less likely to heal from wounds, and infections, is less likely to cope with stress, and is much more vulnerable to further illnesses.

2. In our modern world of processed, bleached, regurgitated and fast food products, much of the nutrient is gone before it reaches you table. Therefore, it is necessary to help in our vitamin requirements by taking supplements.

3. Lymphedema and the constant battle with infections and usage of antibiotics changes our vitamin requirements. Infections and antibiotics both can deplete vitamin reserves and it is necessary to take supplements.

However, having said that, I also need to say that there is no clinical evidence to support any claim that vitamins will cure or treat lymphedema and this page is for information only.  Vitamins are essential for overall health which does improve our resistance to many of the complications of lymphedema such as infections.

Before you being any vitamin regiment, check with you doctor to make sure it is safe and does not conflict with any medication or other condition you may have.  

Pat O'Connor

May 4, 2008


What is a Vitamin?

A vitamin is an organic substance that acts as a regulator of the body's metabolic process. Functions include strengthening or restoration of the immune system, regulates and improves your energy level, helps regulate cardio-vascular functions and such things a blood coagulation. Vitamins helps the body heal from wounds and infections, important in eye-sight, bone health, emotional stability, helps clean out the toxins, and helps the body thwart many diseases.

So, they are critical to our well being and over-all health.


Numbers, Types and Functions of Vitamins

There are 13 known vitamins and these are divided into two types.

Fat soluble - Vitamins that are absorbed and stored within our fat cells. It is important to remember that you can overdose on these vitamins and the results can lead so serious toxic poisonings and conditions. In the case of fat soluble vitamins, more is not better.

Water soluble - Vitamins wherein your body uses what it needs for the moment and then flushes the remaining ones from your system via the urine. Inadequate intake of these also leads to complications and conditions.

Because of the above, I always recommend chelated or time-released vitamins. That way, your body is constantly getting the required vitamins throughout your day and you don't have to worry about to much or to little.


Lymphedema Vitamins

Of special interest to lymphedema people are the antioxidant vitamins
A, E, C - these are discussed under the Antioxidant Forum.

Vitamins that have demonstrated the ability to help our immune system, and help fight infections are A, C, B6 (B-complex in general); garlic helps the immune system as does selenium and zinc.

Vitamins that help our body heal from wounds include Vitamin B-complex, C, E, the minerals zinc and copper are helpful also.





Medline Plus


Vitamin are a group of substances essential for normal metabolism, growth and development, and regulation of cell function.

Vitamins work together with enzymes, co-factors (substances that assist enzymes), and other substances necessary for healthy life.


Each vitamin has specific functions. If levels of a particular vitamin are inadequate, a deficiency disease results.

Vitamin A helps in the formation and maintenance of healthy teeth, skeletal and soft tissue, mucous membranes, and skin. It is also known as retinol because it generates the pigments that are necessary for the working of the retina. It promotes good vision, especially in dim light. Vitamin A may also be required for reproduction and breast-feeding. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A that has antioxidant properties, helping the body deal with unstable chemicals called free radicals.

Thiamine (B1) helps the body cells convert carbohydrates into energy. It is also essential for the functioning of the heart and for healthy nerve cells, including those in the brain.

Riboflavin (B2) works with the other B vitamins and is important for body growth and red blood cell production. Similar to thiamine, it helps in releasing energy from carbohydrates.

Niacin is a B vitamin that helps maintain healthy skin and nerves. It is also important for the conversion of food to energy and may have cholesterol-lowering effects.

Vitamin B6 is also known as pyridoxine. The more protein a person eats, the more vitamin B6 is required to help the body use the protein. It aids in the formation of red blood cells and in the maintenance of normal brain function. It also assists in the synthesizing of antibodies in the immune system.

Vitamin B12, like the other B vitamins, is important for metabolism. It, too, helps in the formation of red blood cells and in the maintenance of the central nervous system.

Pantothenic acid is essential for the metabolism of food. It is also essential in the synthesis of hormones and cholesterol. Biotin is essential for the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates, and in the synthesis of hormones and cholesterol. Cholesterol is needed for the functioning of cell membranes, particularly in the brain.

Folate (folic acid) works with vitamin B12 in the production of red blood cells. It is necessary for the synthesis of DNA, which controls heredity as well as tissue growth and cell function. Any woman who may become pregnant should be sure to consume enough folate -- low levels of this substance are associated with devastating birth defects such as spina bifida. Many foods are now fortified with folic acid to help reduce the level of such birth defects.

Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, promotes healthy teeth and gums, helps in the absorption of iron, and helps maintain normal connective tissue. It also promotes wound healing and is an antioxidant.

Vitamin D is also known as the "sunshine vitamin," since it is manufactured by the body after being exposed to sunshine. Ten to fifteen minutes of sunshine three times per week is adequate to produce the body's requirement of vitamin D. This vitamin promotes the body's absorption of calcium, which is essential for the normal development and maintenance of healthy teeth and bones. It also helps maintain adequate blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, which are minerals necessary for many functions.

Vitamin E is also known as tocopherol and is an antioxidant. It is also important in the formation of red blood cells and the use of vitamin K.

Vitamin K is known as the clotting vitamin, because without it blood would not coagulate. Some studies indicate that it helps in maintaining strong bones in the elderly.

Food Sources   

There are 13 vitamins essential for bodily functions: Vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate). They all can be obtained from food, and vitamin D and vitamin K can be synthesized by the body.


Vitamin A is found in milk, cheese, cream, liver, kidney, and cod and halibut fish oils. Because most of these sources are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, vegetable sources of a vitamin A precursor called beta-carotene may be a better choice. Beta-carotene comes from carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, cantaloupe, pink grapefruit, apricots, broccoli, and spinach. The more intense the color of a fruit or vegetable, the higher the beta-carotene content.

Vitamin D is found in cheese, butter, margarine, cream, fish, oysters, and fortified milk and cereals. The body can also synthesize vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunshine.

Vitamin E is found in wheat germ, corn, nuts, seeds, olives, spinach, asparagus, and other green leafy vegetables, vegetable oils, and products made from vegetable oils, such as margarine.

Vitamin K is found in cabbage, cauliflower, spinach, soybeans, and cereals. Bacteria in the intestines normally also produce vitamin K.


Thiamine (vitamin B1) is found in fortified breads, cereals, pasta, whole grains, lean meats, fish, dried beans, peas, and soybeans. Dairy products, fruits, and vegetables contain some thiamine as well.

Niacin (vitamin B3) is found in dairy products, poultry, fish, lean meats, nuts, and eggs. Legumes and enriched breads and cereals also supply some niacin.

Folate is found in green, leafy vegetables and many foods are now fortified with it as well.

Vitamin B12 is found in eggs, meat, poultry, shellfish, and milk and milk products.

Pantothenic acid and biotin are found in eggs, fish, dairy products, whole-grain cereals, legumes, yeast, broccoli and other vegetables in the cabbage family, white and sweet potatoes, lean beef, and other foods.

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is found in citrus fruits and their juices, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli, turnip greens and other greens, sweet and white potatoes, and cantaloupe. Most other fruits and vegetables contain some vitamin C; fish and milk contain small amounts.

Side Effects   

See the individual vitamins.


Recommended dietary allowances (RDAs), are defined as the levels of intake of essential nutrients that, on the basis of scientific knowledge, the Food and Nutrition Board judges to be adequate to meet the known nutritional needs of practically all healthy people.

The best way to get the daily requirement of essential vitamins is to eat a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods from the food guide pyramid.

Specific recommendations for each vitamin depend on age, gender, and other factors (such as pregnancy). The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a PDF file that lists these recommendations.

Note: Many people think that if some is good, a lot is better. This is not always the case, and high doses of certain vitamins are actually toxic. Read about the specific vitamins and check with your health care provider if you are unsure about how much to take -- and how much may be too much.

Update Date: 1/18/2003

Updated by: Steven Angelo, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.


Excellent Site for Vitamins and Nutritional Information

Harvard School of Public Health

What, Exactly, Are Vitamins?

Nutrition textbooks dryly define vitamins as organic compounds that the body needs in small quantities for normal functioning. Here's the translation:

Vitamins are nutrients you must get from food because your body can't make them from scratch.

You need only small amounts (that's why they are often referred to as micronutrients) because the body uses them without breaking them down, as happens to carbohydrates and other macronutrients. So far, 13 compounds have been classified as vitamins. Vitamins A, D, E, and K, the four fat-soluble vitamins, tend to accumulate in the body. Vitamin C and the eight B vitamins-biotin, folate, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12-dissolve in water, so excess amounts are excreted.

The "letter" vitamins sometimes go by different names. These include:

Vitamin A = retinol, retinaldehyde, retinoic acid
Vitamin B1 = thiamin
Vitamin B2 = riboflavin
Vitamin B6 = pyridoxine, pyridoxal, pyridoxamine
Vitamin B12 = cobalamin
Vitamin C = ascorbic acid
Vitamin D = calciferol
Vitamin E = tocopherol, tocotrienol
Vitamin K = phylloquinone


Wound Healing and Vitamins

Wound healing is the process of repair that follows injury to the skin and other soft tissues.

Wounds may result from trauma or from a surgical incision. In addition, pressure ulcers (also known as decubitus ulcers or bed sores), a type of skin ulcer, might also be considered wounds. The capacity of a wound to heal depends in part on its depth, as well as on the overall health and nutritional status of the individual.

Following injury, an inflammatory response occurs and the cells below the dermis (the deepest skin layer) begin to increase collagen (connective tissue) production. Later, the epithelial tissue (the outer skin layer) is regenerated. Dietary modifications and nutritional and herbal supplements may improve the quality of wound healing by influencing these reparative processes or by limiting the damaging effects of inflammation.

Checklist for Wound Healing

Rating Nutritional Supplements Herbs


Vitamin B-complex

Vitamin C

Zinc (oral and topical)


Chondroitin sulfate (topical)


Ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate (OKG)

Vitamin A

Vitamin E

Aloe vera (topical)

Chamomile (topical)

Gotu kola (oral and topical)

Honey (topical)

Horse chestnut (topical)




Chondroitin sulfate (oral)

Glucosamine sulfate (oral)

Arnica (topical)

Bladderwrack (topical)

Calendula (topical)

Chaparral (topical)

Comfrey (topical)

Echinacea (topical)

Horsetail (oral and topical)

Plantain (topical)

St. John’s wort (topical)

Tea tree oil (topical)

Witch hazel (topical)

3Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.

What are the symptoms of wound healing?

Symptoms include swelling, stiffness, tenderness, discoloration, skin tightness, scabbing, itching, and scar formation.

Medical treatments

Over the counter topical antibiotics, such as neosporin (Myciguent®), bacitracin (Baciguent®), and combinations of the two with polymyxin B (Neosporin®, Polysporin®) are used to treat skin infections and promote wound healing.

Prescription strength topical antibiotics, such as metronidazole (MetroGel®) and mupirocin (Bactroban®), might be necessary to treat infection and promote healing.

Other treatment includes keeping the wound clean, dry, and covered. Surgical treatments, such as stitches and removal of damaged tissue, may be recommended.

Dietary changes that may be helpful

Building and repairing tissue requires adequate amounts of calories and protein to fuel the repair mechanisms, as the skin and underlying tissues are made of protein. While major wounds from extensive injuries or major surgery significantly raise protein and calorie requirements, optimal healing of minor wounds should not require changes from a typical, healthful diet.1 In a study of malnourished people with skin ulcers, those who were given a diet containing 24% protein showed a significant reduction in the size of the ulcer, whereas those given a diet containing 14% protein had no significant improvement.2 This study suggests an increase in dietary protein can improve wound healing in malnourished people. It is not known whether the same benefit would be observed in well-nourished people.

Nutritional supplements that may be helpful

Supplementation with bromelain, an enzyme derived from pineapple stem, prior to and following a surgical procedure has been shown to reduce swelling, bruising, healing time, and pain.3 Bromelain supplementation has also been shown to accelerate the healing of soft-tissue injuries in male boxers.4 The amount of bromelain used in these studies was 40 mg four times per day, in the form of enteric-coated tablets. Enteric-coating prevents the stomach acid from partially destroying the bromelain. Most currently available bromelain products are not enteric-coated, and it is not known if such products would be as effective as enteric-coated bromelain.

Thiamine (vitamin B1),5 pantothenic acid (vitamin B5),6 and other B vitamins7 have all been shown to play a role in wound healing in animal studies. For this reason, although human research is lacking, some alternative healthcare practitioners recommend a high-potency B vitamin supplement to promote wound healing.

Vitamin C is needed to make collagen (connective tissue) that strengthens skin, muscles, and blood vessels and to ensure proper wound healing. Severe injury appears to increase vitamin C requirements,8 and vitamin C deficiency causes delayed healing.9 Preliminary human studies suggest that vitamin C supplementation in non-deficient people can speed healing of various types of wounds and trauma, including surgery, minor injuries, herniated intervertebral discs, and skin ulcers.10 11 A combination of 1–3 grams per day of vitamin C and 200–900 mg per day of pantothenic acid has produced minor improvements in the strength of healing skin tissue.12 13

Zinc is a component of many enzymes, including some that are needed to repair wounds. Even a mild deficiency of zinc can interfere with optimal recovery from everyday tissue damage, as well as from more serious trauma.14 15 One controlled trial found the healing time of a surgical wound was reduced by 43% with oral supplementation of 50 mg of zinc three times per day, in the form of zinc sulfate.16

Whether oral zinc helps tissue healing when no actual zinc deficiency exists is unclear,17 but doctors often recommend 30 mg of zinc per day for four to six weeks to aid in the healing of wounds. Topical zinc-containing treatments, on the other hand, have improved healing of skin wounds even when there is no deficiency.18 19 Long-term oral zinc supplementation must be accompanied by copper supplementation to prevent a zinc-induced copper deficiency. Typically, if 30 mg of zinc are taken each day, it should be accompanied by 2 mg of copper. If 60 mg of zinc are used, it should be accompanied by 3 mg of copper each day.

Preliminary20 and controlled21 studies of people with severe burns and other types of injuries22 showed that supplementation with 10–30 grams of ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate (OKG) per day significantly improved wound healing and decreased the length of hospital stays. Improved healing from major trauma and surgery has also been demonstrated with oral supplements including several grams per day of glutamine.23

Vitamin A plays a central role in wound healing,24 but the effect of supplemental vitamin A in people who have suffered a minor injury and are not vitamin A-deficient remains unclear. Vitamin A supplements have been shown to improve healing in animal studies,25 and may be especially useful in a topical ointment for skin injuries in people taking corticosteroid medications.26 Although there are no studies in humans, some doctors recommend 25,000 IU of vitamin A per day, beginning two weeks prior to surgery and continuing for four weeks after surgery.

Animal studies have shown that supplementing with vitamin E can decrease the formation of unwanted adhesions following a surgical wound. In addition, wound healing was more rapid in animals fed a vitamin E-rich diet than in those fed a standard diet.27 In another study, however, wound healing was inhibited by supplementation with a massive amount of vitamin E (equivalent to about 35,000 IU).28 This adverse effect of vitamin E was prevented by supplementation with vitamin A. Although the relevance of these studies to humans is not clear, many doctors recommend supplementing with both vitamins A and E in order to enhance wound healing and prevent adhesion formation. Typical amounts recommended are 25,000 IU of vitamin A per day and 400 IU of vitamin E per day, beginning two weeks prior to surgery and continuing for four weeks after surgery.

Topical application of vitamin E is sometimes recommended for preventing or treating post-injury scars, although only three controlled studies have been reported. Two of these trials found no effect on scar prevention after surgery,29 30 and one trial found vitamin E improved the effect of silicon bandages on large scars called keloids.31

Copper is a required cofactor for the enzyme lysyl oxidase, which plays a role in the cross-linking (and strengthening) of connective tissue.32 Doctors often recommend a copper supplement as part of a comprehensive nutritional program to promote wound healing. A typical amount recommended is 2–4 mg per day, beginning two weeks prior to surgery and continuing for four weeks after surgery.

Other trace minerals, such as manganese, copper, and silicon, are known to be important in the biochemistry of tissue healing.33 34 35 36 However, there have been no controlled trials exploring the effect of oral supplementation of these minerals on the rate of healing.

Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate may both play a role in wound healing by providing the raw material needed by the body to manufacture connective tissue found in skin, tendons, ligaments, and joints.37 Test tube and animal studies have found that these substances, and others like them, can promote improved tissue healing.38 39 40 41 42  humans.





Vitamins and Minerals


Reference Guide for Vitamins


Phytochemicals - Vitamins of the Future?



Effect of a Multivitamin and Mineral Supplement on Infection and Quality of Life


All About What Vitamins and Minerals do




Vitamins - Harvard School of Public Health


Vitamins & Supplements Search - WebMD


Index of articles for  Lymphedema Treatment :

Lymphedema Treatment


Acupuncture Treatment

Aqua Therapy for Postsurgical Breast Cancer Arm Lymphedema

Aqua Therapy in Managing Lower Extremity Lymphedema

Artificial Lymph Nodes

Artificial Lymphatic System

Auricular Therapy

Ball Massage technique

Compression Bandages for Lymphedema

Benzopyrones Treatment

Chi Machine

Choosing a Rehabilitation Provider or Physical Therapist

Complex Decongestive Therapy

Complications of Lymphedema Debulking Surgery

Compression Garments Stockings for Lymphedema

Compression Pumps for Lymphedema Treatment

Coumarin powder/ointment

Craniosacral Therapy

Daflon 500 and Secondary Lymphedema

Deep Oscillation Therapy

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diuretics are not for lymphedema

Endermologie Therapy

Essential Oils

Elastin Ampules

Farrow Wrap

Flexitouch Device - Initial Observations

Flexitouch Device for Arm Lymphedema


How to Choose a Lymphedema Therapist

How to be Safe with Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Infrared Therapy for Lymphedema

Kinesio Taping (R)

Kinesiology Therapy

Laser Treatment

Laser Treatment - Sara's Experience

Light Beam Generator Therapy

Liposuction Treatment

Low Level Laser

Lymph Node Transplant

Lymphatic venous anastomoses

Lymphedema Treatment Programs Canada

Lymphedema Sleeves

Lymphedema Surgeries

Lymphedema Treatments are Poorly Utilized


Lymphocyte injection therapy


Magnetic Therapy

Manual Lymphatic Drainage



Naturopathy: A Critical Appraisal

Patient self-massage for breast cancer-related lymphedema

Reflexology Therapy

Self Massage Therapy – Self MLD

Short Stretch Bandages


Wholistic Treatment

Treatment Information for Lymphedema Forum

Why Compression Pumps cause Complications with Lymphedema


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Advocates for Lymphedema

Dedicated to be an advocacy group for lymphedema patients. Working towards education, legal reform, changing insurance practices, promoting research, reaching for a cure.


Pat O'Connor

Lymphedema People / Advocates for Lymphedema


For information about Lymphedema\

For Information about Lymphedema Complications

For Lymphedema Personal Stories

For information about How to Treat a Lymphedema Wound

For information about Lymphedema Treatment

For information about Exercises for Lymphedema

For information on Infections Associated with Lymphedema

For information on Lymphedema in Children

Lymphedema Glossary


Lymphedema People - Support Groups


Children with Lymphedema

The time has come for families, parents, caregivers to have a support group of their own. Support group for parents, families and caregivers of chilren with lymphedema. Sharing information on coping, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. Sponsored by Lymphedema People.



Lipedema Lipodema Lipoedema

No matter how you spell it, this is another very little understood and totally frustrating conditions out there. This will be a support group for those suffering with lipedema/lipodema. A place for information, sharing experiences, exploring treatment options and coping.

Come join, be a part of the family!




If you are a man with lymphedema; a man with a loved one with lymphedema who you are trying to help and understand come join us and discover what it is to be the master instead of the sufferer of lymphedema.



All About Lymphangiectasia

Support group for parents, patients, children who suffer from all forms of lymphangiectasia. This condition is caused by dilation of the lymphatics. It can affect the intestinal tract, lungs and other critical body areas.



Lymphatic Disorders Support Group @ Yahoo Groups

While we have a number of support groups for lymphedema... there is nothing out there for other lymphatic disorders. Because we have one of the most comprehensive information sites on all lymphatic disorders, I thought perhaps, it is time that one be offered.


Information and support for rare and unusual disorders affecting the lymph system. Includes lymphangiomas, lymphatic malformations, telangiectasia, hennekam's syndrome, distichiasis, Figueroa
syndrome, ptosis syndrome, plus many more. Extensive database of information available through sister site Lymphedema People.



Lymphedema People New Wiki Pages

Have you seen our new “Wiki” pages yet?  Listed below are just a sample of the more than 140 pages now listed in our Wiki section. We are also working on hundred more.  Come and take a stroll! 

Lymphedema Glossary 


Arm Lymphedema 

Leg Lymphedema 

Acute Lymphedema 

The Lymphedema Diet 

Exercises for Lymphedema 

Diuretics are not for Lymphedema 

Lymphedema People Online Support Groups 



Lymphedema and Pain Management 

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) and Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT) 

Infections Associated with Lymphedema 

How to Treat a Lymphedema Wound 

Fungal Infections Associated with Lymphedema 

Lymphedema in Children 


Magnetic Resonance Imaging 

Extraperitoneal para-aortic lymph node dissection (EPLND) 

Axillary node biopsy

Sentinel Node Biopsy

 Small Needle Biopsy - Fine Needle Aspiration 

Magnetic Resonance Imaging 

Lymphedema Gene FOXC2

 Lymphedema Gene VEGFC

 Lymphedema Gene SOX18

 Lymphedema and Pregnancy

Home page: Lymphedema People

Page Updated: Dec. 17, 2011