Authored by Amy Beaith-Johnson @lymph.well
Dread the summer heat, my lymphie friend?
As the temperature rises and the sun shines brightly, summer brings its own set of challenges for individuals living with lymphedema. The heat, and humidity, can make swelling and pain worse, making it more challenging to manage the condition. I used to struggle with the heat of summer for years, usually getting 1 or more cellulitis infections in my legs, and didn't know how to cool my inflammation properly. Embracing holistic self-care practices, helped me and can help you enjoy the season too, while keeping your lymphedema under control.
In this article, I'm going to share my top 10 essential self-care tips to help you manage the heat of summer so you can have fun again without feeling like you are sacrificing your health in order to have a good time.
I advocate for Lymphedema and believe in the power of self-care for managing Lymphedema. I hope you find these tips as helpful as I do!
1. Cool off from the inside out
Cool off from the inside out with herbal ice teas, like Hibiscus Tea shown here. Make your water flavourful by adding mint, lemon, or cucumber and sipping throughout the day to flush your lymph and cool off.
Proper hydration is crucial for managing Lymphedema in the summer heat. Drink plenty of liquids throughout the day to help your body flush out. toxins and optimize lymph flow. Minimize drinks that are dehydrating like caffeinated drinks.
2. Eat seasonal fruits & veggies
Enjoy fresh fruits and veggies in the summer. Our ancestors have been eating this way for centuries. Reconnecting with the seasons can be a fun & tasty way to support your Lymphedema. Fresh veggies & fruits are Lymph-loving because they are moist, full of fiber, naturally cooling to the body, and replenish us with vital nutrients and vitamins.
Berries, cherries, and dark green leafy veggies are my favourites for being seasonal, cooling, low sugar, high in fibre, as well as Vitamin C and antioxidants.
3. Wear high-quality compression
It can be tempting to take our garments off when it gets hot out but don't do it. I wear Bauerfeind VenoTrain Curaflow thigh-high class 3 compression sleeves to keep my swelling in check. I love the breathability of my compression, which helps keep my legs from overheating on hot days!
Summer can make us feel hot, dry, and heavy, leading to stagnation and fibrosis. Try layering your compression or adding in foam pads to break up fibrosis. Be sure to wash your garments regularly to keep them tight and clean.
4. Refrigeration helps
Cool your garments in the fridge overnight before you put them on in the morning. So coool!! Or place cool gel ice packs on your limbs after you have put on your sleeves for some targeted cooling.
Go hang out in air-conditioned spaces on hot days too, to get cooled off for a bit.
Avoid saunas and hot tubs in the summer which can make your swelling worse. Keep cool my friend.
5. Flaunt your sleeves
For years I used to hide my compression garments, not wanting to wear shorts to avoid the stares. But then I realized who am I doing this for? I'm hot! Once I let go of worry about judgment or stares, I got brave and wore shorts. Know what happened? Hardly anyone noticed and when they did, it was often a chance to bring awareness about Lymphedema. So stop hiding, and choose natural flowy materials, clothes that are cooling, let the breeze in, and fun for you.
Pick a fun colour for your compression and make it fashionable!
6. Spritz Yourself
Cool your body and garments with a little spritz. I often carry a small spray bottle of water or rose water in my bag when going out. When I feel hot, or notice I'm irritable, I give my body a spritz on my neck, face, legs, and anywhere I feel hot. It's so refreshing and instantly cools and calms me down.
How? It helps cool the skin, decreases inflammation, and encourages sweating, plus it feels like air-conditioning when a breeze catches you!
7. Cold showers - just get wet!
Seriously, take a cold shower in the morning on a hot day, and/or after a hot day at work. It cools your skin off and helps drop your internal body temp too for a long time afterward. Can't stand the cold? When you have a shower, just finish on cold or cool water for as long as you can stand it (30 sec-5 min is great!) Don't have a shower? Have a cooling foot soak or bath. Go to the local pool and go for a swim!
Find ways to get wet to cool your body and decrease inflammation. Choose footwear that's adjustable, comfy, and helps you stay active.
8. Dry Brushing
This is an age-old practice in Ayurveda that is thousands of years old. Dry brushing stimulates your lymphatics, and circulation, and encourages skin renewal. When we are covered up in sleeves all day, our skin can't naturally exfoliate like the rest of our body. For this reason, I dry brush my skin daily. There are lots of brush= types such as sisal, bristle, jute mitts, and raw silk gloves. Experiment and find the right one for you. Choose something that feels exfoliating, but doesn't leave scratch marks on your skin. Some brushes on the market are too harsh!
9. Don't take a vacay from your self-care
Before you go away on vacation, make a self-care plan of how you are going to maintain your routine, and what you are going to take with you for maintenance, flare-ups, etc.
Let your travel buddies and family members know what you need, and your limits. Bring the tools you need for daytime and nighttime so you can have the best time and not pay for the consequences during or after your trip is over. You will need to consider compression, how to stay clean, moisturized, how to have time in the shade, sleeping, etc.
10. Toxin-free sunscreen
The summer can be harsh on our skin, drying it out, and increasing our internal heat. Zinc oxide sunscreen works by bouncing the UVA/UVB rays off your skin, unlike chemical sunscreens which absorb the rays and the heat into our body.
Our lymphatic system has to remove the toxins we take in through our food, environment and yes, from your skincare too. Don't overburden it and make it work harder than it needs too. Re-apply sunscreen regularly to exposed areas or after swimming/sweating. Wear a sun hat, and find some shade too. Avoid going out too long at the hottest parts of the day, or find shade when you do.
Hibiscus Cooling Tea
Cool off from the inside out and support your Lymphatics!
Sipping on this tea cools your body from the inside out while nourishing your blood, liver, lymph, skin, and gut. Plus, it’s delicious and beautiful!
One of the beautiful things about hibiscus is it’s beneficial to drink warm or cold. Hibiscus is part of the marshmallow family and has moistening, demulcent, and cooling properties, which are beneficial for our internal our external skin in the summer. The heat and sun can dry us out on the inside and outside. To get the most out of the moistening properties of hibiscus, it benefits from a long steep, or letting it steep cool. Enjoy it cool after a long steep on the counter or in the fridge for extra refreshing beverage on a hot day!
- 2 tbsp. Hibiscus dried
- 5-6 mint leave, fresh, bruised
- 1-2 lime wedges
- Water, cool or freshly boiled
- Sweeters such as honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey (optional)
Directions for a Cool Steep:
Step 1: With a large body or 1L mason jar, add 2 tbsp. hibiscus and pour cool or room temp. water overtop.
Step 2: Let steep 2-4 hours or more. Overnight in the fridge is great!
Step 3: Strain, and pour into your serving vessel. Add Mint leaves, and 2-3 freshly squeezed lime wedges.
Step 4: Enjoy and serve over ice.
Summer should be a time of enjoyment and sometimes we can feel like Lymphedema puts us on the sidelines watching, but not partaking in the fun, which is hard. With the right self-care practices for you, you can embrace the summer season to its fullest.
By prioritizing hydration, eating fresh fruits & veggies, wearing high-quality compression (like the sleeves from Bauerfeind), taking advantage of refrigeration by cooling your garments or spending time in air-conditioned spaces, ditching hot clothes and rocking our sleeves, getting wet, taking care of our skin with dry brushing, and proper sun protection, you can navigate the summer months with confidence and take care of your Lymphedema effectively.
Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky is by no means a waste of time.
These tools help reduce your inflammation, keep your body cool, but are also great things to go to when you do have a flare-up or have done something that is going to increase heat, like spending time at the beach, spending time in the sun playing soccer, or riding your bike. Being active is important, but remember to find ways to cool down and prep your body before you partake in the activities to make the most of your adventure and support your body. There are also beautiful, restful, more yin like things to do this summer like, reading a book, lounging in the shade under a tree. We don't need to always do, go, and push hard.
Remember your body is your unique vessel that only you get to live in. Take care of it and you will see a difference in the quality of your life.