Eating for Lymphatic Wellness: 7 Foods You Should Erase from Your Menu

Your lymphatic system helps protect you from infection and disease so you want to keep it healthy. Here are the worst foods for your lymphatic system.

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Aug. 22 2023, Published 6:04 p.m. ET

A woman feeling her lymph nodes.
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A sure sign you are getting sick is when your lymph nodes are swollen. Your lymph nodes are part of your body’s lymphatic system, a system of organs, vessels, and tissues that help protect you from infection.

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A healthy lymphatic system is critical to maintaining a healthy immune system. It can protect you from infection and help prevent cancers like lymphoma and other health conditions like lymphedema, an accumulation of fluid in your arms or legs.

That being said, there are certain foods known for not being great for the lymphatic system. Keep reading to learn more about these foods — just keep in mind that this article was not written by a doctor, and you should consult your physician about any health concerns.

The lymphatic system in a body.
Source: Getty Images
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What are the worst foods for the lymphatic system?

“Keeping your lymphatic system healthy allows it to kill off and filter out foreign cells, like cancer cells, bacteria and viruses,” according to Sandy Pyle, RN, at the Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support at Piedmont Athens Regional.

What you eat impacts the healthy function of your lymphatic system. A bad diet can lead to inflammation, fluid retention, and blockages in your lymphatic system. Here are seven of the worst foods for your lymphatic system.

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Processed foods

Processed foods including hot dogs, chips, and cereal.
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Overly processed or packaged foods typically have added sugars, salt, preservatives, and high levels of fat, which aren’t the best for you or your lymphatic system. According to Lifetimevibe, eating too many processed foods like chips, breakfast cereals, and packaged lunch meats can lead to inflammation and fluid retention, which can impair your body’s lymphatic function.

Red meat

Red meats like beef, pork, lamb, and veal can cause lymphatic problems due to the possible hormones given to the animals, per WellSquad. Having too many red meats in your diet can also lead to inflammation and upset your gut microbiome, reports Livestrong.

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Caffeine

A cup of coffee.
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Caffeinated drinks like coffee are diuretics, which means they dehydrate your body. They can dilate the lymph tissue and cause blockages in the lymphatic systems, per Cure Today.

Alcohol

Alcohol has the same effect on your lymphatic system as caffeine, because both are dehydrating. According to Lifetimevibe, drinking too much alcohol can lead to inflammation, fluid retention, and problems with your body’s lymphatic function.

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Salt

A woman pouring salt from a salt shaker.
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Salt can cause your body to retain water, which can cause problems for people who already have lymphedema. Excess salt intake can lead to swelling.

Sugar

Added sugars in the food you eat are also not good for your lymphatic system. It contributes to inflammation, fluid retention, and impaired lymphatic function, per Lifetimevibe. To avoid consuming too much sugar, make sure to read food labels. Many processed foods like spaghetti sauce or bottled salad dressings contain unnecessary sugar.

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Dairy products

Dairy products including milk, cheese, cottage cheese and butter.
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Many dairy products like milk and cheese can be hard for your body to process, including your lymphatic system. According to Zuma Nutrition, dairy products can contribute to lymphatic congestion, a condition where lymph vessels become clogged, causing toxins to accumulate rather than being flushed out by your lymphatic system.

What are the best foods for your lymphatic system?

Maintaining a healthy diet is key to a healthy lymphatic system. Zuma Nutrition recommends the following as some of the best foods for your lymphatic system.

  • Nuts

  • Leafy greens

  • Grapes

  • Fruit and berries

  • Salmon

  • Avocado

  • Olive oil.

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