First described in 1940 by Allen and Hines at Mayo Clinic in the US and by Moncorps from Germany, Lipedema, or adiposis dolorosa, is a common adipose tissue disorder that is believed to affect nearly 11% of adult women worldwide. –very few men are affected. There is no cure for this disease, although in a recent clinical trial at Stanford a biomarker for lipedema has been identified, leading to the hope of eventual drug therapy vs. the invasive liposuction or bariatric surgery therapies now in use.
Lipedema’s main symptom is a buildup of fat in the arms and legs. Other symptoms include pain, swelling from blocked lymphatics, loose skin, and easy bruising. The texture of fat beneath the skin can feel like peas, rice, or walnuts. Onset of puberty, pregnancy and menopause can trigger symptoms due to the hormonal changes that accompany these life stages. Large and unusual fat deposits accumulate behind the knees, a cuff appears at the ankle and the upper arms can sag with fat.
Swelling and pain brought on by inflammation tend to limit activity and bruising often occurs, often with no knowledge of what injury caused the contusion. Cellulitis is a very real worry and injury to the affected limbs is to be avoided. Arnica infused oil massage on the bruising has been found to eliminate discoloration, due to stimulating your body’s natural healing process, facilitating blood flow through the area, which helps to alleviate pain, reduce swelling, and reabsorb bruising. Manual Lymphatic Drainage [MLD] physical therapy can help reduce the buildup of fluid. Skin brushing and/or self-massage and application of compression garments helps keep the swelling down.
An anti-inflammatory diet has been found to ease the swelling and pain of lipedema and a strict high protein–low sugar way of eating should be adhered to. Keto diets have also been recommended for lipedema. Omega-3 fatty-acids, ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), found in certain plant oils such as flaxseed, and in some foods of plant origin, such as chia seeds and black walnuts and wild-caught fish are encouraged.
Regardless of the stage you’re in, lipedema is manageable with diet, lifestyle and mindset hacks. Be sure and get on the waitlist for the Body Rebalance Method, a thirteen week group program designed to help you deal with lipedema when surgery is scheduled far in advance, or your insurance won’t pay, or if surgery is not an option.