As obesity levels continue their inexorable rise, the Government’s official weight-loss message is still focused on four words: eat less, move more.
But if you are one of the estimated 20 per cent of people who are on a permanent diet, or one of the 40 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women who regularly exercise and still can’t seem to lose weight, it could be very tempting to start to wonder whether perhaps there’s something else going on.
Imagine gaining weight and, regardless of your diet or exercise habits, you’re unable to lose those pounds. Sadly, this scary thought has become the unfortunate reality for approximately 11 percent of the female population.
Maybe it isn’t simply a case of being overweight or having a ‘pear shaped’ figure that is causing that relentless accumulation of fat in your lower body. One of the most misdiagnosed diseases present in American women.
Often mistaken for obesity or unusual weight gain, lipedema is a fat-storage disease that almost exclusively affects women. Striking 17 million women in the United States (and 370 million women worldwide), lipedema usually occurs after puberty or during a person’s 20s.
This swelling in the legs and thighs is caused by abnormal accumulation of fat cells in the tissues under the skin, and a build-up of fluid in those fat cells.
Another tell-tale sign is that the legs often feel very tender (it is also called ‘painful fat syndrome’) and bruise easily. They may also have a cellulite appearance.
‘Many doctors confuse it with weight gain or it can be confused with lymphoedema, which is caused by a problem with the lymphatic drainage system,’ explains Constantinos Kyriakides, a vascular surgeon at Barts and London NHS trust.
‘Lipoedema tends to concentrate in the calves, knees, thighs and lower girth, whereas lymphoedema can affect other parts of the body.
The cause of lipedema is unknown, although it is can be hereditary. Since lipedema almost exclusively affects women, the suspected cause is female hormones. Men with this disorder also have imbalances in their hormones, typically a low testosterone level.
While Lipedema does not itself mean that we are overweight, it does mean that we must be extremely vigilant about controlling our weight because obesity worsens the condition exponentially. Also, once you metabolize and store lipedemic fat, it is extremely difficult to lose as the nature of the fat cells and areas we store it in are resistant to weight loss.
In fact, lipedema “fat” isn’t fat in the traditional sense; it just shows up on a scale that way. Lipedema fat, which is “fat” stored in the wrong layer of your body, will never, ever come off through traditional diet and exercise. You have to manually push that shit out of yourself because lipedema fat is actually hardened water and toxins that your lymphatic system was supposed to flush out of your body each day, but didn’t.
Modern diets consist of many toxins and heavily processed salty and sugary foods that wreak havoc with our hormones. The linkages between poor diet and many illnesses (PCOS, type 2 diabetes) are well established, though there is little substantial research on diet and lipoedema. While we know that lipoedemic fat cannot be dieted away, there is some evidence to support the idea that diet can lessen, or prevent further symptoms.
The RAD (rare adipose disorders) diet has been developed by Dr Karen Herbst, an endocrinologist from the University of California, San Diego. This diet is designed for those who suffer with disorders related to abnormal fat deposits. It promotes foods that are easy to digest and that reduce inflammation.
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The essentials of the RAD diet are as follows: Lower consumption of pasteurized dairy products, animal protein and fats, simple sugars and carbohydrates (low glycemic), salt and wheat or processed flour products, while enriching the diet with organic fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy proteins.
Avoid foods that contain lots of chemicals such as artificial preservatives, flavors, fake sweeteners like aspartame, colors and stabilizers which includes most prepared, packaged and fast foods.
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Can lipedema be treated?
Aside from constantly being misdiagnosed, many lipedema patients are told there’s no real cure for the disease. The mainstay of medical treatment has been using medications to help reduce the inflammation, swelling and discomfort these patients may endure.
Medically Reconstructive Lymph Sparing Liposuction Treatment for Lipedema
Surgical treatment of lipoedema is available primarily in Germany, in the UK and elsewhere mostly in Europe, usually using tumescent or water jet assisted (WAL) lymph sparing liposuction to remove liopedemic fat.
Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)
unique, therapeutic method of stimulating the movement of fluids in the tissues. The gentle, rhythmic, pumping, massage movements follow the direction of lymph flow and produce rapid results.
Comprehensive Decongestive Therapy (CDT) is used primarily in the treatment of lymphedema and venous insufficiency edema. It is a combination of MLD, bandaging exercises and skin care. CDT may also involve breathing exercises, compressive garments and dietary measures.
Anti-inflammation Diet and Supplements
Since inflammation is one of the causes for edema, it’s possible that anti-inflammation support could be helpful. There are no studies as to its success but holistic practioners seem to report good results.
Lipedema is a very under-recognized condition that affects millions of women across the globe, and I hope to further advance both the knowledge and awareness of lipedema among the medical community and general public.
–Dr. David Amron