Angioedema is a group of swelling disorders characterized by large welts which can appear anywhere on the body and last for up to three to four days.
Though the lips and the skin around the eyes are areas that are most affected, swelling can also occur in the intestines, gut lining, throat, or the tongue. There, severe swellings can cause pain and illness, or in more serious cases, potentially block the airway and make it difficult to breathe. This can easily turn into a life-threatening situation and requires immediate medical assistance.
There are different types of angioedema: acute allergic angioedema and nonallergic angioedema happen suddenly, as an allergic reaction or a reaction to certain types of medicines. Idiopathic, hereditary, and acquired angioedema are chronic and tend to recur over the long-term due to an underlying immune system problem.
In all forms of angioedema, however, controlling diet is a promising method to limit episodes of swelling.
Inflammation and angioedema
All forms of angioedema are caused by inflammation, a natural process of the immune system that can seriously affect many aspects of a person’s overall health. Long-term inflammation, which can happen due to chronic stress, is very unhealthy and increases the risks of heart disease and diabetes. In angioedema, inflammation causes fluid to flow into the deeper layers of the skin, resulting in the swellings.
Inflammation can be affected by many lifestyle factors, including diet. Eating a balanced, nutritious diet can help reduce inflammation to healthier levels and, as a result, relieve some of the symptoms of angioedema.
Diet tips for reducing inflammation
Inflammation-reducing diets are usually low in allergens and pseudoallergens — substances that can cause a reaction similar to an allergic reaction. Pseudoallergens include additives, such as flavor enhancers, food coloring, and preservatives. They also include inflammation-promoting substances such as histamines and salicylates that occur naturally in food.
To identify exactly what a person is reacting to, a restrictive diet is implemented. The initial phase of this diet, usually the first three weeks in the case of angioedema, is usually very restrictive and can be hard to follow at first.
- Common food allergy triggers, such as nuts, shellfish, and eggs, are always excluded. Processed or cured meats or meat products, black pepper, and sweets can also increase inflammation, and so are not permitted.
- Because store-bought items may contain flavor enhancers, coloring, preservatives, and other additives, they are avoided.
- Many fruits and vegetables contain substances that can cause inflammation, so they are usually avoided at first, with some exceptions.
Always permitted in such a diet are fresh, minimally processed milk, meat, butter, rice, tofu and some vegetables (the versatile broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and lettuce are especially notable).
If the restrictive diet reduces angioedema symptoms, then certain foods can be slowly reintroduced back into the patient’s diet. This allows medical professionals to pinpoint which foods may be causing or increasing the risks of a swelling episode.
If adding the food back into the diet does not cause an episode of swelling or any other reaction, then it can remain a part of the diet. If the frequency or the severity of the swellings increase, then it stays out.
Keep in mind when changing diets
Diets are notoriously tricky — what works for one person with angioedema may not work for another.
For example, despite being excluded from the anti-pseudoallergic diet, there is some evidence that specific foods such as tomatoes, blueberries, oranges, tuna, and dark leafy greens reduce inflammation. In addition, there is evidence that red meats, both processed and fresh, can increase inflammation in the body.
It’s always a good idea to consult with a dietician, nutritionist, or another medical professional before making dietary changes, as they will ensure that the diet is nutritionally complete and balanced, which, more than any other factor, will affect an individual’s overall health, and their inflammation along with it.
Angioedema News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.