Water retention, or edema, is a condition that causes swelling in the body, particularly in the feet, legs, hands, arms, face and around the abdominal cavity. In severe cases, fluid can build up around the lungs, a condition known as pulmonary edema. Water retention occurs when water from the blood leaks into tissues in the body. The lymphatic system normally drains the fluid out of the tissues. When the lymphatic system is not functioning properly, the fluid is not removed from the tissues. This results in swelling of the tissues.
The first step in treating water retention is to schedule a consultation with your physician, as treatment will depend on the underlying cause. Your doctor may prescribe diuretics to help flush excess fluid form the tissues. However, if water retention occurs as a result of heart or kidney disease, diuretics must be avoided as they will make the condition worse. There are several ways to treat water retention naturally, once your physician has ruled out these conditions.
1. Limit Salt
Excess salt intake is one of the leading causes of water retention. Normally the body maintains a good balance of salt. Under normal circumstance, even if a diet is very high in salt, the kidneys ensure that any excess salt is removed from the body through urine output. In some people, the body does not have the ability to remove all of the excess salt, and as a result water retention develops. These individuals will benefit greatly from reducing the amount of salt in the diet.
Limiting salt means a lot more than just skipping table salt. Many foods are prepared with salt. Processed foods often have large amounts of salt. Always read labels on packaged foods to check for high sodium levels. Remember to check the serving size carefully. Many times, there are multiple servings in a small package.
Women of child-bearing age should reduce their salt intake when they are expecting their menstrual period to begin. This is because the hormone shift that occurs at this point in the menstrual cycle often leads to water retention. Avoiding salt at this time will help decrease the amount of swelling that occurs.
2. Eat Potassium-Rich Foods
Potassium is an important nutrient that is essential to the body. Potassium helps to regulate the fluids in the body and keeps electrolytes balanced. Electrolytes are crucial for preventing water retention because they maintain a proper water balance and ensure that water is distributed evenly among tissues in the body. In addition, potassium helps stimulate the kidneys to help them flush waste, and along with it salt, out of the body. A Potassium deficiency can lead to high blood pressure, irritability, feelings of stress and fatigue. Low levels of potassium can lead to water retention and weight gain.
For most people, bananas are the first thing that come to mind when thinking of potassium-rich foods. While bananas are an excellent source of potassium, there are many other options that provide a high dose of this essential nutrient. To help reduce water retention, stock up on high-potassium foods such as raisins, avocadoes, dried apricots, sunflower seeds and cocoa powder.
3. Eat Yogurt
Yogurt is well-known among health professionals as a powerful probiotic that can help eliminate unhealthy bacteria from the digestive tract. Yogurt contains beneficial bacteria. When consumed, those beneficial bacteria help to control the unhealthy bacteria in the digestive tract, to create a healthy balance. When individuals consume too many sweets or rich foods, water retention can occur in the stomach, leading to bloating and gas. Eating a cup of plain, unsweetened, low-fat yogurt containing active, live cultures will help with digestion and flush out excess water.
4. Drink Plenty of Water
Many individuals suffering from water retention mistakenly believe that they should cut back on their water intake. Conversely, those suffering from water retention should increase the amount of water they consume on a daily basis. Drinking water helps to flush out toxins in the body, and along with them, excess sodium. By consuming adequate amount of water, the kidneys are stimulated to excrete more water in urine. This prevents fluid from having the opportunity to build up in the tissues.
5. Eat Foods High in Vitamins A and C
Foods that are high in vitamins A and C can help balance out fluid levels in the body. Sometimes, water retention occurs as a result of leaky capillaries that excrete water into tissues. When this occurs, swelling develops in the affected tissues. Foods that are high in vitamins A and C can strengthen capillary walls, which in turn, leads to a reduction in fluid leakage. When less fluid is leaked out of the capillaries, water retention is greatly decreased.
Oranges and citrus fruits are known for containing large amounts of Vitamin C. Other foods that are rich in vitamin C include bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and other dark leafy greens, kiwi, strawberries and papaya.
Vitamin A can be found in fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes, spinach, carrots, mangoes, cantaloupes and dried apricots. Large amounts of vitamin A are also found in milk, mozzarella cheese and egg yolks. Coffee, alcohol and too much iron can all reduce the amount of vitamin A in the body. Caution should be used when boosting vitamin A intake. Consuming too much vitamin A, even if it comes from natural food sources, can be toxic, especially during pregnancy.
6. Try Natural Herbs
Many herbs can have a natural diuretic effect on the body. Certain herbs, such as dandelion and ginger, are believed to help increase urination to flush excess water out of tissues and reduce water retention. Because some herbs can interfere with medications, it is important to speak with your physician prior to starting any herbal supplements.
Perform exercises that concentrate on muscles in the calves to improve blood circulation and help remove excess fluid build-up form the ankles. Simple exercises such as walking, jogging, running, riding a bicycle and doing aerobics will target these areas while also increasing overall circulation in the body.
While engaging in relaxation activities such as reading, surfing the Internet or watching television, elevate your feet. Place a pillow under your feet if you are on the couch. This will help drain excess fluid away from the ankles.
While sitting at work, get the same effect by performing simple activities such as lifting up your legs every 10 minutes and holding them parallel to the floor. During breaks, instead of remaining in your seat, take a quick walk around the building or up and down the stairs. Spend half of your lunch break eating and the other half being active on your feet.
8. Wear Loose Clothing
Avoid wearing tight clothes that can aggravate your condition. Pressure from tight-fitting clothing can further hinder fluid removal. Wear loose-fitting clothes will not interfere with blood circulation in the thigh veins which can lead to additional swelling in the lower legs.
9. Use Ice Packs
Applying ice packs to the affected area can provide temporary relief to swollen tissues. Even after steps have been taken to correct the underlying condition that lead to water retention, it can take weeks before swelling decreases. In the meantime, topical treatment with ice packs can help alleviate swelling and the discomfort it causes.