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Ever wake up with a puffy face or legs? What about an extremely bloated stomach, gummy throat, or badly swollen ankles? Your body retains fluid in these places, and if you’re here, you’ve probably figured out that you’ve got an issue with water retention in your body.
Fluid retention isn’t just an issue for people on long flights or older folks who aren’t as mobile as they used to be. Most people will have an issue with fluid retention at some point in their lives, yet few know how to reduce fluid retention because of how uncommon it is for an individual to experience. It can be downright dangerous to have too much fluid retention, as pools of fluid can be the perfect storm for blood clots to cause major damage or even death.
Your fluid retention issue is probably transient and harmless, but it’s worth knowing how to get rid of water retention for your comfort and safety. In this article, we’ll talk about what causes fluid retention, how to identify fluid retention and finish up with a few natural remedies for fluid retention that you’ll be able to set into action right away.
Why Am I Retaining Water?
There are some reasons that you might be having more fluid retention than you’re used to. It’s a no-brainer, but long periods of total stillness—such as in a long airplane flight—are a guarantee for water retention in your limbs. Many instances of water retention can be quickly resolved by taking a walk around the block a few times and elevating the limbs where the fluid is hiding.
What if the fluid isn’t being retained in your extremities, though? It turns out that retaining water is a very nonspecific symptom, outside of not moving around enough. The potential causes for fluid retention range from thyroid diseases to pregnancy to sepsis. It’s clear that if you’re having a habitual problem with fluid retention or you can link your fluid retention to a specific event other than sitting still, you should go to see your doctor in case it’s something serious.
Medically speaking, fluid retention occurs when your body’s mix of hormones and circulating salts are out of their typical proportions in certain areas within the body. Your body relies on hormones to regulate the amount of fluid around all of your cells, and in your bodily cavities, so fluid accumulation tends to occur only in cases where there’s a chemical signal gone awry. The chemical signal goes awry when it’s being interpreted in a place where it’s not meant to be.
Typically, this miscommunication between your hormones and the rest of your body only happens when there’s some disruption of circulation. Sound familiar? When your body’s circulation is impaired either by sitting still on a long flight or a disease, fluid can’t be recycled back into your system to excrete in your urine, or it can’t reach the place that it’s intended to go. Both situations cause fluid to build up in areas where it’s not wanted or needed.
Symptoms of Water Retention
The most noticeable symptom of water retention is squishily bloating in your feet. You’ll feel tightness in your ankles and at the arch of your foot if you’re wearing shoes or socks. The more water that you’re retaining in your lower extremities, the farther up you’ll be able to identify bloating.
If you’ve ever been on an international flight, you’ll be familiar with the extent to which water retention can cause your legs to bloat. It’s not uncommon for some travelers to experience severe water retention which bloats their legs nearly up to the knee to twice their normal volume. Aside from being extremely uncomfortable, bloating can be accompanied by numbness and tingling due to insufficient blood flow to the tissues of the leg.
Outside of the legs, fluid retention is a bit harder to pin down. If the fluid is accumulating in the lungs—typically a bad sign—you’ll have a wet cough that simply won’t go away. Unlike other causes of fluid retention, fluid can stick around in the lungs due to chronic infections, so go to the doctor.
If the fluid is accumulating elsewhere, you’ll be able to notice by the disgusting sloshing that casual movement causes. Wearing tight clothing or sitting down at certain angles may cause there to be a sensation of stretching or pressure where there wouldn’t normally be. Sometimes bloated and fluid retentive areas can be sensitive to the touch, whereas other times they are numb.
Natural Ways to Reduce Fluid Retention
There are a few different tricks to stop retaining water. Each of these tricks may work for some people, but not others. Don’t be afraid to combine a couple of them at a time once you’ve found that they work—these remedies are natural and safe.
Without further ado, here are a few natural ways to reduce fluid retention.
Interestingly, lemon juice can make for an adequate remedy for fluid retention because of its acidity and phytochemical makeup. Drinking lemon juice can potentially correct a chemical imbalance in your blood that might be causing your capillaries to close and thus impair circulation. It may not be pleasant, but the citric acid in lemon juice is broadly useful to your body for a variety of purposes.
Potassium is a potent controller of your body’s fluid balance. Potassium is an essential nutrient which is required for all of your cells to operate their ion channels in a way which doesn’t throw your body’s chemical makeup out of whack. Simply put, your body can easily handle excess potassium that you might ingest attempting to remedy your fluid retention, but it can’t handle a deficit of potassium very easily.
If you’re deficient in potassium, you may have painful muscle cramps in addition to fluid buildup. The rationale for potassium influencing fluid retention is that your capillaries can’t regulate their width without sufficient potassium, which might cause them to be stuck closed or narrower than they should be, thus impairing circulation.
Taking a potassium supplement or eating a potassium-rich foodstuff will get your body back on track to be able to regulate its circulation effectively.
Importantly, potassium works in your body hand in hand with calcium, magnesium, and sodium to regulate your ion balance. If you’re consuming too much salt or too little calcium or magnesium, you’ll likely become deficient in potassium as your body attempts to compensate for the excess.
Lower Salt Intake
As we just went over, salt is used by your body in conjunction with potassium to regulate the width of your capillaries and more generally, your blood pressure. If you’re consuming too much salt, much like in a deficiency of potassium, your capillaries won’t be able to regulate their width effectively, causing them to get stuck in a narrower width than they would otherwise.
Narrow capillaries equate to reduced circulation, which is a surefire way to retain fluid. Reducing your salt intake will have beneficial health implications for you aside from fluid retention, which makes it an even more appealing option.
Vitamin B6 is essential for your gastrointestinal as well as cardiovascular health. For fluid retention, taking vitamin B6 exploits one of its other properties as a diuretic. B6 can help with the excretion of excess fluids and tends to quickly reduce the feelings of pressure that can accompany bloating in the extremities.
Fennel seeds are nutritious and tasty if you like the taste of licorice. More importantly, fennel seeds have a wide variety of phytochemicals and vitamins that can be beneficial to reducing fluid retention. There’s some evidence which suggests fennel seeds have a broadly beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system, which would explain why it’s used to reduce water retention.
Fennel seeds are also a diuretic, which gives it an edge when it comes to reducing fluid retention. Fennel’s double action means that it’s the go-to of many people struggling with circulation issues, but remember that they can make you sick if you eat too many.
Yes, we’re talking about the flower. Dandelions contain natural diuretics, which may help with fluid retention in some cases. Typically, people take an extract of dandelion rather than chomping on the plant itself, which is good because the plants are extremely bitter. Aside from diuresis, dandelions are rich in nutrients, including B vitamins, magnesium, and calcium.
Dandelions are likely useful because they contain several of the other items on this list rather than possessing some unique anti-water retention property. If you’re looking to hit multiple birds with one stone, it’s probably worth a shot.
Parsley is delicious, and, while it’s not totally proven, may be effective in reducing fluid retention in some cases due to its calcium and magnesium content. Parsley is nutrient-rich, and safe when eaten in the amounts that you eat in food. Getting the water retention reducing effects might require eating more parsley than that, though.
It may be unsafe to eat parsley in the quantities required to reduce fluid retention if you’re pregnant, so be careful. There’s also some confusion about whether parsley makes blood pressure higher, which would be undesirable if you’re trying to ditch your excess fluids. On the whole, you’re probably better off looking at other remedies because of parsley’s unpredictable effects.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Some people drink apple cider vinegar to help reduce their fluid retention. Apple cider vinegar, like all vinegar, is extremely acidic and is rich in malic acid and acetic acids. Though it will taste awful and smell extremely strongly, apple cider vinegar is extremely rich in potassium, which means that it can piggyback on potassium’s confirmed helpful effects on fluid retention.
Magnesium is an essential mineral which most people pick up via eating leafy greens. It turns out that magnesium is also useful in reducing water retention, but the reason it works again relates back to good old potassium. Magnesium in the body operates to prevent the release of potassium in certain necessary circumstances and also operates in conjunction with calcium.
If you don’t have enough magnesium to prevent the release of potassium, you’ll likely suffer from issues which relate to insufficient potassium—even if your diet would otherwise have enough. Magnesium will only be helpful in reducing your fluid retention if it is the single deficiency that you’re suffering from, but it should be just the thing if that’s the case.
Yogurt may be helpful for some people to reduce their fluid retention due to its high calcium content. Aside from calcium, some people say that it’s the other nutrients in yogurt that help with swelling and fluid retention, but others claim that it’s the probiotics that make the difference. Though yogurt is delicious and certainly won’t hurt, there’s probably better options when it comes to reducing your fluid retention because it only contains one confirmed helpful ingredient.
Allegedly, putting Epsom salts into your bath water and soaking for a long time will allow the salts to seep into your skin and help to reduce your body’s water retention. Unfortunately, people seem to have conflicting reports about whether Epsom salt baths improve fluid elimination, make bloating worse, or don’t do anything at all. If there is any effectiveness of Epsom salt baths, it probably stems from the soluble magnesium that the salts contain.
Drink Lots of Water
Drinking lots of water is always good advice, and it still holds true even if you think you’re carrying around more water than you should be. Drinking water will help to correct any electrolyte imbalances caused by too much salt consumption by diluting the salts within your bloodstream. Just don’t drink so much water that you become water intoxicated.
Nettles are a traditional herb with a long history of use, and they might be useful for water retention—but not because they contain any special stuff we haven’t already discussed. Nettles are rich in magnesium, calcium, B vitamins, and potassium.
They’re not the most offensive thing to eat or take from an extract, so if you’re looking for a solution which addresses multiple potential causes of your water retention, nettle extract is probably a good place to start. If you decide to eat nettles, do yourself a favor and don’t pick the stinging kind.
Cranberry juice is a great diuretic and source of sugars, and it’s extremely tasty to boot. Cranberries are very rich in potassium, calcium, B vitamins, and magnesium, which you know about by now. A cup of cranberry juice each day should do well to keep water retention away.
Some people use aromatherapy with essential oils to reduce fluid retention, but it’s unclear exactly what mechanism they’re relying on to achieve fluid elimination. It might relax you a bit to smell some nice things, which could potentially lower your blood pressure and allow for fluids to eliminate, but don’t rely on aromatherapy to solve all of your fluid retention issues.
Exercise is an extremely potent safeguard and a solution to fluid retention because exercise bolsters your body’s cardiovascular system. People who exercise have lower blood pressure, more responsive capillaries, and faster elimination of excess fluids. They’re also less stressed, which results in an additional and separate modulating effect on their blood pressure. The stronger your cardiovascular system is, the less likely you are to suffer from fluid buildup whatsoever.
While general fitness is helpful in preventing fluid retention, opting to take a walk when you start to notice fluid buildup is also an effective way to prevent further accumulation. Exercise doesn’t have to be intense to dispel early water retention bloating. Just take a stroll every hour or so, and you’ll ensure that your capillaries stay flexible.
Is Water Retention Ever Normal?
Remember that fluid retention is caused by deficits of circulation. If you’re habitually having water retention issues, you’re probably suffering from insufficient circulation, which may have many different causes. If you improve your circulation, your fluid retention will likely decrease accordingly.
Using these water retention remedies and staying mobile should reduce your water retention to very little if you’re healthy. It’s not always a cause for alarm to be retaining water, but remember that water retention isn’t a signal that business is going on as effectively as usual. Water retention is a signal that you need to pay attention to your health because there is something wrong.
In good health, you shouldn’t be retaining more water than is necessary to sustain your body’s systems, which your body is good at taking care of on its own without additional pockets of accumulation. Thankfully, if you stay mobile and use the fluid retention remedies that we’ve shown you here today, you’ll be on the route to better circulation and less fluid retention.