Having problems with water retention? Here’s how you can fix it at home.
What is Water Retention?
Water retention, also known as fluid retention or edema, is the excess fluid buildup that collects in the circulatory system, body tissues, or cavities in the body. The average human adult body is made up of nearly 60% of water, and nearly every part of our body, from our skin to our bones and muscles contains water.
Although water is essential to keeping our bodies working properly, too much water in our body can leave us looking and feeling puffy; it can also be painful at times, too. You may even find that your clothes are tight and you have gained a few pounds. Fluid retention in the legs is often a telltale sign of water retention. If you are looking to reduce water retention check out 12 super foods for water retention.
Swelling can also occur in your feet, arms, hands, face and other areas of the body. When you have water retention in legs and other parts of the body, there’s a quick test you can do to determine whether you have edema.
Gently push your body part with your index finger, and if it leaves an indentation or is slow to “bounce” back, you have some level of water retention.
Causes of Water Retention
What causes water retention? There is no one thing that is responsible for fluid in the legs or other parts of the body; it could be a combination of many factors. Since there are so many causes for water retention, it may take you awhile to pinpoint what’s causing the fluid buildup. Some causes are more common than others.
Your daily diet can play a big role in retaining water. Sodium is important, as it can help to regulate blood pressure and fluid levels, but it’s also easy to get too much sodium. Excessive and unnecessary sodium can be found in your diet, and as a result, it’s common to see swelling until your body flushes out the sodium.
Someone who suffers from malnutrition and protein loss is likely to experience water retention, too. We will discuss how changing your diet can help to reduce water retention a bit later.
Do you sit a lot while at home or your job? Do you spend most your day standing? Ever notice how your ankles and legs ache after sitting or standing all day? Thanks to gravity, blood stays in the lower region of your body which increases the pressure inside of the blood vessels in your lower extremities. Fluid leaks into the tissues and causes edema.
Hormonal changes can do a lot of interesting things to the body, one of them includes water retention. Whether you’re undergoing hormone replacement therapy, take birth control, or a few days away from your monthly period, bloating and swelling is normal.
Pregnant women may also experience swelling in their feet and legs any time after week 20 and up until the birth of the baby. It’s important to note that while edema is common, a pregnant woman who experiences swelling in the hands and face may have preeclampsia, a dangerous blood pressure issue.
Water retention is just one of the many side effects that someone may experience when taking certain medications. If you take medication for high blood pressure, are undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, are taking antidepressants, or even using OTC pain relievers (NSAIDS), swelling may be common.
As you would with any medication, ask your doctor about possible side effects so that you can know what’s “normal” and what’s not.
Ever notice how swollen you look and feel on a hot and humid summer day? Who knew that the weather could be the cause of water retention? Hot weather can be the culprit because our bodies are often less efficient at removing excess fluid from tissues in warmer climates.
When you burn your skin, whether a minor sunburn or a serious burn to a significant part of your body, it retains fluid and can swell. This is a normal, although uncomfortable, response to burn injuries.
Water retention may result from some serious health issues like kidney, liver, and ovarian cancers. If you have kidney disease, which can include kidney stones or kidney failure, or liver disease, which can include hepatitis or cirrhosis, edema is common.
Individuals with lymphoedema (enlarged lymph nodes due to a tumor), hypothyroidism, or even arthritis may experience fluid retention. Congestive heart failure is also a cause of edema.
Ways to Reduce Water Retention
Now that you’ve learned about the many water retention causes, we will tell you of some easy, effective, and safe ways to reduce water retention. While retaining water can be worrisome, uncomfortable, and even inconvenient at times, it often clears up with little to no work on your part (that is, if the cause if minor).
If you suspect that your water retention is a result of a serious medical condition and is accompanied by other symptoms, talk with your doctor. While there are many safe ways to reduce water retention, talk with your doctor if you are pregnant or have any known medical conditions.
If you don’t have a serious medical condition (as mentioned above) check out these ways to reduce fluid buildup in your body and feel and see relief from uncomfortable and unsightly water retention:
Eat Less Salt
As we briefly mentioned earlier, sodium is good for you in the right amount. Salt, as most people know, is sodium and while a little salt intake is good now and then, it can cause major swelling. By cutting down on processed foods and using salt mindfully, you can see a reduction of retention. Talk with your doctor or a nutritionist about an appropriate daily intake of sodium.
Increase Your Magnesium Intake
Magnesium is a mineral that can be found in healthy foods like nuts, dark chocolate, leafy greens, and whole grains. If you aren’t able to get enough magnesium in your diet, a supplement can help. Magnesium is particularly effective in reducing retention in premenstrual women.
Increase Vitamin B6 Intake
Much like boosting your Magnesium intake, Vitamin B6 has been proven to be effective in premenstrual women. Try incorporating bananas, potatoes, walnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, and meat (liver, tuna, pork, and turkey). If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you can take a supplement.
Eat More Potassium-Rich Foods
Potassium is a mineral that has many important benefits, but when it comes to reducing water retention, it increases urine production (which helps regulate fluid retention). Most people know that banana, avocado, and tomato are rich in Potassium, but if you really want to boost your potassium intake, eat mushrooms, sweet potatoes, spinach, yogurt, white beans, and dried apricots.
Dandelions get a bad rep for being pesky lawn weeds, but it is also a natural diuretic. Diuretics can be helpful when the body is full of excess fluid as it will increase urine output; thus regulating normal levels of fluid in the body. You can harvest the dandelions in your own yard (as long as they are free of pesticides) or drink a dandelion tea.
Avoid Refined Carbs
Eating a regular diet of refined carbs can lead to rapid spikes in insulin and blood sugar. When these spikes occur, the kidneys retain more sodium and excess fluid stays in the body. Although refined carbs are okay now and then, it’s best to avoid processed foods and stick to a “cleaner” whole grain diet.
As we mentioned earlier, sitting or standing too long can cause water retention. You don’t need to be an exercise fanatic to get your blood flowing and keeping fluid levels normal. Brief walks throughout the day can help reduce water retention.
The daily recommended amount of exercise is about 30 minutes a day; this can be broken down throughout the day if you don’t have a large chunk of time. Doing yard work, cleaning, dancing, or even walking up stairs is movement. If you can do exercises that elevate the feet, this can be helpful, too.
We aren’t talking about an actual horse’s tail, but rather a herb that has been used for various health issues and dates back to ancient times. One of the uses of horsetail is a diuretic and can be consumed in a capsule or as a tea. As with all herbal supplements, make sure it is from a safe and reputable seller.
You may have this licorice-tasting herb growing in your garden or the seeds in your spice cabinet. When consumed as a tea, fennel acts as a diuretic and can help reduce fluid buildup in the body.
Who knew that the yellow, silk tassels that hang out of the top of an ear of corn could be helpful in reducing water retention? Much like horsetail, dandelion, and fennel, when used as a tea, cornsilk acts as a diuretic.
Cranberry juice is best known for clearing up a urinary tract infection, but in general, it flushes the body of toxins. Unlike other diuretics which may flush out healthy levels of potassium in the body, cranberry juice will not.
Consuming coffee, sodas and caffeinated teas can actually have a positive effect on individuals suffering from water retention.
Caffeine lowers water levels in your body by acting as a diuretic – shortly after consuming a caffeinated beverage, you will need to urinate more than usual. This makes caffeine a good way to discharge some of the accumulated water your body is holding onto.
In addition to the above, caffeine also influences your body’s temperature, causing it to rise a little higher than normal and increasing your chances of sweating. This also helps you to shed water weight to an extent throughout the day.