Water retention, formally known as edema, is a symptom of a number of conditions including dehydration, constipation, hormonal changes, excess sodium in the diet, heart conditions and kidney problems. Symptoms of water retention (or fluid retention) include feeling heavy and bloated, noticeable swelling in the feet, legs and other areas of the body, and an increase in body weight of up to several pounds. There are many natural ways of treating water retention by expelling excess water from the body and hydrating properly.
Sensible Nutrition for Water Retention
Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water daily. Although it may sound contradictory, if your body is suffering from dehydration it retains water as a survival mechanism. Drinking plenty of water, fruit juices, herbal teas and other non-caffeinated beverages allows your body to flush and cleanse fluids regularly.
Sip steadily. The best way to take water is to drink small amounts continuously throughout the day. Chugging a gallon of water doesn’t provide your body with the water it needs because that “flood” of water gets passed on to your bladder and only a slight amount is absorbed by your body.
Consume daily vitamins that can aid in reducing water retention. You can either take vitamin capsules or get the vitamins by selecting food sources known to be high in the relevant vitamins. In particular, watch for:
- Vitamin B6: This is known to reduce the effects of water retention, especially in mild cases such as water retention due to premenstrual syndrome. Large quantities of vitamin B6 can be found in foods such as red meat, salmon, tuna, bananas and brown rice.
- Vitamin B5, vitamin B1 and vitamin D: These vitamins will reduce water retention. They can be found in foods such as fresh fruits and low-fat dairy.
- Supplement minerals such as calcium, magnesium, manganese and potassium can help with water retention as well. These minerals are known to act as mild diuretics to help the body release excess water. Calcium is found in yogurt, milk and dark leafy greens like spinach. Potassium helps the body to get rid of excess water in the body, but also stabilizes the amount of sodium within the body. Potassium is found in fruit such as citrus and melons.
Lessen your intake of salt and salty foods. Too much salt in the body can cause water retention to worsen. Many processed foods contain high values of sodium that should also be avoided, so check the nutritional information on products you eat to make sure that they do not contain high levels of sodium. Avoid adding additional table salt to your food, and stay away from salty snacks like chips, peanuts and pretzels.
- Remove processed foods from your diet, because they are more likely to contain high levels of sodium. This includes cheese, chips, cereals, canned foods and frozen foods.
- Avoid eating out. Restaurant food usually contains more mg of sodium than a home-cooked meal.
- Add foods to your diet that can help absorb and reduce sodium. These are potassium-rich foods like sweet potatoes, beets, oranges, coconut water, apricots, figs, cantaloupes and bananas.
Avoid drinks that will dehydrate the body such as tea, coffee and alcohol. Although caffeine and alcohol is a diuretic, consuming it will only dehydrate you and worsen water retention.
- Switch to fruit and herbal tea and coffee varieties, such as peppermint tea, lemon tea and dandelion coffee.
- In place of alcohol, try non-alcoholic counterparts, such as non-alcoholic beer or non-alcoholic ciders.
Stock up on yogurt. Yogurt has more to offer than just a high water content. It also promotes the growth of good bacteria in the stomach, which can reduce gas and bloating.
Increase the fiber in your diet. Experts recommend 25 to 35 g of fiber per day, but many adults are only getting 10 to 15 g. Fiber will improve the efficiency of your digestive system, allowing you to shed both fluid and solid waste.
- Increase the amount of produce you eat. Fruits and vegetables are a main source of both soluble and insoluble fiber. You need both to have a healthy digestive system.
- Replace refined carbohydrates with whole grains. Choose high fiber, whole grain breads and cereals. Make brown rice, quinoa and other ancient grains to serve along with your protein and vegetables.
- Introduce fiber into your diet in stages, since your digestive system may need time to adjust. People who switch to a high fiber diet can lose 5 lbs. (2.2kg) in just a few days or a week.
Heat up broth-based soups. Cook up a pot of homemade vegetable broth for a meal that’s high in water content but also filling. Canned soups are extremely high in sodium, so look for broths labeled “low sodium” and read the label for specific amounts per serving.
- Be sure to stick to broths. Creamy soups, purees and chowders may seem like good choices because they contain vegetables, but they’re also high in saturated fat and calories.
Add coumarin-rich foods to your diet. Some sources suggest that this naturally-occurring compound can help you regulate fluid in the tissues. You should limit your consumption of coumarin to small, healthy levels,
- Sprinkle cinnamon on your cereal or in your coffee. Chamomile also contains coumarin, so consider adding a cup of chamomile tea to your diet.
Physical Solutions for Water Retention
Reduce the amount of time you sit or stand in 1 place. If you are suffering from water retention, walking or exercising in smaller amounts 2 or more times per day may help you lose fluid faster than a single workout.
Sleep with your feet elevated higher than your heart. Just place pillows under your legs to make them higher than your heart when you lie down.
Get a massage to improve circulation. This relaxing activity can also reduce stress hormones that may be adding to weight problems.
Exercise often to release excess body fluid and increase circulation. Exercise can greatly help with water retention problems because the body will heat up and sweat out excess water, and better circulation will reduce and prevent water retention in the future.
Lose weight. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to retain fluids. Starting a healthy diet and exercise routine approved by your doctor is likely to take off water weight and reduce body fat quickly.
Sweat it out. Sweating is a quick yet very temporary way to lose water weight. It opens the pores for deep cleaning and rids the body of excess salts and water.
- Water weight lost through heavy sweating will be quickly regained once fluids are replaced.
- Check with your doctor if you have health concerns about using a sauna. If you have irregular blood pressure are pregnant or sensitive to heat, you should not sauna.
- Do not sauna for longer than 20 minutes.
Cool down in hot weather or dress warmly in cold weather. Extreme changes in environmental temperature can send signals to your body to retain water.
Try acupressure. There are four pressure points on the body that are believed to help with water retention. You can apply pressure to these areas on your own or visit a licensed acupressure facility for treatment.
- Sea of Energy – located two finger widths directly below the belly button.
- Shady Side of the Mountain – located on the inside of the leg below the knee and under the large bulge of the bone.
- Three Yin Crossing – located four finger widths above the inner anklebone on the back inner border of the shinbone. Caution: Do not stimulate this point during the eighth and ninth months of pregnancy.
- Illuminated Sea – located one thumb width below the inside of the anklebone.
Herbal Remedies for Water Retention
Take a ginkgo supplement or drink it in a tea. Ginkgo can help with circulation, so it may benefit you if you have water retention due to circulation problems.
Try a natural diuretic. Some herbal remedies are known to increase the kidney’s fluid output, which helps control water retention.
- Dandelion has no harmful side effects and can be used indefinitely. Add 10 to 20 drops of dandelion tincture to salads or other foods daily.
- Dong quai is best added to an herbal tea and taken at bedtime because it has a mild sedative effect. Some teas are sold with dong quai in them, or you can purchase it as oil and add a few drops to your favorite tea. In addition to being a diuretic, dong quai is known to inhibit the growth of bacteria.
- Essential oils used in vaporizers, gargles, baths and massage may help combat water retention. Lavender, rosemary, geranium and cypress are known to have good results.
Take a chemical diuretic sold over the counter, or one your doctor prescribes. Chemical diuretics drain the body’s store of potassium and could contribute to osteoporosis.
- Some prescription and over-the-counter medications interact with or counteract diuretics. Check with your doctor to make sure a diuretic will not negatively affect any medication you are taking.
Medical Treatments for Water Retention
Get a checkup. Very often water retention is harmless and caused by issues covered here such as a high sodium intake, dehydration and hormonal fluctuations. In some case, however, water weight gain may be a sign of blood clots, high or low blood pressure, allergies and kidney, and liver and cardiovascular disease. See your physician if you have experience prolonged bloating, swelling and/or discomfort from water retention.
Talk to your doctor about using compression stockings if you retain water in your legs. This can improve circulation and reduce water weight.
Look for medications that may be causing water retention. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, beta blockers and estrogen therapies can cause you to retain fluids. Talk to your doctor before reducing or stopping a medical prescription.
- Do not consume large amounts of water to treat water retention if you have chronic liver problems. Consult your doctor if you have liver problems, or believe you may have liver problems and are experiencing water retention in your abdomen or other parts of the body. Water consumption can have a negative effect on organs trying to process excess fluid in the body already.
- Do not take any new supplements before consulting your doctor, especially if you are currently taking any medication.
- Be careful when consuming herbs to treat water retention. Many herbs are not regulated and can have negative effects on the body if consumed in excess. Consult a physician for the best method to relieve water retention in your body.
- Consult your physician before taking herbal supplements if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to become pregnant.
- If you believe water retention may be the cause of dehydration you may be experiencing thirst, lack of urination, weakness, dizziness, cramping, headaches and dry mouth.
- Dehydration can cause water retention because when the body is dehydrated it holds onto water instead of allowing the body to dispel it. In order for the body to process fluid correctly, it must be properly and consistently hydrated. The body will then use the fluid that is necessary to keep it hydrated, and dispel excess fluid instead of holding onto it, causing water retention.
- Don’t sit for long periods.