Edema—the excessive accumulation of fluid—can occur for dozens of reasons. Whether you have an unhealthily high sodium intake, a circulatory disorder, cardiovascular problems or are just dealing with the normal hormonal fluctuations associated with your menstrual cycle, fluid retention can cause unpleasant, unsightly swelling. The feet, legs, stomach and hands are most commonly affected, but you can retain fluid just about anywhere.
You should always have the underlying cause checked out and treated by your doctor. However, provided your doctor agrees, you might also want to try some of the most powerful home remedies for water retention. Here are ten of the best.
Increasing your garlic consumption is proven to help your body get rid of fluid retention. You might start adding it to most of your meals (as it improves the taste of soups, stir fries and pasta dishes), or you can even commit to chewing 2-3 raw garlic cloves every morning. However, you may want to reconsider the latter approach if you work in customer service!
Certain aromatherapy treatments stimulate the lymphatic system and encourage fluid to drain. If you don’t know an aromatherapy practitioner, you can just prepare a warm bath and add 15-20 drops (each) of cypress, juniper and geranium essential oils. Soak for at least ten minutes, and repeat three times a week.
You can also administer a gentle but effective massage to encourage excess fluid away from your extremities. For example, if your legs are swollen, apply light pressure with your thumbs, and move your hands in an upwards direction. You can also try squeezing the affected body part for a few seconds at a time, before releasing your grip and repeating the squeeze.
If your fluid retention tends to be around your abdomen, this could be because you’re eating a diet that’s high in rich foods. You can counteract the effects of a big family meal by consuming a serving of plain, probiotic yogurt in the same day. Probiotic yogurt provides your body with “good bacteria” that assist the digestion process and help to counteract stomach bloating.
Studies show that dandelion has a diuretic influence on the body, so it helps your body get rid of extra water. It is speculated that this benefit comes from the high potassium content of dandelion, which lowers your sodium levels. You can either take dandelion supplements or use dried dandelion herb to make a tea. Simply add 1tsp to hot water, let it steep for 10 minutes, then strain the tea. You can drink this 1-3 times a day, and it may be especially good if you have premenstrual water retention (as it is also an excellent source of magnesium, combating hormonal bloating). However, always check with your doctor before using dandelion treatments, as they can interact with some common medications.
6. Salt swapping
Even if high sodium isn’t the primary cause of your fluid retention, you can still help to treat it by reducing the amount of salt in your diet. If you feel that food is bland without salt, experiment with other herbs and spices—for example, try pepper, Italian seasoning (e.g. oregano and basil), and chili powder. In addition, keep your eye on the labels of microwaveable meals and other processed foods—they’re often bursting with unexpectedly high levels of salt.
If you don’t fancy taking dandelion supplements or drinking the aforementioned tea, eating bananas could be the next best choice. They’re one of the most impressive natural sources of potassium, assisting your body with fluid regulation. What’s more, they’re incredibly versatile—you can chop them up and put them on cereal, add them to a smoothie, eat them as an instant snack, or even try a banana sandwich. However, if you’re not keen on bananas, note that raisins are another great source of potassium—just be sure to eat them in moderation, as they’re also high in sugar.
8. Epsom salt bath
An Epsom salt bath is said to draw accumulated fluid out of the body. As a bonus, such baths are extremely soothing, and some people use them to combat anxiety. Just add two cups of Epsom salt to a warm bath, and relax in it for 15-20 minutes. You can repeat this process up to three times a week.
If your water retention is in your feet or legs, you may find exercise particularly helpful. Gravity pulls water downwards into your lower limbs during the day, but working your calf muscles (though cycling or jogging, for example) helps to pump some of that fluid back up from your legs. In addition, since obesity increases the risk of fluid retention, exercise can also be indirectly useful by helping you to lose weight.
10. Loosen your clothes
Finally, if you know that you’re predisposed to retain water—whether generally or just during hormonal fluctuations—consider swapping tight leggings and vest tops for loose dresses and comfortable t-shirts. Tight clothing puts pressure on your body, making it harder for fluid to move in the direction it should (and encouraging it to get stuck in places like the ankles, feet and thighs).