Treatments for water retention differ depending on the cause, but there are plenty of supplements and dietary changes you can undertake to reduce the discomfort and ease water retention
Dietary changes to stop water retention
Eat less salt. Most of the salt we eat comes from processed foods, such as soups, sauces, packaged snacks and even shop-bought bread. Choose, instead, unprocessed fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains that don't come in a box, bag or tin. Make your own bread if you can, and when you do eat processed foods, choose ‘low-salt’ or ‘low-sodium’ versions.
Get more potassium from your diet. Potassium is a mineral that does not work directly as a diuretic, but the right balance of potassium and sodium in your body is crucial for regulating fluid levels. Most people get too little potassium and too much sodium. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables that are high in potassium, such as bananas, avocados, potatoes, oranges and orange juice. Potassium is also present in high levels in meat, poultry, milk and yogurt.
While eating fruit and vegetables for their potassium content, save some room for celery, watermelon, asparagus and cucumber. All contain chemicals that work as natural diuretics.
It may sound strange but drinking more water could solve the problem of fluid retention. If you're dehydrated, your body stores water to cope with what it sees as a dry spell. Also, when you drink more water, you'll urinate more and pass more salt from your body. Fill a 2-litre jug with water every morning and try to finish it by the end of the day.
Supplements to reduce water retention
If you have fluid retention before you menstruate, for the 5 days before your period, take a daily dose of 100mg of vitamin B6. The vitamin is a diuretic, which means it helps you to excrete more urine, thus reducing your body's water content. It also helps to balance a woman's oestrogen and progesterone levels. You can increase your intake of vitamin B6 throughout the month by eating more spinach, fish, poultry, chickpeas, avocados and bananas. (Caution: Don't take any of the B vitamins in isolation–take a B complex. And if you have tingling in your fingers or toes, stop taking B6 immediately.)
Get more magnesium. Studies show that women with PMS-related water retention experience relief from this and other symptoms when they take supplemental magnesium. Magnesium also relieves menstrual abdominal bloating. A suggested dose would be 200-400mg daily.
Teas to cure water retention
Drink 2-4 cups of dandelion tea a day. Dandelion leaf is a natural diuretic, allowing your kidneys to drain away more water. The herb is also a rich source of potassium. To make the tea, add one and a half tablespoons of dried dandelion root (available from health food shops) to a litre of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, strain and allow to cool before drinking.
Try drinking nettle tea made from common stinging nettles, since nettle is a natural diuretic. To make the tea, place a heaped teaspoon of powdered root in a cup of cold water. Boil for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and steep for 10 minutes. Drink 1 cup 4 times a day.
Corn silk is mildly diuretic, possibly because of its high potassium content. Put a teaspoon of dried corn silk (available from some health food shops and online) in cold water. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes, then strain. Drink 1 cup several times a day.
Herbs and spices to get rid of water retention
Buchu is another gentle diuretic herb that relieves premenstrual water retention. (Caution: Avoid buchu if you're pregnant.)
The spice turmeric, an ingredient in curry powder, has anti-inflammatory properties and may inhibit water retention, according to research in China. Use it freely in your cooking.
Parsley is a traditional remedy for water retention. Parsley has been shown to work as a weak diuretic. To make parsley tea, add 2 teaspoons of dried parsley to a cup of boiling water and steep for 10 minutes. You can drink up to 3 cups of parsley tea a day to relieve water retention.
Reduce water retention in your legs
Take regular exercise to relieve swelling in the legs, which is a common result of fluid retention. Because gravity pulls water downwards, you may find that your lower legs and ankles become swollen, especially at the end of the day. If you do the kind of exercise that works the muscles in your calves, more fluid gets pumped up from your legs through your veins. Try to get at least 20 to 30 minutes of walking, jogging, cycling or other leg-pumping exercises most days of the week.
Another way to help reduce swelling in your legs is to pull on a pair of support pantihose first thing in the morning. The pantihose fit snugly on your legs and minimises swelling.
To help squeeze fluid from your lower legs, do a gentle self-massage. Start by sitting on the floor with your knees bent. Grasp your shin just below the knee with fingers on your calf and thumbs placed along your shinbone. Move your hands slowly towards your ankle while applying gentle pressure with your thumbs. Next, place both thumbs on the inside of your ankle and stroke back up towards your knee. Finally, wrap your hands around your calf and perform a squeeze-and-release massage down your leg. Repeat on the other leg.
If you have swollen lower legs and feet when you get home from work, lie down on a couch and put your feet up so your legs are higher than the level of your heart. Excess fluid stored in your legs will work its way back into your bloodstream, travel to the kidneys and pass from your body in urine. Keep your feet up for an hour or 2 a day if possible.
Read more: What is Water Retention?
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