Sluggish, stiff and bloated. These are some of the dreaded symptoms associated with water retention. It can ruin your mood on a good day, making you feel uncomfortable and irritable, while swollen ankles or fingers mean you may not be able to accessorise with your favourite shoes or rings. It's an annoying condition, but thankfully there are steps you can take in your lifestyle to reduce that horrible bloating feeling - be it adapting your diet, exercising more, taking supllements or simply resting when water retention is at its worst.
Here’s what causes water retention and, more importantly, how you can get rid of it.
What is water retention?
Water retention (Oedema) occurs when fluid isn’t removed from the body tissues, including the skin. There are two types of oedema: generalised, all over your body, or localised, in particular parts of your body.
There are many symptoms of water retention, but the swelling of your body parts, particularly ankles, feet and hands, and feeling stiff and ache are common ones. See below for more symptoms.
- Bloated stomach
- Feeling stiffness or aching
- Weight fluctuations
- Joints may feel stiff
- When pressed the skin may hold the indent for a few seconds
Swollen ankles, hands and feet can be symptoms of water retention
Causes of water retention
There are numerous causes for water retention, particularly in the summer months when the weather is hot. Pregnancy is also a trigger because your body's hormones encourage it to hold on to excess fluid. See below for more causes.
- Hot weather - the body tends to be less efficient at removing fluid from tissues in the summer months
- Gravity – standing for long periods of time
- Burns – including sunburn – skin retains fluid and swells in response to burn injuries
- The pill – can trigger fluid retention
- Hormones associated with menstrual cycle
- Dietary deficiencies – such as insufficient protein or vitamin B1
- Medications – certain drugs including high blood pressure medication, corticosteroids and non-steriodal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Chronic venous insufficiency – weakened valves in the veins of the legs
- High salt intake
Treatments to reduce water retention
Water retention could be a sign of a serious medical condition such as heart, kidney or liver disease, so if you are concerned you should go and consult your GP. Otherwise, there are many small changes, particularly when it comes to diet, to help you prevent fluid retention.
Bananas can help stop fluid retention
- Step up your protein intake – eating more protein encourages your body to shed excess fluid
- Change any medication you are taking, or the dosage - consult your GP first.
- Eat more bananas – they are rich in potassium which is helps to eliminate fluid retention
- Add more cabbage, cucumber, parsley and salad leaves to your diet as they are natural diuretecs
- Calcium, magnesium, manganese, evening primrose oil and chaste tree are all helpful ways of preventing water retention.
- Cut back on dehydrating drinks such as coffee, tea and alcohol
- Cranberry juice has mild diuretic properties
- Drink more water - water retention come from a lack of water because your body doesn't know when it will get more so it retains the water it has.
- For girls – check your menstrual cycle as plenty of girls retain water for a period of time during their monthly cycle
- Write a food diary and make connections between certain foods and periods of bloating/swelling
- Cut high sodium foods out of your diet – salt absorbs water and causes water retention
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet that contains a lot of vegetables, grains and other high-fiber foods
- Deficiencies in protein, calcium, magnesium and vitamins B1, B5 and B6 may lead to problems with water retention
- Exercise has been known to help control water retention – try to do at least 20 minutes a day
- Lie down and sit with your feet elevated when resting and taking breaks – standing or sitting all day can cause fluids to drain into your feet and legs
- Try a natural duiretic (water pill) – some herbal remedies are known to increase the kidney's fluid output which helps to control water retention.
- Try essential oils when taking baths or going for massages, including lavender, rosemary, geranum and cypress
A healthy diet is key to preventing water retention
Keep a food diary to help you make connections as to what causes bloating