When fluid that ought to pass through blood vessels and lymph channels seeps into cells and the small spaces between them and collects there it is called water retention. Consuming too much salt can cause the retention, but so can wearing socks with a tight elastic around the top, standing for a long time, or a sedentary job. When water retention occurs in the days before the start of your menstrual period, the cause can be hormonal fluctuations. The condition can also be related to kidney or liver diseases. Doctors may prescribe diuretic drugs to drain out excess fluids, but some simple self-help remedies like changing your diet, drinking herbal teas and taking long walks can be equally beneficial.
Fighting like with like
It is ironic, but the most recommended remedy for getting rid of water retention is to drink more water. The reason is that when you are dehydrated, your body saves up fluids for the dry spell. Besides, when you drink more water, you will urinate more, thus getting rid of excess fluids and also salts. Make sure you drink at least two litres of water every day.
Balancing the salts
- Reduce your salt intake. A substantial amount of salt that we eat comes form processed foods, like soups, sauces, packaged snacks and even ready-made bread. Instead, switch to unprocessed foods like fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains that are not packaged. Bake your own bread, if you can.
- The correct balance of sodium and potassium in the body is imperative for regulating fluid levels, but mostly people get more sodium than potassium, so you need to set that right by making sure you get more potassium. Fruits and vegetables like bananas, avocados, potatoes, oranges are high in potassium, as are meat, poultry products, milk and yoghurt.
- Make sure you get enough magnesium. Studies have proved that women who suffer from water retention related to PMS, experience relief from this condition when they supplement their diet with magnesium, as it reduces menstrual abdominal bloating. The recommended dose is 200-400 mg per day.
Controlling the swelling
- Exercising regularly can relieve water retention to a great extent. Fluids flow down in the body, towards the legs and ankles which become swollen, due to gravity, and therefore when you exercise you put pressure on your calf and other muscles in the legs which helps in pumping the fluids back up. You can do 20-30 minutes of walking, jogging, cycling or any other leg-pumping exercise every day to alleviate retention of fluids.
- You could try squeezing the fluids upward by gently massaging your calf muscles by performing the squeeze-and-release motions, first downwards and then upwards, one by one on both legs.
- If you find your legs swollen after returning home from work, lie down with your legs raised higher than the level of your body, so that the water drains down towards your kidneys and passes out through urine. If possible, try to keep your feet raised for 1-2 hours daily.