Water retention

Posted: February 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

Water retention is a condition in which the body retains water, causing swelling and tenderness, especially on the extremities and around the abdomen. It is very common for even healthy adults to experience weight fluctuations due to water retention, which account for many day-to-day fluctuations on the scale. You may also hear water retention referred to as bloating or edema, and it has a variety of causes, from the mundane to the serious. As a general rule of thumb, you should seek medical attention for water retention if it persists for over a week, or if you are extremely uncomfortable, and pregnant women should seek prompt attention if they experience excessive swelling in the legs and ankles.

There are two main categories of water retention, generalized edema and localized edema. Generalized edema refers to swelling that occurs throughout the body while localized edema refers to the swelling in specific parts of the body.

What causes water retention?

Causes of body water retention depend on a wide range of factors including a high salt intake, as a reaction to hot weather, gravity, nutritional deficiencies, burns as well as sunburn and as a side effect of certain drugs. Pregnancy, oral contraceptives such as the pill, the menstrual cycle and menopause are also known causes of body water retention.

There are a number of reasons why the body might start retaining water. Many women are familiar with the water retention associated with the menstrual cycle; this water retention is caused by the release of hormones which causes the kidneys to retain water, rather than flushing it out. Water retention can also be caused by medical problems with organs like the kidneys, heart, or liver, and it has been linked with thyroid problems as well. Finally, the body will retain water if people eat a diet which is too high in salt.

Remedies for water retention?

1. Avoid salt: Around the time you expect your period, drastically reduce your salt intake. Sodium increases fluid retention, so don’t use the salt shaker. And if recipes call for salt, try adding more pepper or another spice instead. But, most importantly, cut down on processed foods and fast foods, all of which are overflowing with salt.

2. Eat bananas: Go ape and grab a few bananas. Slice ’em on your cereal, make a smoothie, or just peel and eat them plain. Bananas contain high amounts of potassium, which helps eliminate fluid retention. Not a banana fan? Gobble down a handful of raisins instead.

3. Use ice packs: When ankles puff up, applying an ice pack can help bring them back to normal size. Place ice cubes in a plastic bag with a zipper seal, wrap a light towel around the bag, and apply for five to ten minutes. A bag of frozen veggies also works well. In summertime, dip legs (ankle-deep) into a bath of ice water. People who have diabetes or poor circulation in their feet should skip the ice bath, however, unless directed to use it by their physician.

4. Eat yoghurt: Too many rich treats will cause stomachs to bloat. If you’ve overindulged and are feeling the effects, treat your stomach to a cup of plain, low-fat yogurt that contains active cultures. The active cultures aid in digestion and increase the good bacteria in the gut.

5. Drink water: When you feel waterlogged, guzzling a glass of H2O might be the last thing on your mind. But it may be the best thing for you. Water flushes out the system better than anything else and can reduce premenstrual bloating. Drink 8 to 10 glasses a day; more when you exercise. (NOTE: This advice is only for PMS bloating. If your water retention is caused by any other medical condition, be sure to ask your doctor before drinking extra water — it may not be good for you.)

Dos and don’ts:

  • DO lift your legs! Ankles can swell like sourdough bread, thanks to water retention. Luckily, avoiding the baguette look just takes a little movement. Exercises that work the calf muscles help move blood and excess fluid out of the ankle area. Regularly walking, running, bicycling, and aerobic dancing can work wonders. If ankles swell while seated at work, try lifting your legs up parallel to the floor every few minutes. During breaks, walk around the office or up the stairs. Spend a portion of the lunch hour on your feet, exercising.
  • DO keep your feet up. While resting, reading, or watching television, prop a pillow under those tootsies. A little help from gravity can go a long way in draining fluid from swollen limbs.
  • DO cross off the notion that crossing your legs is the way to sit. Doing so limits the blood flow through the thigh veins, in turn aggravating the swelling in the lower legs.
  • DO toss out tight clothing. If you have to squeeze into your pants, you can be guaranteed that pressure is being placed on your upper thighs and waist, in turn restricting the removal of fluids from the lower legs.
  • DO limit alcohol intake.
  • DON’T smoke.
  • DO stay away from junk food. Not only is it bad for you, but the excess salt tips the scales.
  • DO eat 6 small meals a day, rather than 3 big ones.

Water retention is usually nothing more than an uncomfortable occurance. If the bloat hits you once a month, these home remedies might help you shed that extra water and find some relief. Remember, you should seek medical attention for water retention if it persists for over a week, or if you are extremely uncomfortable, and pregnant women should seek prompt attention if they experience excessive swelling in the legs and ankles.


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