Feet can swell for many reasons -- a foot or ankle injury, poor blood flow, an infection, excess weight, a medication side effect, pregnancy or even hot weather can lead to this uncomfortable symptom. Certain medical conditions, such kidney, liver or heart disease or a blood clot can also cause the feet to swell. The most effective way to reduce this swelling, or edema, is to treat the underlying cause. So a discussion with your doctor is warranted to determine the best remedy, which may include some effective home treatments. Natural or drug-free ways to reduce swelling include reducing dietary sodium, elevating feet, increasing physical activity and wearing compression stockings.
Limit sodium in your diet. Retention of excess fluids is typically caused by a medical or health condition, but because sodium attracts water, consuming excess sodium can make the edema worse. According to the American Heart Association, sodium should be limited to 2,300 mg daily, and to levels less than 1,500 mg for certain people with more severe edema. One teaspoon of table salt contains about 2,300 mg of sodium, so instead of flavoring foods with salt, use herbs, spices, vinegar or citrus juice. Sodium is also found in cured and smoked meats, soups, most canned foods and many packaged foods. Checking the nutrition facts food labels can be a helpful strategy to curb sodium in your diet.
Elevate your feet. Since gravity can cause excess fluid to pool in the ankles and feet, elevating your feet helps the body pull blood from the lower extremities back to the heart. When you are sitting or lying down, stack pillows under your legs and feet, keeping them at a level higher than your heart for at least 30 minutes. Repeat several times a day, if necessary, to improve the swelling.
Get moving, since it's equally important to avoid prolonged sitting or standing. Immobility can cause fluids to pool in the feet, ankles and legs. Exercise helps the heart pump fluid out of the legs, so a daily walk or other regular exercise can help ease swelling and improve blood flow. If you are in a situation such that requires prolonged sitting, such as a long car ride, take breaks to stretch and walk.
Wear support stockings. The pressure from these compression stockings reduces swelling by helping the blood in the legs and feet return to the heart, and by improving the flow of the lymph fluid that surrounds your cells. Essentially, they work by preventing fluid from collecting in your feet and ankles. Compression garments are available at varying pressure levels, so for effective home therapy, seek advice from your doctor about the optimal stocking choice for you. In certain conditions, compression therapy is not recommended, so guidance from your doctor is important -- especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition or if this is a new or persistent symptom.