Water retention, also called fluid retention or edema, occurs when excess fluids build up in the tissues in your body. Typically, your arms, hands, legs and feet will appear swollen from the extra fluid. Certain supplements can act as diuretics, helping you to excrete these fluids through your urine. Before you begin taking any supplements to treat edema, consult your doctor to diagnose the underlying cause of your water retention, as well as to discuss the potential dangers and other treatment options.
Water retention can occur due to many different causes, including pregnancy or an underlying condition, the MayoClinic website states. You might experience edema due to consuming too much salt in your diet, sitting for long periods of time, taking certain medications or suffering from certain medical conditions. Blood-pressure problems, lymphedema, head injuries, brain tumors, food allergies, varicose veins and hormonal fluctuations during menstrual cycles or pregnancy can all cause fluid retention, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. You could also develop edema due to heart, liver, kidney or thyroid disease, or from extreme physical exertion in hot weather or high altitudes. Certain medications like estrogens, thiazolidinediones for diabetes, vasodilators, calcium channel blockers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs -- NSAIDs -- can also cause edema.
Certain dietary supplements may help treat your water retention. To help treat edema, you might take supplements of omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil, magnesium, alpha-lipoic acid or vitamin C, according to the UMMC. Vitamin C and alpha-lipoic acid provide antioxidant actions, while fish oil can reduce inflammation and magnesium can provide nutritional support. If you're taking diuretic drugs, you might also need to take a potassium supplement. Flavonoid supplements like quercetin could also help treat your fluid retention, notes the University of Michigan Health System. If your water retention is caused by a problem with your lymphatic system such as lymphedema, taking a selenium supplement may help. Before you begin taking any nutritional supplements for edema, talk with your physician about the proper dosage and possible drug interactions.
Some herbs act as diuretics and may help to "flush out" the excess fluid in your body's tissues. These herbal supplements include dandelion leaves, aescin from horse chestnut, cleavers and horsetail, says the University of Michigan Health System. Butcher's broom extract could also help in treating edema caused by lymphatic or venous disorders. Although they may not have specific diuretic effects, taking supplements of bilberry and grape seed extract could help treat edema, notes the UMMC. Bilberry and grape seed extract provide antioxidant actions, and grape seed may be especially helpful in treating edema related to chronic venous insufficiency. No widely-accepted medical research supports the use of any herbal remedies for treating edema, however.
Although water retention is often treated using diuretic medications, your doctor may need to treat any underlying condition to effectively treat the edema, MayoClinic states. Depending on the underlying cause of your edema, you may need to reduce your salt intake in your diet, exercise more, switch medications that may be causing fluid retention or take conventional drugs to excrete the excess fluid in your body. If you have edema due to chronic venous insufficiency or pregnancy, taking diuretic supplements or medications may be unsafe.
Don't take any dietary or herbal supplement without first consulting your health care provider. Like conventional medications, herbal remedies and nutritional supplements can sometimes interact with other supplements and drugs. For example, taking a potassium supplement may help prevent a deficiency while taking certain types of diuretic medications, but it could also cause toxicity with other types of diuretics, warns the UMMC. Bilberry and dandelion can interact negatively with blood-thinning medications such as coumadin, and dandelion may also be dangerous if you have gallbladder disease or are allergic to certain types of plants.