Water is your body's chief component. When too much water collects around your organs and tissues, you experience a condition known as edema. While edema can happen anywhere on the body, it is most common in the lower legs, hands, abdomen and chest. This condition can be uncomfortable, painful and embarrassing if your body becomes noticeably swollen. Although carrying excess water is the reason why you are experiencing edema, drinking it can help reduce your symptoms.
Sometimes edema is due to sodium retention in the body. Sodium and water are naturally attracted to each other, which is why you may feel bloated after eating a salty meal. In this instance, drinking more water is helpful because the kidneys closely monitor the amount of fluids and sodium in the body. When you drink more water, the kidneys notice the additional salt and water, sending a message to the body to release both. As a result, you flush salt out of your body that can contribute to your edema. Even if sodium is not the cause, drinking water can stimulate your body to release extra fluids.
If you experience edema, drinking at least eight glasses of water per day can help reduce your symptoms, recommends Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., a registered dietitian with MayoClinic.com. The water will keep your body hydrated as it is flushing sodium throughout your body. If your urine is dark or cloudy, this can be a sign you are not drinking enough water.
Other Water Sources
In addition to drinking water, you can increase your intake of water-containing foods to reduce edema symptoms. Fruits and vegetables can have a high water content that can further enhance the effects of drinking water. Try eating watermelon, onion, celery and cucumbers to increase your water intake. If you dislike plain water, herbal teas that contain dandelion, ginger or juniper can help reduce edema. Check with your physician before using these teas if you are currently taking medications or supplements.
Edema can sometimes indicate a more serious condition. This includes kidney disease, heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver and chronic venous disease. If you have attempted at-home edema treatments like drinking more water and massaging the affected area but your symptoms do not subside with time, see a physician to discuss your symptoms. Seek emergency care if your edema is accompanied by shortness of breath, chest pains or fainting.