Foods to Reduce Water Retention

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Bananas for sale at a market. (Image: mktordonez/iStock/Getty Images)

Edema, also known as fluid retention or water retention, is caused by the accumulation of excess fluids in the circulatory system and areas between the body's cells. It can cause different body parts to swell, with the face, hands, feet, ankles and legs being most common. Edema often affects pregnant women, but anyone can develop the condition. Certain diuretic and potassium-rich foods can help combat edema.

Common Causes

According to University of Maryland Medical Center, there are many potential causes of water retention, such as sitting or standing for long periods; high or low blood pressure; infection of blood vessels; kidney, liver, heart or thyroid disease; head injury; prescription medications; hormonal changes during pregnancy or menstruation; high altitudes; heat; high-intensity physical exertion; and salty foods. To remedy water retention, potassium and diuretics can be useful treatments.

Ditch It With Diuretics

A diuretic is any substance that can help decrease the level of fluid in the body, through urination. While some diuretics are prescribed by doctors, various foods have diuretic properties. The University of Maryland Medical Center lists a variety of diuretic foods, including onions, beans, leafy greens, pineapple, parsley, grapes, beats, asparagus and garlic. According to MedlinePlus, caffeine is also a diuretic substance that helps rid the body of fluids. Common sources of caffeine include coffee, tea and chocolate.

Get Your Daily Potassium

Excessive sodium intake is likely a major cause of water retention, as about 98 percent of Americans eat twice the amount of sodium recommended for a healthy diet, according to the American Heart Association. While it is important to cut down on salty foods to reduce water retention, consuming potassium-rich foods can also help excrete excess water, through urine. According to MedlinePlus, all meats are good sources of potassium, as are many vegetables, including broccoli, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, lima beans, sweet potatoes and winter squash. Potassium-rich fruits include prunes, kiwi, bananas, citrus fruit, cantaloupe and apricots. Other excellent sources of potassium include milk, yogurt and nuts.

Health and Safety Considerations

If your fluid retention is severe and does not easily subside, it may be an indication of an underlying health problem. In this case, it is important to see a medical professional. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that some diuretic foods may interact with diuretic medications. For pregnant mothers, excessive water retention, known as toxemia, can be dangerous to both the woman and baby.

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