If you have edema, chances are you're experiencing issues like swollen or puffy legs, stretched-out skin, and bloating throughout your body. Fortunately, this condition often goes away on its own. There are also many herbs, spices and foods that can help reduce edema's symptoms.
Read more: 10 Ways to Beat Belly Bloat
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Edema: Causes and Treatments
According to the Mayo Clinic, when excess fluid becomes trapped within the body, it can cause an issue known as edema. The reasons that fluid becomes trapped can vary. It could be caused by a range of different issues, including medications you've taken, chronic illness or another health issue, pregnancy or even nutrient deficiency.
Serious edema is caused by cardiovascular, kidney or lymph issues. If you have kidney disease or damage, congestive heart failure, chronic venous insufficiency, or an issue with your lymph nodes or vessels, it's unlikely that any natural diuretics for edema will greatly improve your symptoms.
In these cases, your doctor is more likely to recommend medications and home remedies that should be able to help. You'll also probably have to reduce your sodium intake and may have to make other specific dietary changes.
Unlike serious edema, mild edema can often be resolved easily. This type of edema is sometimes caused by eating too much salty food or too little protein. If you have a sedentary office job or take long-haul flights, it's also likely that you're at an increased risk for this issue.
Mild edema often goes away on its own. If the issue causing your edema — like having to remain stationary at work for long periods of time — isn't easily resolvable, you may want to talk with your doctor about ways to minimize your symptoms. In most cases, medications are not needed, and a variety of lifestyle and dietary changes can help this type of edema.
Natural Diuretics for Edema
There are a variety of foods, beverages, herbs and spices that function as natural diuretics. This subject is extremely well studied, with the first major publication on the subject published in the year 1 AD by a Greek physician — a January 2019 publication in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that about 84 percent of the plants identified as diuretics in this original text had actually been accurately identified.
Despite such early advances in this field, clinical research on functional foods that can be used as diuretics is limited. However, there are over a hundred commonly consumed food products that are considered to have diuretic properties.
According to the Mayo Clinic, an April 2012 study in the Pharma Science Monitor and a March 2017 study in the Institute of Integrative Omics and Applied Biotechnology Journal, commonly consumed plants and foods that can help edema include:
- Herbs and spices like parsley, garlic, dill, ginger, coriander, basil, dandelion, juniper, hawthorn, mulberry, pennyroyal, black cumin, nettle, burdock, safflower, fenugreek, chicory and thyme.
- Fruits and vegetables like watercress, pineapple, lemon, cucumber, pumpkin, carrot, fig, alfalfa, cherry, pomegranate, tomato, corn, onion, cabbage, artichoke, melon, apple, blackcurrant, cranberry and avocado.
- Legumes and grains like barley and chickpeas.
- Nuts and seeds like pumpkin seed, oat seed, pistachio and walnut.
Although it may seem contradictory to ingest fluids in order to reduce the amount in your body, many of these products can be turned into diuretic beverages too. Dandelion and burdock drinks, chicory coffee and nettle tea are all sold in supermarkets. And, for instance, you can also easily add spices like ginger to a homemade pomegranate and pineapple smoothie.
Additionally, according to a May 2016 study in the Journal of Medicine Sciences, caffeinated products are also well-known diuretics. This means coffee, tea and even energy drinks can potentially act as diuretics for swollen feet and ankles.
If you're planning to consume a diet rich in diuretic foods to reduce the edema in your legs, you should consult your doctor first. The I_nstitute of Integrative Omics and Applied Biotechnology Journal_ study has reported that a range of diuretic food products are stronger than others. Not all of them are suitable for everyone, and many of them can only be safely consumed in limited amounts.
Certain diuretic products are inappropriate for consumption during pregnancy and lactation. Others are unsuitable for people prone to dermatitis or who have gastrointestinal issues, hypertension or asthma. Certain diuretics can even affect people taking medications, particularly those for blood pressure and depression. Of course, if you're already taking a diuretic medication, these natural diuretics for edema can interact with that medication too.
Diuretic Foods and Pregnancy
As mentioned, there are a variety of foods that reduce edema in pregnancy. However, there are certain foods, herbs and spices that you may want to avoid as well. The Institute of Integrative Omics and Applied Biotechnology Journal study states that the following products are not suitable for pregnancy — or afterward, if you're lactating:
- Plantain leaf and seed
- Oat seeds
- Yarrow leaf
- Fenugreek seed
- Tamarind seed
- Evening primrose seed
- Nutmeg seed
- Pumpkin seed
- Burdock root
- Nettle root and leaf
- Black seed oil (which comes from black cumin)
- St. John's wort
- Carrot seed
Notably, these natural diuretics for edema may be contraindicated only for certain portions of the plant. For example, plantains are perfectly fine to consume in moderation during pregnancy and throughout lactation. However, large amounts of seeds and plantain leaves can be harmful. This is likely, in part, due to the fact that this plant comes from the nightshade family.
If you're pregnant or lactating and seeking a diuretic for swollen feet and ankles, it's always best to consult your doctor before changing your diet. While spices or herbs, like dill, can be perfectly fine to eat in small amounts, they can be harmful when consumed in larger amounts as medical supplements.
- Medicine Sciences: "Mechanisms of Caffeine-Induced Diuresis"
- Institute of Integrative Omics and Applied Biotechnology Journal: "Hypolipidemic Herbals With Diuretic Effects: A Systematic Review"
- Pharma Science Monitor: "Herbal Drugs Used as Diuretics"
- Mayo Clinic: "Can Natural Diuretics Reduce Fluid Retention and Help With Weight Loss?"
- Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: "Accuracy of Dioscorides,' De Materia Medica (First Century C.E.), Regarding Diuretic Activity of Plants"
- Mayo Clinic: "Edema"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.