Fluid regularly enters your body tissues from your blood. Normally, excess fluid is excreted from your body, so you don't even realize it's there. In some cases, however, fluid isn't removed correctly from your tissues and causes water retention, medically referred to as edema. Edema has a number of causes, many of which are not serious, but in some cases, edema may indicate an underlying health problem. If you have a clean bill of health from your doctor but you're still experiencing edema, try reducing water retention naturally.
Cut Back on Salt
Your kidneys are responsible for balancing the amount of sodium and water in your body. When your sodium levels are high, your kidneys hold onto excess water in an attempt to dilute the sodium. If you regularly eat too much salt, this can lead to water retention and even high blood pressure. Cut back on your sodium intake. Eliminate processed foods, canned foods and frozen foods. Use fresh herbs and sodium-free spices for cooking instead of salt. Stay away from cured and processed meats, which are often high in sodium. Your sodium intake should be less than 1,500 milligrams per day.
Drink More Water
It may seem counterintuitive, but an effective way to reduce water retention is to drink more water, especially if your diet is high in sodium. When you are well hydrated, your body is less likely to hold onto excess water in an attempt to maintain sodium balance. Aim to drink half your weight in ounces each day. If you're 150 pounds, this means drinking 75 ounces, or just over 9 cups, of water per day. Avoid dehydrating beverages such as tea, coffee and alcohol, which can make fluid retention worse.
Cool Down with Coconut
Coconut water is high in potassium -- an electrolyte that helps flush sodium out of the body. Coconut water can help reduce water retention and fight bloat. Choose varieties that don't contain any added sugar or artificial ingredients. Drink coconut water in addition to plain water, not in place of it.
Dandelion is Dandy
Dandelion is often thought as nothing more than a weed; but the perennial is not only full of nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and potassium, it can act as a natural diuretic to reduce water retention. A study published in the "Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine" in 2008 established that participants who ingested dandelion extract experienced an increase in urination frequency in the five-hour period after the dose. Although dandelion is a natural herb, it isn't safe for everyone. Don't take dandelion if you have kidney or gallbladder problems. Talk to your doctor about the safety of taking dandelion, especially if you're on medication.
Water retention occurs when the body stores excess fluid in the tissues. Some women may experience mild water retention in the days or weeks before their menstrual cycle starts. More severe forms of water retention, or edema, occur when the body is unable to clear excess fluids through urine, or when the lymph system is no longer functioning properly. Severely obese people may also experience edema in the extremities as a consequence of the excess weight.
Measure your waist at the smallest part — usually at or just above the navel. If you are a woman, and due for your period, your waist may swell. The swelling could occur anywhere from a few days to a few weeks before your period and disappear a day or so after your period starts, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Press your thumb into your forearm and remove your hand. If you have edema, your thumb will leave an impression, or dent, in your skin for several seconds after you have removed your hand.
Watch for puffiness or swelling in your face, hands and/or feet, the National Cancer Institute instructs. The skin may appear shiny and may feel stretched or bloated if you are retaining water.
Consult your physician if you experience shortness of breath, an irregular heartbeat or difficulty urinating.
Consult your physician if you experience sudden weight gain. Avoid eating high-sodium foods, which may trigger water retention. If you have frequent bouts of water retention, beyond monthly hormonal changes, consult your physician. Elevate your feet to encourage blood and lymph flow and relieve swelling, and take frequent beaks if you stand or sit a lot.
- The Washington Post: Fluid Retention is Often Just An Annoyance, But It Can Point to Serious Illness
- Better Health Channel: Fluid Retention
- Columbia Health: Go Ask Alice: Bloating or Water Retention?
- Linus Pauling Institute: Sodium
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Dandelion
- Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: The Diuretic Effect in Human Subjects of an Extract of Taraxacum officinale Folium over a Single Day