Everybody experiences bloating and swelling of some sort every once in a while, but water retention can be a serious condition. However, water retention causes are well-known and, most of the time, the condition can often be fixed by changing a few lifestyle factors.
Edema is nothing to be embarrassed about, so read on if you’re prone to a little excessive swelling and find out what’s causing it.
What Causes Edema?
According to the Mayo Clinic: “Edema is swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in your body’s tissues. Although edema can affect any part of your body, it’s most commonly noticed in the hands, arms, feet, ankles and legs (1).
Fluid retention if often caused by certain medical conditions and medications (2).
In fact, mild water retention causes include (3):
- Sitting or staying in one position for too long
- Eating too much salty food
- Premenstrual signs and symptoms
Edema can also be a side effect of some medications, including:
- High blood pressure medications
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Steroid drugs
- Certain diabetes medications called thiazolidinediones
More serious causes include congestive heart failure, liver cirrhosis, kidney disease, kidney damage, damaged veins, lymphatic issues, low albumin, allergic reactions, blood clots, burns, life-threatening infections, and more (4).
If you think you might have the condition, look out for these symptoms of edema (5):
- Swelling or puffiness of the tissue directly under your skin
- Stretched or shiny skin
- Skin that retains a dimple after applying pressure for several seconds
- Increased abdominal size
In serious cases, you may also experience shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and chest pain. These are serious signs of pulmonary edema, which requires emergency medical treatment.
6 Common Water Retention Causes
These are the main water retention causes you can easily fix.
1. Eating Processed Foods
Processed foods contain way too many processed sugar, salt, and oils. These ingredients can all contribute towards edema (6). That’s because these foods also put excess stress on the kidneys, liver, and other systems that regulate fluid retention.
2. Excessive Sodium Intake
Excess salt in the body causes water retention, which then leaks into the interstitial tissue spaces. This causes abdominal edema. Normally, the kidneys can handle a little increase in salt by increasing sodium output in urine. However, eating too much salt every day can cause permanent kidney damage and chronic edema (7).
To flush out this excess salt, increase your water intake and replace salt with flavorful spices. It’s also a good idea to swap table salt for Himalayan or sea salt.
Dehydration occurs when your body doesn’t have enough fluid to maintain normal operations. This can be caused by loss of fluids from vomiting, fever, diarrhea, excessive sweating or excessive urination. It may also occur if you don’t take in enough fluids (through water, juice, tea, etc..) or eat liquid foods, like soups and smoothies (8).
If your body doesn’t get enough fluids daily, it might compensate by redirecting fluids normally lost during urination and sweating towards other tissues for survival. This is only temporary and edema will subside when your fluid intake increases. However, if you aren’t drinking enough water daily, your may experience chronic edema.
4. Vitamin B6 Deficiency
A study from Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Iran found that vitamin B6 improves premenstrual syndrome symptoms, including edema, in just 2 months of daily ingestion (9). Vitamin B6 is found in a wide variety of foods, such as fish, organ meats, potatoes, chickpeas, starchy vegetables, and some fruits (10).
5. Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium is an essential electrolyte, which is in necessary for blood chemistry, muscle action, and more. Sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, phosphate and magnesium are all electrolytes (11). Magnesium can be used to treat edema, which is why taking an Epsom salt bath daily is the perfect home remedy (12).
6. Potassium Deficiency
Low potassium levels can be caused by dehydration, diarrhea, excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) and laxative abuse. This can lead to edema and impaired cellular processes.
7 Natural Diuretics
Now that you know the most common water retention causes, here’s how you can fix it naturally.
Diuretics stimulate your kidneys to excrete more sodium and water through urine. This helps your body get rid of excess fluids (14).
This common weed has plenty of medicinal and household uses. Within just five hours of drinking dandelion root tea or taking a dandelion extract, the frequency of urination increases significantly (17). It can also increase urine output (18). Some women even use the herb to relieve edema during menstruation and to prevent UTIs (19).
This plant in the rose family contains enzymes which increase the levels of sodium excreted through urine while also reducing the uric acid in this fluid (20). Its berries contain compounds which also lower blood cholesterol, reduce cardiovascular disease risk and have anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties (21).
Horsetail is closely related to ferns that kind of looks like asparagus. It’s commonly used as a diuretic as a treatment for osteoporosis (22). In fact, studies show that horsetail works just as well as the prescription diuretic hydrochlorothiazide without flushing out essential electrolytes (23).
This well-known tree has long been a staple of traditional medicine. The berries are used medicinally to treat a variety of digestive issues as well as urinary tract infections and bladder and kidney issues. It’s a powerful diuretic that significantly increases urine volume without affecting your potassium levels (24).
5. Green and Black Tea
Tea made from camellia Sinensis is a great afternoon pick-me-up thanks to its caffeine content. This very caffeine, most concentrated in green and black teas, has diuretic effects (25). In fact, within as little as an hour or two of drinking tea, urine output and volume steadily increases. For best results, drink no more than 2-3 cups of tea steeped from dried loose-leaf tea.
This popular herb may be used most as a garnish, but it has kidney and bladder-promoting properties. Among other things, it can treat urinary tract infection, kidney stones, edema, and more (26). Pregnant women should avoid parsley tea, as it can lead to miscarriage.
These big beautiful flowers can be used to make a flavorful healing tea. According to WebMD, “The fruit acids in hibiscus may work like a laxative.” (27) One particular species of hibiscus “roselle,” (Hibiscus sabdariffa) has diuretic, natriuretic, and potassium-sparing effects by influencing aldosterone activity (28).
To relieve temporary edema, here are a few other tricks you can use (29):
Keep moving: moving your muscles helps pump excess fluids to your circulatory system and kidneys.
Elevate: Hold the swollen part of your body above the level of your heart several times a day or while you sleep.
Massage the area of the excess fluid to stimulate blood flow and make it easier for your body to eliminate the excess fluid.
Compression: Your doctor may recommend wearing compression garments to prevent fluid from accumulating in your tissues.
Protection: Protect your edema-affected areas from injury and care for the skin around it, which may become itchy and cracked.
Now that you know the water retention causes above and how to treat the condition, you can finally get some relief. However, keep in mind that it’s always best to speak with your doctor to find out if edema is truly the reason for of your symptoms and to treat the underlying cause.