Ever notice your shoes feel tighter than usual? Your laces not long enough to tie, or your toes having nowhere to wiggle? Unless your feet have had a growth spurt, it’s possible that you’ve been experiencing an episode of water retention, sometimes called fluid retention or oedema.
Puffy legs, swollen ankles and ballooning feet are all common symptoms of water retention, sometimes accompanied by tight, shiny, stretched red skin. But it’s not just your feet and lower limbs that can feel the swell. Perhaps you’ve noticed your fingers and hands looking a little puffy, or your rings feeling tighter than usual. Or maybe you’ve had some unexpected weight gain. Water retention can be an uncomfortable nuisance, but there are ways to treat it.
What causes fluid retention?
Water retention is caused by a build-up of fluid, which can be caused by a number of factors. Yes, there’s a whole host of potential contenders for the cause of your puffy parts.
Causes of water retention
- Regular hormonal fluctuations. Women can thank progesterone and oestrogen and the menstrual cycle for that monthly gift from nature
- Standing or sitting in the same position for too long. That’s why you sometimes get ‘tight shoes’ on a long-haul flight
- Eating too much processed and salty food
- Being pregnant
- Taking certain medicines
- Experiencing an acute injury such as a strain or sprain or an insect bite or sting
- An underlying medical condition
What treatments help manage water retention?
Fluid retention symptoms can be an uncomfortable nuisance. The good news is that there are ways to reduce water retention and, in many cases, it will go away without any intervention. If your symptoms persist, however, you should chat to your GP to find out what’s causing your ballooning limbs. It could be a sign of another, more serious medical condition, so it’s important to get yourself checked out.
It’s probably no surprise that some simple lifestyle changes could be the key to treating occasional bouts of fluid retention. Following a sensible exercise regime and eating the right foods are the two best ways to reduce water retention naturally. For more persistent problems, or for symptoms caused by an underlying health condition, your GP will give specific advice based on your individual medical needs.
8 simple ways to reduce water retention yourself
Take control and reduce water retention symptoms with these simple self-help tips.
Exercise helps encourage blood circulation, which in turn helps excess fluid move through your body.
- Put your legs up
Elevating your legs above your heart encourages excess fluid to drain back and away from your swollen feet and toes. Of course, it’s not always practical to lie down and put your feet up whenever you fancy. But when you’re at home, it’s the perfect excuse to plump up the pillows and put your feet up on the couch.
- Drink more
It may seem counter-intuitive, but drinking more water could actually help prevent water retention. When you’re dehydrated, your body will hold onto water to help you through a drought. Drink up and show your body there’s no need to hold on to water unnecessarily.
In addition to drinks, choosing foods containing lots of water can help too. Celery, watermelon and cucumber are perfect snacks for banishing water retention naturally.
- Hold the salt
Salt can encourage your body to hold on to excess fluid, so it makes sense to limit your salt intake. Don’t forget, it’s not just how much you sprinkle on your chips – the real danger is the salt hidden in everyday food items including bread and cereals, as well as takeaways and convenience foods. Swap ready meals and processed snacks for fresh fruit and vegetables where possible. But as a minimum, opt for low salt options in processed foods.
- Choose natural diuretics
Celery, watermelon and cucumber are perfect snacks for banishing water retention naturally.
- Boost your B vitamins
It’s thought that B vitamins can play an important role in circulatory health and fluid retention. So, make leafy greens and other vitamin B rich foods your friend.
- Mind your minerals
The same goes for magnesium and potassium rich foods. These essential minerals work hard to regulate fluid levels in your body. Bananas and spinach are potassium-rich powerhouses, whilst leafy greens, nuts and seeds are choc-full of magnesium and other essential minerals.
- And finally…
Avoid tight clothes and don’t sit or stand still for too long. Keep moving to keep your circulation flowing.
Summary: Water retention self help
Water retention is a health issue that many people encounter from time to time. Adopt these lifestyle changes and if symptoms persist, chat to your GP to check there’s no underlying condition.
Last updated: 10 July 2020