If you find yourself feeling bloated and heavy, no matter how many changes you make to your diet or how much you work out, it could be down to water retention – which annoyingly, often gets worse in the summer.
Water retention is a pesky phenomenon on that most of us encounter from time to time. Occurring in the circulatory system as well as within your body’s tissues and cavities, there are many reasons why our body decides to retain water. The most obvious reason is dehydration – your body feels starved of water, so it tends to store as much of it as possible the next time you have your fill of liquids. Ironically, the counter to water retention due to dehydration is to drink plenty of water. Water retention is also a symptom of PMS – your hormones and period have a part to play in this.
But what is water retention, and how can you alleviate the symptoms? Signs of water retention include heavy, puffy legs, as well as bloating and swollen limbs. It can make you feel tired, irritable, and uncomfortable. Luckily there are plenty of simple ways to ease water retention, from supplements to massage.
You may consider fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as trying certain herbs, and limiting processed foods and refined carbs.
What is water retention?
Water retention, also known as fluid retention or edema, occurs when excess fluids build up in your body. Water retention occurs in the circulatory system or within tissues and cavities. It may cause swelling in your hands, feet, ankles, and legs.
There are several potential causes, including:
- Hormonal changes
- Environmental changes
- Lack of physical activity
- Kidney disease
- Heart failure
- Lymphatic system issues
Although fluid retention may be a sign of several serious conditions that require medical treatment, you may be able to reduce it with a few simple steps – as long as your swelling is mild, and you don’t have an underlying health condition.
- Eat less salt
Salt is made up of sodium and chloride. Sodium binds to water in your body and helps maintain the balance of fluids both inside and outside your cells. If you often eat foods that are high in salt, such as many processed foods, your body may retain water.
- Increase your magnesium intake
Magnesium is a very important mineral. It’s involved in more than 300 enzymatic reactions that keep your body functioning properly. Some research suggests that magnesium supplements may help decrease symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), including bloating and water retention.
*TIP* Good sources of magnesium include nuts, whole grains, dark chocolate, and leafy green vegetables.
- Get more vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a central role in red blood cell formation, protein metabolism, brain function, and immune health. It also regulates fluid balance and may help reduce water retention.
*TIP* You can easily increase your intake of this vitamin by eating foods such as bananas, potatoes, chickpeas, walnuts, and tuna.
- Eat more potassium-rich foods
Potassium serves several important functions, especially regarding heart health, muscle contractions, and nerve function. It’s also essential for maintaining blood volume and fluid balance to help decrease water retention.
*TIP* Eating enough potassium-rich foods like bananas, avocados, and tomatoes is essential to support healthy fluid balance.
- Try dandelion
Dandelion has long been used as a natural diuretic in traditional methods to help the body flush unwanted fluid. For those interested in safe herbal remedies, speak to your doctor about using dandelion root to relieve water retention.
*TIP* Dandelion tea is a very effective liver cleanser.
- Limit your refined carbohydrate intake
Refined carbohydrate sources like white bread, pasta, and crackers are typically high in carbs or added sugar and low in fibre, which may lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.
High insulin levels may cause more sodium retention by increasing the reabsorption of this mineral in your kidneys. In turn, this may lead to more fluid volume in your body and increased water retention.
*TIP* It’s best to opt for fibre-rich whole grains instead, such as quinoa, oats, brown rice, or whole wheat bread.
- Take a salt bath
Through reverse osmosis, soaking in an Epsom salt bath will allow your body to rid itself of excess fluids. Epsom salts are also fantastic at drawing out toxins and soothing sore muscles, finally taking all the unneeded water out of your system.
*TIP* It has a calming, relaxing, spa-like effect on a tired body, so even if you don’t have a water retention problem, you can definitely still benefit from a bath. Try Dreem Distillery The Z’s bath salts with magnesium to reduce feelings of swelling. Add a handful of salts to your bath and allow yourself a good 20 minutes to soak in it.
Other ways to reduce water retention
Step up your protein intake – Eating more protein encourages your body to shed excess fluid.
Add more cabbage, cucumber, parsley, and salad leaves to your diet – They are natural diuretics so help move fluid along.
Cut back on dehydrating drinks – such as coffee, tea, and alcohol
Drink more water – water retention can come from a lack of water, your body doesn’t know when it will get more so it retains the water it has.
Write a food diary – make connections between certain foods and periods of bloating or swelling.
Exercise – this has been known to help control water retention, so try to do at least 20 minutes a day.
Lie down and sit with your feet elevated when resting and taking breaks – standing or sitting all day can cause fluids to drain into your feet and legs.
Try a body oil – Dreem Distillery Among the Stars body oil soothes heavy tired legs with a lightweight formula. Massage your legs, ensuring you massage upwards towards the heart to enhance circulation and encourage lymphatic drainage, easing water retention and moisturising your legs at the same time.