Fluid retention – or edema – can happen to anyone. It develops when excess fluid builds up in tissues, causing swelling and puffiness. And while edema sounds like a disease, it’s actually a symptom!
Thankfully, short-term fluid retention isn’t life-threatening. You can even expect it after getting a minor injury. As for long-term edema? This might point to a bigger, more serious problem.
To stay prepared, learn about the causes, symptoms, and how to naturally treat it.
What Causes Fluid Retention?
The reasons behind fluid retention range in type and severity. Possible causes include:
- Sunburn 1
- Sitting or standing for a long time
- Some mineral or vitamin deficiencies
- Some medication
- Hormonal changes (menstruation, pregnancy)
- Infection or injury (like a bruise)
- Allergies (food, insects)
- High sodium intake
- Exposure to high altitude or heat
- Lymphedema (blocked lymph channels)
- Kidney, heart, liver, thyroid disease
- Brain tumor
- Head injury 2
Symptoms Of Fluid Retention
- Swollen limbs
- Facial puffiness
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Coughing up blood
- Muscle aches, pains
- Changes in mental state
The legs, ankles, and feet are most commonly affected. Often, swollen limbs show up with pain, redness, and heat.3 Wearing jewelry and clothing may feel tight and uncomfortable.
Gently press on the swelling. If it leaves a dent, fluid retention is at play.4
How To Get Rid Of Fluid Retention
1. Regularly Move Around
Do you sit or stand all day at work? Every now and then, walk around and stretch to prevent fluid buildup. The same goes for long flights, concerts, and even bed rest. Staying in one position for too long increases the risk.
A massage can help the body re-absorb fluid. Don’t get just any massage, though. Make sure your therapist has experience dealing with swelling and edema.5
3. Elevate Legs
Is your bottom half swollen? When lying down, place your legs on a pillow or two. This will re-direct fluid in the other direction.
4. Wear Support Stockings
This is another non-invasive, easy treatment for swollen legs. You can find support stockings at any drugstore. In fact, people who stand at work often wear them.
If another body part is swollen, use compression bandages or pressure sleeves.6
5. Decrease Sodium Intake
Sodium is a mineral that controls fluid balance. High levels ‘attract’ water, which causes retention.7 Cutting back on sodium is a smart choice.
Unfortunately, the average American eats 3,400 milligrams of sodium – almost double the recommended 1,500. About 75 percent comes from processed and packaged food, so try your best to avoid them.8
6. Eat Diuretic Fruits And Vegetables
Eat diuretic veggies like beets, green beans, pumpkin, onion, leeks, garlic, and parsley. Diuretic fruits include grapes, pineapple, and watermelon. The more you pee, the more fluid will leave your body.
If you’re prescribed diuretic drugs, ask your doctor about these foods. They might interact and cause problems.9
7. Remove Food Allergens
Swelling is a major symptom of food allergies. Avoid suspected allergens, and get tested if needed. Always read labels and double check with restaurant servers.
Long-term edema shouldn’t be ignored. It’s a sign of a bigger problem!10 Visit a doctor and let her know when it started, plus any other symptoms.
|↑1||Edema. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑2, ↑3, ↑5, ↑6, ↑9, ↑10||Edema. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑4||Causes and signs of edema. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑7||Sodium (Chloride). Oregon State University.|
|↑8||How Much Sodium Should I Eat Per Day? American Heart Association.|