Carrying around excess water in your body can leave you feeling unpleasantly bloated and shabby. Whether you’re looking for an overnight 24-hour quick-fix or have a few days or a week to lose that water weight, there are ways to do it without much fuss. Most of them involve dietary changes and tweaks that are easy to incorporate and should start showing results soon.
Water Retention Or Edema Causes Heaviness And Makes Clothes Feel Tight
Edema or water retention can cause swelling in various parts of the body as a result of excess fluid in your body tissues. You’ll also feel a heaviness or fullness in the legs and arms. The water weight can make your clothes or jewelry feel too tight and cause discomfort. Even your skin might begin to feel tight or warm due to the swelling. It may cause some pain and a decline in the range of motion in affected joints.1
Not sure if the swelling is due to water weight? Just press firmly on a swollen body part – if it leaves a dent where you pressed it is likely to be due to an edema.
This water retention can be the result of a range of problems that include heart, liver, or vascular/circulatory problems. Women may see fluid retention around the time of their monthly menstrual period or when they are pregnant. But it can also happen when you sit or stand for great lengths of time without moving much. You might notice this happening to you after a long haul flight or after a long day’s work where you’ve been sitting or standing all day.2
Use These Tips But Also Investigate Underlying Cause
What follows are remedies that can help you reduce the water retention due to your period or from sitting/standing for lengths of time. Some can also alleviate the water retention due to more serious ailments but will not address the underlying health problem – for that you must consult your doctor and get the right treatment.
Remember, dietary changes can take a while to show results especially if it is a deficiency-linked fluid retention issue. Others like an imbalance of sodium, potassium or magnesium may be quicker to correct – with changes becoming noticeable and swelling easing within hours or a day or two, depending on the severity of the issue. Lifestyle changes like exercise are a long-term change but will have lasting results as long as you stay active.
1. Cut Down Sodium Intake To Shed Excess Water
Most modern diets have a lot of sodium intake – far more than is needed. You’ll find sodium in packaged soups, canned food, frozen meals, condiments like sauces, pickles, and seasonings. Plus, of course, in more obviously salty foods like packaged potato chips and fast food. Unfortunately, having very high levels of sodium in the body causes your body to retain more water to compensate and keep the balance of water to electrolytes. This causes your blood pressure to rise and raises the risk of stroke and heart disease.
The simplest way to drop water weight? Simply cut out these kinds of high-sodium foods from your diet and monitor your intake even in your fresh cooked meals.
- When buying packaged foods or ingredients, ensure that they have 120 mg sodium or less per 100 gm.3
- Stick to consuming under 2.3 gm of salt per day as an adult –that’s about a teaspoon all day across meals, snacks, and drinks.4
According to the World Action on Salt and Health, this dietary change can even help if you are prone to fluid build-up and increased water weight during long journeys.5
2. Get Adequate Magnesium To Prevent PMS-Related Water Weight Gain
Magnesium is another mineral that needs to be present in the body in the right amounts to ensure the optimal balance of electrolytes and fluid. Magnesium is especially relevant in the context of water weight for women. That’s because it has a pivotal role during the woman’s menstrual cycle in warding off classic premenstrual syndrome symptoms (PMS) like mood swings and fluid retention.
In one study, 200 mg of magnesium was taken as a supplement every day by female test subjects for the duration of two menstrual cycles. They found a reduction in the weight gain, abdominal bloating, and swelling associated with fluid retention by the second cycle.6 In another study, researchers found that the addition of 40 mg of vitamin B6 to the 250 mg of magnesium further alleviated these symptoms.7
The nutrient may have similar benefits in men though current studies have largely been restricted to women. Consume magnesium-rich foods like almonds, spinach, black beans, edamame, avocado, or yogurt for water weight loss results. The recommended dietary intake is 320 mg per day for women and 420 mg for men aged 31 to 50 years and 310 mg and 400 mg respectively for adults under 30.8
3. Increase Potassium Intake To Moderate Sodium Levels
Potassium too can restore the balance of electrolytes in the body, especially from high sodium intake. If you have a potassium restricted diet, it will cause your body to compensate by conserving sodium. As the body holds on to more sodium, it will also need to retain more water to keep the body fluid concentration right. And that translates to increased water weight.
If you want to lose this water weight, ensure you are having potassium enough to compensate for your sodium intake. The increased potassium can increase your urine production, helping you lose that excess water weight.9 Recommended intake of potassium is 4,700 mg daily and can be obtained through foods like spinach, broccoli, baked potato with the skin on, bananas, tomatoes, and quinoa.10
4. Cut Down Carbohydrates To Reduce Glycogen And Insulin Linked Water Weight
Carbohydrates are probably already on the chopping block if you’re trying to knock off excess weight. But did you know that your carbohydrate intake could also be causing you to hold more water in the body? Carbs are usually stored in your liver and muscles as glycogen and this has a tendency to pull water. Estimates suggest that anywhere from 2 to 4 gm of water bind with every 1 gm of glycogen.11
In addition, carbohydrates, especially refined ones, cause insulin levels in the body to rise. Insulin causes a rise in sodium levels, which in turn leads to reabsorption of water by your kidneys – and that dreaded water weight or bloat.12 Decrease your intake of carbohydrates and you may find it helps drop that water weight too!
5. Get Adequate Protein To Prevent Fluid Accumulation In Tissues
A protein deficiency too could contribute to water accumulation in the body. Serum albumin, a type of protein found in your blood maintains a form of pressure (oncotic) that causes water to be drawn into the blood. In doing so, it prevents excess water from accumulating in your tissues. When you have a protein deficiency this pressure falls, resulting in fluid accumulation, swelling, and a characteristic bloated belly. The latter is a prominent indicator of kwashiorkor or protein deficiency along with puffy or swollen skin in very severe deficiency.13 Earlier signs that could alert you to inadequate protein intake are weakness or issues with exercises you could earlier do easily, trouble building muscle, or even trouble concentrating.14
While this malnutrition is typically associated with the developing world where there is limited access to a balanced diet or lack of awareness on nutrition, even in the United States, an estimated 50 percent of seniors living in nursing homes get less protein in their diet than they should. You can prevent this problem by eating a balanced diet that also includes adequate protein.15
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you should get 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight every day. In other words, if you weigh around 75 kg or 165 pounds, you must aim at having 60 gm of protein every day.16 If you have a deficiency it may take a little while for results to show as your body recovers.
6. Get Moving And Exercise To Sweat Out The Water
Sitting still for lengths of time or even standing without moving much for long hours can cause you to develop edema or swelling as fluid pools in your body’s extremities, especially the ankles and feet.17 Physical activity plays an important role when it comes to losing this kind of water weight.18
By getting up and moving, you boost your circulation and sweat out some of that extra water from your body, purging extra weight naturally. Walking, cycling, or even swimming comes highly recommended. You should also try and raise your legs up whenever you are seated. Step away from your chair at least three to four times a day to help your circulation.19
7. Try Acupuncture To Aid Spleen Function
According to Chinese medicine, fluid retention can often link back to issues with the spleen – the center of the body for fluid circulation. If your spleen doesn’t work well, it can cause swelling in your midriff and lower body. Acupuncture treatment will be recommended after a specialist sees you and diagnoses the underlying cause of your fluid retention. It may be accompanied by dietary recommendations like eating warming foods like broths to help spleen function.20 Approach a trained acupuncture or acupressure therapist for the treatment.
8. Have Ayurvedic Remedies To Balance Water Weight Issues
Ayurveda views edema as a problem that can afflict all the three body doshas or types. Herbal remedies recommended for treating this water retention are21:
- Gokshura or Tribulus terrestris
- Ashwagandha or Withania somnifera
- Punarnavasava, comprising anti-inflammatory and water-retention fighting herbs like Indian gooseberry, pepper, and ginger
The use of dandelion, coriander, and sarsaparilla is suggested as well. It is also recommended that you avoid dry foods like corn as well as sodas, salt/salty foods, high sugar foods, and high sodium foods.
9. Practice Yoga To Reduce Fluid Retention And Lose Weight
Yoga is a great way to get fit, tone up your body, and even lose weight. But it can also help with water weight by easing edema or fluid retention. Here are asanas you should focus on to do this:
- Shirshasana or headstand doesn’t just reduce edema, but also boosts your circulation in general, which can then ease swelling22
- Surya namaskar or sun salutation can help reduce swelling, pooling of blood, and edema or fluid retention.23
- Supta virasana or reclining hero pose can reduce your tendency to develop excessive water retention.24
- Viparita karani or legs-up-the-wall pose is a mild inversion that can help keep your lymph moving and ease fluid retention or swelling.25
10. Have Cardamom To Purge Excess Water
Cardamom is a natural diuretic that ayurveda has employed as a digestive aid and natural diuretic for centuries. Animal studies have found its effectiveness comparable to commercial manufactured diuretic medication. A dosage of 1–10 mg/kg was used for test animals.26 That said, exact dosage and the form in which you consume it will depend on your age, health, weight, and other factors and will need to be suggested by a trained Ayurvedic practitioner. The powdered seed will need to be taken with a juice or in blends with other medicinal herbs.
11. Try Natural Diuretic Fenugreek Seeds For Improved Spleen Function
Another spice cupboard remedy, exotic fenugreek seeds used in Asian cooking are also useful for losing water weight besides helping digestion. The seeds help stimulate spleen and liver function, preventing water retention. Like cardamom, it is also a natural diuretic.27 Soak about a tablespoon of fenugreek seeds in a cup of water for a couple of hours and have this once or twice a day. You can also add fenugreek seed powder to your cooking.
12. Drink Cranberry Juice To Promote Water Loss Through Urine Production
Another easily available natural alternative to diuretics is cranberry juice. It helps flush excess water and give your body a detox in the bargain. This eases any kind of gassiness or bloating you may feel. The juice acts by promoting urine production to offload that extra water weight. Unfortunately, many juices are heavily sweetened and load you up with unwanted calories and sugar. Opt for unsweetened versions and you should be fine.28
13. Take Dandelion To Expel Water And Boost Spleen Function
A folk remedy for water retention, the herb has been used as a diuretic for generations. It is also said to help spleen function, which plays a part in fluid retention and circulation.29 Dandelion extracts have shown promising results in recent human studies – test subjects experienced a significant increase in frequency of urination after consuming the leaf extract of this herb.30 The herbal remedy may be taken as tea or in foods or as supplements. Seek the guidance of your own doctor or a trained naturopath to see if this will work for you.
|↑1||Edema(Water Retention). National Center for Biotechnology Information.|
|↑2||Causes and signs of Edema. National Center for Biotechnology Information.|
|↑3||Salt – the facts.Health Direct, Australian Government Department of Health.|
|↑4||Sodium.U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑5||Salt and water retention. World Action on Salt and Health.|
|↑6||Walker, Ann F., Miriam C. De Souza, Michael F. Vickers, Savitri Abeyasekera, Marilyn L. Collins, and Luzia A. Trinca. “Magnesium supplementation alleviates premenstrual symptoms of fluid retention.” Journal of Women’s Health 7, no. 9 (1998): 1157-1165.|
|↑7||Fathizadeh, Nahid, Elham Ebrahimi, Mahboube Valiani, Naser Tavakoli, and Manizhe Hojat Yar. “Evaluating the effect of magnesium and magnesium plus vitamin B6 supplement on the severity of premenstrual syndrome.” Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research 15, no. Suppl1 (2010): 401.|
|↑8||Magnesium.Office of Dietary Supplements.|
|↑9||Gallen, Ian W., Robert M. Rosa, Daisy Y. Esparaz, James B. Young, Gary L. Robertson, Daniel Batlle, Franklin H. Epstein, and Lewis Landsberg. “On the mechanism of the effects of potassium restriction on blood pressure and renal sodium retention.” American journal of kidney diseases 31, no. 1 (1998): 19-27.|
|↑10||What Is Potassium?. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.|
|↑11||Shils, Maurice Edward, and Moshe Shike, eds. Modern nutrition in health and disease. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006.|
|↑12||Tiwari, Swasti, Shahla Riazi, and Carolyn A. Ecelbarger. “Insulin’s impact on renal sodium transport and blood pressure in health, obesity, and diabetes.” American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology 293, no. 4 (2007): F974-F984.|
|↑13||G. Coulthard, Malcolm. “Oedema in kwashiorkor is caused by hypoalbuminaemia.” Paediatrics and international child health 35, no. 2 (2015): 83-89.|
|↑14||5 Signs You Should Be Eating More Protein. Women’s Health.|
|↑15||Kwashiorkor.U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑16||PROTEIN INTAKE FOR OPTIMAL MUSCLE MAINTENANCE. American College of Sports Medicine.|
|↑17, ↑19||Oedema. National Health Service.|
|↑18||Fluid retention. Health Direct, Australian Government Department of Health.|
|↑20||Can acupuncture treat swollen feet through fluid retention?. British Acupuncture Council.|
|↑21||Miller, Light. Ayurvedic remedies for the whole family. Lotus Press, 1999.|
|↑22||Natural Remedies For Diabetes.Yoga Journal Aug 1996.|
|↑23||Fishman, Loren M., and Eric L. Small. Yoga and multiple sclerosis: A journey to health and healing. Demos Medical Publishing, 2007.|
|↑24||Supta Virasana. Yoga Journal Sep-Oct 1994.|
|↑25||Yoga Journal Sep-Oct 2000.Yoga Journal Sep-Oct 2000.|
|↑26||Gilani, Anwarul Hassan, Qaiser Jabeen, Arif-ullah Khan, and Abdul Jabbar Shah. “Gut modulatory, blood pressure lowering, diuretic and sedative activities of cardamom.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 115, no. 3 (2008): 463-472.|
|↑27||Singh, A., S. P. Singh, A. K. Mahawar, and T. V. Yadav. “Influence of different plant bio regulators and zinc levels on yield attributes and economics of fenugreek (trigonellafoenum graecum L.) under semi-arid conditions.” Progressive Horticulture 47, no. 1 (2015): 151.|
|↑28||Ronzio, Robert A. The encyclopedia of nutrition and good health. Infobase Publishing, 2003.|
|↑29||Schütz, Katrin, Reinhold Carle, and Andreas Schieber. “Taraxacum—a review on its phytochemical and pharmacological profile.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 107, no. 3 (2006): 313-323.|
|↑30||Clare, Bevin A., Richard S. Conroy, and Kevin Spelman. “The diuretic effect in human subjects of an extract of Taraxacum officinale folium over a single day.” The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 15, no. 8 (2009): 929-934.|