How To Recognize And Reduce Water Retention (Edema)

The human body consists of approximately 60% water. Water is vital in helping the body function properly and is largely responsible for dissolving nutrients and eliminating waste. When the body fails to eliminate excess water, this is referred to as water retention. Water retention is often temporary and is easily treated, however, it can sometimes be an indication of a serious medical condition. If you are experiencing water retention that lasts more than a week, it is important to consult with your physician in order to determine the cause of water retention and rule out any possible health conditions. In cases where water retention is not the result of a serious medical condition, the discomfort of edema can be relieved quickly and easily. Discover tips for reducing water retention and find out how the condition is diagnosed. Fluid retention or edema means that there is excessive water in the tissue of the body which causes the body to swell, especially in the extremities. Fluid retention is often caused by the increase of blood pressure on the veins which adds to the pressure on the capillaries. The irregular changes in the blood vessels are often associated with eating habits.

Signs of Water RetentionSo how does one recognize water retention in the body? It is typically first noticed because of the swelling of extremities. One indication of water retention is difficulty to lose weight despite diet efforts. The physical signs are more evident, however. Physical signs of water retention include swollen ankles and unexplained weight gain over a short period of time.Also, rings may not fit anymore and the stomach may feel swollen.

One way to find out if you are retaining water is by gently pressing the foot, ankle or calf with slow, steady pressure using the thumb. If edema is present, an indentation will show on the skin. A professional evaluation to determine the cause of leg swelling is still necessary, however.

It is possible to retain up to 5 pounds of water weight, most of which is stored in the fluid that surrounds the cells throughout the body. Overweight people tend to retain more water because they consume more calories and as a result, tend to consume higher amounts of sodium which greatly contributes to water retention.

Certain types of edema can result in moderate discomfort in the area where excess fluid accumulation occurs. Carpal tunnel syndrome, morning stiffness and headaches may accompany the swelling. Water retention can also be mistaken for premenstrual syndrome or make existing premenstrual syndrome worse.

Types of Water RetentionThere are two extensive types of fluid retention. The first one is generalized oedema that is characterized by swellings all over the body. The second type is the localized oedema that affects particular body parts. This condition is most common in the legs and feet, and can also affect the face, hand, and arm areas.

A specific kind of localized edema called lymphedema is where fluids build up in a leg or an arm because of an obstruction in the lymphatic system (the body’s second circulatory system).This condition might be inherited or may be a result of an injury in the lymphatic vessels.  In this type of fluid retention, the symptoms consist of severe fatigue, discoloration of skin, heavy-swollen limb, and eventual deformity of the affected area.

Causes of Water RetentionSome people’s bodies also react poorly to certain type of foods which tend to increase water retention. Water retention is also linked to protein deficiency, anemia, and the high requirement for vitamin and supplement intake. There is a specific kind of diet that is recommended for water retention which forces the body to eliminate excess fluid.

Water retention can also be the result of a medical condition involving organs such as the liver, heart, or kidneys. When an area of the body is not functioning properly, the body tends to retain fluid in that area of the body. The body becomes unable to eliminate fluid properly when certain medical conditions are present.

Standing for long periods of time causes fluids to pool in the legs, thus increasing water retention. Hot weather can also lead to fluid retention because the body is less efficient at removing fluid from the body. Certain medications can cause water retention as well, especially high blood pressure and steroid medications.

Rapid weight loss often consists of 75% water. When you restrict energy intake suddenly in order to lose weight, the body is forced to store carbohydrates and break down protein in the muscles.Because both protein and carbohydrates hold water in their cells, a loss of these nutrients results in water loss during a rapid weight loss diet. People who lose weight quickly often regain weight within a few weeks because the body is replenishing itself with water.

There is higher risk of fluid retention for women because of varying hormone levels. Menopausal and premenstrual edema is caused by the effect of hormones on fluid balance.  The hormonal changes for women before the menstrual period also cause retention and may result in symptoms such as breast tenderness.

Reducing Water RetentionOne way to reduce water retention is by increasing potassium intake by eating healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits. These foods contain nutrients that help prevent blood vessels from leaking fluid in the tissue spaces. Eating food high in potassium is recommended rather than taking potassium supplements.

Aside from potassium, intake of Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine can also help. Skipping junk food and cutting down on pizza, canned soups and cereals or any food that might have hidden salt ingredients in it are also necessary compromises. Reducing the consumption of high sodium foods is important because too much sodium in the blood can affect the tissues causing them to retain water.

Some doctors also recommend drinking herbal teas since tea also helps reduce water retention. Lastly, wearing compression stockings which applies high pressure to the ankles can also be effective.

Women who experience water retention are more likely to be overweight.The problem starts when one begins a low-calorie diet. A low-calorie diet does not help reduce fluid retention; instead, this type of diet tends to make fluid retention worse. There is typically not enough protein in a low-calorie diet, and protein is an important nutrient in preventing the abnormal changes in body tissues. Food intake intolerance greatly affects one’s digestive ability. Undigested food particles may get into the blood system and may stimulate the immune cells to generate histamine. Histamine is a substance that serves a significant role in allergic reactions because it dilates blood vessels.

Here are few tips to help reduce water retention:

Decrease sodium intakeAvoid processed foodsDrink 8-12 glasses of fluids (water, fruit juices, milk)Consume more citrus fruits and green, leafy vegetablesAvoid read meat and alternate it with sardines or tuna.Include wholegrain carbs in daily diet such as pasta and potatoes.Eat small meals in regular intervals.

Regular movement is also necessary. Activities such as bicycling and walking can also help in pumping out all the water or any other fluids in the ankles and legs. Physical exercise actually aids in the widening of the blood vessels. Water retention might also develop on people in long-haul flights, hospital beds and wheelchairs because there regular body movement is lacking, therefore excess fluid from the tissue spaces are not drained. People with desk jobs should take breaks to walk around the office.Drinking water alone does not help combating retention but helps greatly in its reduction. The treatment particularly depends on its cause. Doctors may advise prescription that makes one urinate more in order to help in the removal of fluid. This kind of drugs are called diuretics, or sometimes tagged as water pills. Diuretics help the body to get rid of water and sodium. They make the kidneys excrete more sodium in urine, and the sodium takes water with it from the blood. This then decreases the amount of fluid that flows in the blood vessels which in turn reduces pressure on the artery walls. Generally, one must be cautious in the use of diuretics because of its probable side effects: dizziness, dehydration, weakness, and increased urination. If edema is not treated though, it will result in skin stretching and might pose bigger problems.

Some foods also have a diuretic effect. For example, adding lemon juice to your water causes more frequent urination and decrease the amount of water retention. Cranberry juice is another natural diuretic. You can substitute a glass of cranberry juice for one glass of water each day to decrease water retention. Most foods that are high in vitamin C also have natural diuretic properties. Caffeine is also known to reduce water retention, however, too much caffeine can have the opposite effect resulting in dehydration.

As contradictory as it may seem, drinking more water actually decreases water retention. Since water retention often occurs because of dehydration, providing the body with plenty of water will prevent the body from conserving water in order to prevent dehydration.It must be noted though, that aside from the medications, there are various ways of physical techniques to manage and reduce the fluid retention. It cannot be cured in any way, only reduced. The only treatment is to cure the condition that causes it, for water retention is only a symptom of underlying medical conditions such as heart failure, arthritis, and liver disease.

The lymphatic system is important in keeping a healthy body. This system circulates lymph fluid all through the body to collect bacteria, waste products, and other viruses.  There is no available cure for this type of fluid retention, but it can be controlled. Reducing water retention is time consuming and requires a lot of flexibility and endurance, but all the hard work will lead to the decreased disfigurement of the affected body part.

Be sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medication.

Always Consult Your Physician First
It is helpful to prepare yourself with health information by reading and talking to friends, but always consult your doctor before taking medical action or changing your health routine. This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. LifeScript disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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