How to Combat Fluid Retention

Your body tries to maintain equilibrium at all times. However, sometimes pregnancy, premenstrual side effects, medications, or an underlying medical condition will disrupt the balance of water and chemicals, causing fluid retention. You may also hear this described as water retention, edema, or dropsy.

When excess fluids become trapped in the tissues, especially in the hands, arms, feet, ankles, and legs, it's called edema. Edema can be caused by a blockage in your lymphatic or circulatory system, a problem with your kidneys or heart, or simply because you've been sitting or standing too long. Symptoms of edema include swelling or puffiness under the skin, an increase in abdominal size, or skin that is stretched, shiny, or retains a dimple after you press on it.

Too much salt can also cause water retention as your body tries to dilute the excess sodium with water. Histamine, which is released when a bug bites us, widens the area between the cells lining our capillaries (tiny blood vessels), causing bloating and abdominal swelling. Allergies, poor digestion, and antibiotics may also trigger the release of histamine. Certain drugs, such as calcium channel blockers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, estrogen, and some diabetes medications cause your blood vessels to open, leading to water retention. Even a sunburn can cause fluid retention.

What To Do

You can make simple lifestyle changes to reduce or eliminate water retention:

  1. Drink more fluids. Fluid retention results from not consuming enough water.
  2. Be physically active. Your lymphatic system needs regular movement to drain excess fluids from your tissues.
  3. Reduce your salt intake.
  4. Consume adequate calories. A low-calorie diet does not provide enough protein for the blood to draw out excess water from tissues.
  5. Elevate a swollen limb for 30 minutes, three or four times a day.
  6. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  7. Take a multivitamin with A, C, E, and B vitamins and minerals, and include more foods (or supplements) with omega-3 fatty acids.
  8. Use compression to keep pressure on limbs, which helps prevent fluid from pooling.
  9. Avoid extreme temperatures.
  10. Dry brush all your skin before showering. Begin with your feet and stroke in the direction of your heart.

Ongoing fluid retention may indicate a serious, underlying problem with your lymphatic system, circulatory system (including your heart), kidneys, or lungs. See your physician if this persists.




National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. "Your Urinary System and How It Works." Web. August 2007.

Mayo Clinic. "Water retention: Relieve this premenstrual symptom." Web. 20 October 2009.

Mayo Clinic. "Leg swelling." Web. 5 May 2011

Mayo Clinic. "Edema." Web. 13 October 2009.

National Library of Medicine. "Edema." Web. 28 September 2011.

University of Maryland Medical School. "Edema." Web. 3/9/2010

Linda Lazarides. "Causes of water retention." Web.