Pants are tight, shoes are pressing, legs and ankles are swollen - our body has stored too much water. Maybe it happens around your monthly cycle. Maybe you indulged in a high-sodium meal at dinner. Or maybe you're just not good at drinking enough water every day, which is why your body is desperately trying to hold onto the fluid it has. So, what should you do about it?
This is where some of us may turn to over-the-counter diuretics (dehydrating medications) for help. Diuretics help pull water and salt out of our bodies by stimulating our kidneys to release them in our urine. But water pills have side effects, such as lowering your potassium levels, and can stress the kidneys because they can dehydrate your body. For this reason, it's sometimes best to consider a natural, whole food route before turning to medication. There are many foods that act as natural diuretics - and most of them are plant-based (fruits, vegetables and herbs). But what is water retention actually and how can I effectively combat water retention and protect ourselves from it by changing my diet or eating different foods?
What are water retention and what are the symptoms?
Water retention, also called edema, is swelling in parts of the body. Water retention can occur in the legs, ankles or feet, but also in the face and hands. These are caused by fluid accumulation in body tissues. Sitting for long periods during the workday or air travel, hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy and even standing for too long can be the cause. Your body is 50 to 60 percent water. When your water balance isn't balanced, your body tends to cling to that water. But some serious health problems can also cause edema.
Depending on the cause, you may be able to relieve edema by changing your diet or by avoiding prolonged sitting during the day. If edema is caused by other health conditions, doctors may be able to help control the condition. Water retention can make you feel heavier than usual and less mobile or active. Excessive water retention can also cause some noticeable symptoms.
Problem of water retention
Edema damages the tissue in the long run. This can cause skin damage up to open ulcers, for example on the lower leg. Possible accompanying symptoms: Increased urination at night, weight gain, pain in arms or legs, shortness of breath (pulmonary edema), cough with frothy sputum (pulmonary edema), impaired consciousness (cerebral edema)
But what can we do about it to avoid these dramatic consequences? This is exactly where proper nutrition can make a big difference and be very helpful.
Right Diet for Water Retention
Many vegetables and fruits are high in water and potassium, both of which are great for fighting water retention. Eating potassium-rich foods like bananas, cucumbers and sauerkraut will help you retain more water while lowering your sodium levels.
So one way to reduce water retention is to increase your potassium intake by eating healthy foods like vegetables and fruits. These foods contain nutrients that prevent blood vessels from carrying fluid into tissue spaces. Eating potassium-rich foods is preferable to taking potassium supplements.
In addition to potassium, intake of vitamin B6 and magnesium may also help. Avoiding junk food and not eating pizza, canned soups and cereals or other foods that contain hidden salt ingredients are also necessary compromises. It is important to limit consumption of foods high in sodium, because too much sodium in the blood can affect the tissues, causing water retention.
So to treat water retention naturally, you should include in your diet:
1. Consume less salt
2. Consume more magnesium, potassium and vitamin B6
3. Eat less processed foods and sugar
4. Increase nutrient intake (preferably through natural foods and use supplements only as a supplement!)
5. drink more water
6. Use plenty of spices in cooking
10 foods which are helpful for water retention
As we have already mentioned, foods which are rich in potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and water can help prevent and combat water retention in the long term. But what foods are we talking about and what are the 10 best natural foods that help with water retention and provide great benefits? Here we have compiled a list of foods for you, which should definitely find more application in the kitchen.
🥒 Cucumbers: Cucumbers have a high water content and contain caffeic acid, which helps to get rid of water retention in our body. Cucumbers likewise contain certain nutrients that help flush out uric acid from the kidneys and is also low in calories. For this reason, cucumbers are especially significant for those who want to lose weight.
🥔 Potatoes: Potatoes are supposed to help with water retention? Don't potatoes make you fat? Absolutely not. Potatoes, when baked or fried without sour cream, bacon, melted cheese as well as butter, represent a great source of potassium, fiber (if you eat the skin with it!) and vitamin B6, which has been shown to reduce bloating. So enjoy a baked potato without any unhealthy ingredients and season, perhaps with a dab of butter and fresh herbs instead. Whole potatoes with cottage cheese are also a top choice.
🥕 Carrots: Carrots are rich in antioxidants and vitamins that promote detoxification of the body, which in turn helps the system to eliminate toxins. Carrots are also an important ingredient in the diet, as these strengthen vision and provide the body with vitamins K and A. Carrot juice works wonders in maintaining cholesterol and blood sugar levels thanks to its potassium content. It also increases bile secretion, which promotes fat burning and thus aids weight loss.
💧 Celery: Celery contains coumarin, which helps prevent high blood pressure and cleanses the body by eliminating unwanted water in the form of urine. It stimulates digestion and relieves flatulence. The high water and electrolyte content of celery prevents dehydration, and the compounds contained in celery have a diuretic effect and reduce flatulence.
🦴 Bone Broth: Since it's mostly water (hence "broth"), this soup is a great way to add fluids to your diet and reduce inflammation in the intestines, where there can be a lot of water retention. Bone broth contains many amino acids, two notable and abundant ones are proline and glycine. Glycine supports detoxification in the body and helps the body absorb collagen. Proline is essential for cell structures by strengthening cell walls.
🫐 Berries: Aside from being delicious and versatile, berries contain a lot of fiber. Fiber keeps the intestines healthy as well as efficient and helps eliminate waste and water. If you don't eat enough fiber, it can cause constipation, which can lead to swelling and bloating (especially in your stomach!). Combine it with a Greek yogurt for some added benefits, as it's rich in potassium and protein, or oatmeal for extra fiber.
🥬 Leafy greens: What spinach, Chinese cabbage, parsley, and lamb's lettuce have in common? The green color, of course! What's more, they all belong to the leafy vegetable family and thus to the domestic superfood in the supermarket. This not only provides us with valuable nutrients, but also gets us through the winter slim and can help get rid of water retention. The abundant bitter substances in leafy vegetables stimulate digestion and have a draining effect on the organism. Water retention and swelling can thus be reduced and you will quickly feel slimmer.
🍌 Bananas: Foods high in potassium can help to drain the body and keep the abdomen slim. While limiting sodium is the best way to supplement for these benefits, simply adding more potassium-rich foods throughout the day can eliminate discomfort, water retention and swelling. Bananas are among the most potassium-rich foods, putting them at the top of the list when it comes to fighting water retention.
🥛 Low-fat, probiotic dairy products: Low-fat dairy products like Greek yogurt, low-fat ricotta, cottage cheese and cheese spreads can be a great source of minerals like calcium and magnesium to help flush out excess water. Low-fat dairy products are also a great source of vitamin D and vitamins B5 and B1, which also play a role in water elimination. In addition, Greek yogurt has probiotic properties that can reduce inflammation in the intestines and promote proper balance in the body.
But beware People with lactose or lactose intolerance need to be careful here, as dairy products can also promote inflammation if they are not tolerated.
🍫 Dark chocolate: Almost too good to be true, right? Well, experts say that dark chocolate can reduce water weight due to its high content of antioxidants and magnesium. It's optimal to stick to one or two squares a day to keep things in moderation and buy a brand that contains at least 70 percent or more. The benefits are greater the darker and purer the chocolate.
Many factors, from hormonal changes and physical inactivity to serious health conditions such as heart disease or kidney problems, can contribute to water retention. Although medical treatments may be needed depending on the cause, simple diet and lifestyle changes go a long way toward reducing water retention and significantly improving fluid balance.
A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes while limiting consumption of processed foods and refined carbohydrates can be particularly helpful. Various herbs and supplements, including dandelion leaf extract or bitters, can also help reduce bloating and fluid retention.
If water retention persists even after changing your diet or lifestyle, you should see a doctor to find the best treatment option for you.