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Get Rid of Water Retention

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Get rid of water retention with any of these 17 treatments - from lifestyle to dietary changes, medicine, herbs and supplements, clothing, medical devices, and more.

Water retention, also known as edema, is a medical condition caused by abnormal retention of large amounts of fluid in the spaces between the body's cells or in the circulatory system.

There are many potential causes of edema: premenstrual syndrome, medication, disease, or excessive sitting or standing. 

There are different types of edema. Edemas can be classified according to their nature. For example, there are pitting and non-pitting edemas.

When pressure (such as pressing down a thumb) is put on pitting edema, an indentation is made in the skin which can take a few seconds or a few minutes to refill. Non-pitting edemas do not show this indentation when pressed down.

Edemas can also be classified according to the body part in which they are found.

Therefore, cerebral edema is fluid retention in the brain; peripheral edemas are found in the limbs, and pulmonary edemas affect the lungs and the spaces around them.

Lymphedema is the edema caused by a malfunctioning lymphatic system and myxedema is a rare form of edema caused by the deposition of water-loving compounds in the tissues.

Water retention can be life-threatening in some instances and should be properly evaluated by a doctor to rule out any underlying disease that requires immediate medical treatment.

17 Treatments for Getting Rid of Water Retention

Add these treatments to your routine to get rid of water retention for good. Consult with a doctor before starting any home treatment for edema and water retention. Some water retention can signify a more serious underlying health issue.

1. Drink Water: 

You must drink eight to ten glasses of water per day. Although edema is referred to as fluid retention, drinking plenty of clear fluids, such as water, will flush out toxins and excess fluid accumulation. 

According to the University Of Maryland Medical Center, excess fluid retention can cause kidney strain, therefore flushing the kidneys with water will avoid unnecessary damage due to constant kidney strain. 

Another explanation for the importance of drinking water in edema treatment involves the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system.

The body activates the system when it senses dehydration.

Therefore, when a diuretic compound is found in one’s foods, herbs and other medications prompt a sharp rise in urine production which is high enough to trick the body into thinking it is dehydrated. The feedback loop then activates the renin-angiotensin system.

The final stage of this system is the release of the corticosteroid hormone, aldosterone, from the adrenal gland.

Aldosterone is transported to the kidneys where it promotes fluid retention. This fluid retention can quickly cause edema especially if the feedback mechanism to deactivate the renin-angiotensin system is inefficient.

Increasing one’s water intake can help deactivate the renin-angiotensin system by satisfying the thirst center in the brain and signaling rehydration of the body.

2. Over-The-Counter Diuretics: 

Diuretics are medicines that aid the removal of sodium and water from the body. They work by removing chloride and sodium from the body in the urine, and the chloride and sodium, in turn, absorb extra water from the body.

Diuretics are the most important drugs used in conventional medicine to get rid of water retention.

They block sodium reabsorption, and by extension, increase the salt concentration of the urine enough to prevent the reabsorption of water into the body.

There are 3 main classes of diuretics used in getting rid of water retention. These are loop diuretics, thiazide diuretics, and potassium-sparing diuretics.

Loop diuretics act on the sodium/potassium/chloride transporters on the ascending limb of the loop of Henle of the kidney nephrons.

They are very effective diuretics which are recommended over other diuretics for edema patients who also suffer from liver cirrhosis, renal impairment, heart failure, and nephrotic syndrome.

A prime example of loop diuretics is Lasix or Furosemide.

However, loop diuretics inhibit the reabsorption of potassium along with sodium. Since potassium is an essential micronutrient in the body especially to the cardiovascular and nervous systems, there is a need to include potassium supplements with loop diuretics for treating edema.

Thiazide diuretics also inhibit potassium reabsorption in the kidneys. Thiazides are also effective diuretics.

They also block the sodium/potassium transporters but at the distal convoluted tubules of the nephrons rather than at the loop of Henle.

Thiazides are not recommended for pregnant women (because of possible teratogenicity), diabetics (because they interfere with glucose control), and people suffering from gout (because they cause the accumulation of uric acid).

Potassium-sparing diuretics are prescribed especially when the risk of developing hypokalemia (low potassium levels) is high. They do not inhibit the reabsorption of potassium but rather produce their diuretic effect by acting at other sites in the kidneys.

There are two types of potassium-sparing diuretics. There are drugs such as spironolactone that inhibit aldosterone released by the renin-angiotensin system, and there are others such as amiloride which simply inhibit sodium reabsorption by blocking sodium channels.

3. Take Vitamins and Calcium: 

Consume plenty of vitamin B and iron-enriched foods, such as whole grains and green leafy vegetables. According to Mayo Clinic, adding fresh fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants in the diet will help your body get rid of excess fluid. 

You may also take 1200 mg of calcium per day to reduce fluid retention and ease premenstrual syndrome symptoms. MayoClinic.com also recommends taking 200 to 400 mg of magnesium to alleviate edema symptoms.

Magnesium is of particular importance. Magnesium is involved in over 300 processes in the body. Studies suggest that taking a magnesium supplement can reduce water retention. In one study, women suffering from water retention during PMS were able to reduce their edema and water retention by adding a daily supplement of 200 mg of magnesium to their diets. You can take a supplement of magnesium, or find it in foods like grains, nuts, leafy greens, and dark chocolate.

Another important nutrient is vitamin B6. This vitamin is used to form red blood cells and reduce water retention. In one study, women with PMS were able to reduce water retention by adding a vitamin B6 supplement to their diets. Aside from supplement form, you can find B6 in foods like potatoes, walnuts, meat, and bananas.

Potassium is another incredibly important nutrient for preventing water retention. Potassium not only regulates how much water is held in the body's tissues, but it also sends electrical signals throughout the body and can boost heart health. Potassium decreases sodium levels and increases urine production naturally to eliminate excess water. You can find potassium supplements for sale at most health food stores, and you can also find it in foods like avocado, bananas, and tomatoes. 

4. Prop Your Legs: 

Propping your legs with the help of a pillow to support your knees and ankles while lying down can help you get rid of water retention. 

Lying flat can worsen fluid retention. According to the University Of Maryland Medical Center, propping your feet helps eliminate water retention and improve blood circulation that may be restricted by edema symptoms. 

Elevating the limbs affected by edema above the heart level can help build up pressure enough to return some fluids to the lymphatic system.

Besides, the effect of gravity can help get rid of some water retention by pulling back some fluids from the interstitial spaces where fluids pool.

Massage should also be considered to help get rid of water retention. When properly done, massages can manually redistribute fluids retained in the tissues back to the lymphatic system and also stimulate increased blood flow in the area affected by the edema.

5. Wear Compression Stockings: 

The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends wearing compression stockings while standing for long periods of time. These support stockings apply gentle pressure to the legs, stimulating proper circulation and preventing swelling associated with edema. 

Compression stockings are made of elastic materials that exert pressure on the legs. These stockings are rated differently depending on the amount of pressure they exert on the legs and their lengths.

Non-prescription compression stockings are meant for mild edema because they provide less than 20 mmHg of pressure.

For moderate to severe edema, higher pressure compression stockings are required to get rid of the water retention. These types of compression stockings need doctors’ prescriptions to obtain.

Compression stockings exert their greatest pressure at the ankles. From there, the pressure generated is gradually reduced along the length of the stockings.

Simple exercises coupled with compression stockings can result in even greater benefits for edema patients. By flexing the leg muscles, the pressure generated is enough to increase blood flow and clear the lymphatic system to help get rid of water retention.

6. Cold Compresses: 

Cold Compression is a combination of cryotherapy and static compression, generally used for the treatment of pain and inflammation. You can use cold compresses made of yarrow tea to alleviate the swelling caused by fluid retention.

You can apply cold compresses in the swollen area to ease inflammation and stretching of the skin that is associated with edema. 

7. Follow a Healthy Diet: 

To get rid of water retention, you must follow a healthy diet plan. There are several foods that you must avoid, such as white flour foods, processed foods, sugary foods and drinks, coffee, black tea, and alcohol

What you eat and don't eat can have a huge effect on edema and water retention. The biggest culprit for most Americans is eating too much salt. Salt is a combination of sodium and chloride. Sodium binds to water in the body and is used to keep water in or out of the body's cells. Too much sodium, however, is bad for the body, so your body holds on to it to balance excess salt levels. Studies find that increased sodium intake can cause greater water retention. If you eat mainly processed foods and food sold in restaurants, your sodium intake is likely to be too high. The USDA recommends adults eat no more than 2400 mg of sodium daily, which is about half a teaspoon per day. The USDA also advises that most salt in our diets comes from prepared foods, not from added salt. If you make most of your meals at home, it is unlikely you will have too high sodium levels, However, a diet filled with processed foods can easily tip over half a teaspoon of salt daily.

Another dietary culprit behind edema that fewer people know about is refined carbs. Refined carbs cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels. When you have high insulin levels, your body holds on to sodium, and by extension, water. Cutting back on refined carbs (and all sources of sugar), can reduce edema not caused by excess salt. Combining a reduced-salt diet with a reduced-carb diet will work well together to reduce excess water weight.

You can also try these minor dietary adjustments to reduce excess water retention:

Steps to Reduce Edema

Lemon juice: Add two tablespoons of lemon juice to a cup of water. Drink in the morning to eliminate water retention.

Epsom salt: Epsom salt is a form of magnesium. Some studies suggest that magnesium is just as effective when absorbed through the skin. Add one cup of Epsom salt to a bath and soak daily for about an hour until edema is gone.
Fennel seeds: Fennel is a mild diuretic. Place a cup of fennel seeds in a cup of hot water. Let the seeds steep for 10 minutes. Drink the mixture once a day until edema is reduced.

8. Exercise

Exercise is an important part of the edema puzzle. Exercise boosts circulation and helps all of the body's systems work more effectively. Sweating is an easy way to reduce extra water in the body in addition to the circulation benefits it provides. Try exercising for at least 30 minutes three times a week to work up a good sweat. This will not only help eliminate water retention, but it will also benefit your health in other ways.

9. Reduce Salt Intake

A diet too high in salt will contribute to water retention. Salt clogs the body’s tissues, leading to swelling and edema. If you do nothing else, try to cut down on your salt consumption. Try avoiding salt for three days and you should notice immediate effects on swollen legs and hands. However, if your diet is already low in salt, cutting back further will make no difference in swelling. The USADA recommended intake of salt is about 2300 milligrams per day, and going severely under that number will not help, and could hurt some because your body also needs some salt.

The best way to ensure you don’t consume too much salt in a day is to avoid processed foods and prepare your meals at home. There is almost no risk of consuming too much salt if you prepare everything by hand using fresh ingredients (not cans of food or salted butter).

10. Reduce Sugar Intake for Water Retention

Surprisingly enough, sugar also helps lead to bloating and swelling. Sugar increases insulin, which decreases your body’s ability to remove the salt. This causes water retention that won’t go away just by reducing salt. Reduce both salt and sugar intake to refresh your body and eliminate water retention fast. Check for hidden sugars in bread, sauces, and other processed foods such as sugar are hiding almost everywhere in our food.

11. Eat Natural Diuretics

Natural diuretics are foods that naturally encourage the body to reduce excess water retention. Some of the most popular include cranberry juice, cabbage, apple cider vinegar, celery, green tea, fennel, and parsley. Add these foods to your diet for a boost in eliminating water retention.

12. Eat Foods that Contain Water

Foods high in water help prevent dehydration and help balance the body to reduce excess swelling. Foods naturally high in water include cucumbers, lettuce, celery, watermelon, tomatoes, carrots, brussels sprouts, and most other fruit. These foods encourage the body to stop holding on to extra water because there is plenty to go around.

13. Try a Sauna Bath

Steam in a sauna encourages sweating, which is a fast way to reduce extra water in the body. You must be careful when using a sauna not to overheat, which can cause high blood pressure. Pregnant women should not use a sauna to protect their health during pregnancy. You should follow up any sauna visit with plenty of water to prevent dehydration.

14. Ice Packs

Ice packs help reduce inflammation and swelling in specific areas. If you are swelling in a specific area, wrap an ice pack in a thin towel and apply it to the swollen area for about 15 minutes. This will help reduce swelling and encourage circulation which will keep the blood moving. Keep your legs propped while using an ice pack to make it easier for the fluid to stop pooling in one spot and move out of the body.

15. Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol is dehydrating, so it encourages your body to hang on to extra water to fight dehydration. If you suffer from swelling, either temporary or chronic, avoid alcohol for at least a week and replace alcohol with water. This will help your body regulate and release the extra water in your body.

16. Say No to Refined Carbs

Refined carbs are treated like sugar in the body. They cause rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, causing a higher fluid volume in the body to keep the body in balance. If you have chronic edema, try to avoid refined carbs whenever you can. The biggest carb offenders include processed sugars, processed grains, sweetened bread, and anything made with white flour.

17. Herbal Remedies to Get Rid of Water Retention

Did you know that herbs can be an effective remedy for water retention? If you have extra water that you can’t seem to get rid of through other means, talk to your doctor about the possibility of using herbs to treat your condition. When using herbs for water retention, make sure that you only take one or two at a time to prevent dehydration. Although these herbs are safer than prescription diuretics, taking too many could cause dehydration or other problems in the body. Consult with a doctor before adding a lot of herbal remedies to your daily routine.


Dandelion is an effective herbal remedy for water retention thanks to its ability to remove excess fluid from the body without taking vital minerals and vitamins along with it. Dandelion increases urine output with frequency and volume but it doesn’t deplete electrolytes, which makes it the ideal herb for reducing excess water in the body. The herb can be taken in tea or capsule for maximum benefit. Consume dandelion once a day until the swelling reduces.

Uva Ursi

Uva ursi works in conjunction with dandelion to help control excess water retention in the body. The extract helps boost the effectiveness of dandelion while protecting and toning the bladder, kidneys, and passageways in the digestive system. The herb also helps curb excess swelling and protects against the development of urinary tract issues, including urinary tract infections and kidney infections.


Parsley encourages the elimination of extra water in the body. While normally you don’t eat enough parsley to make a difference, parsley is available in capsule form or leaf form that can be consumed when you need to remove additional water from the body. Parsley is about as effective as prescription treatments for edema and works well in conjunction with asparagus supplements and dandelion supplements.

Butcher’s Broom

Butcher’s broom is a diuretic that also acts as an anti-inflammatory. This means that it not only works to reduce water retention but also helps reduce inflammation in the veins that encourage the tissues to swell. The herb also strengthens blood vessels and discourages fluid from lingering where it is not supposed to and supports healthy circulation throughout the body.


Buchu is an herb used for thousands of years to treat swelling and water retention. The herb comes from South Africa and it is widely used today as a natural diuretic and antiseptic for the urinary tract. The herb taken in supplement form supports the elimination of extra water from the body without side effects and supports the retention of vital vitamins and minerals.

Normal Water Retention

In some cases, water retention is normal. You can take steps to reduce water retention in these cases, but for the most part, water retention from these sources is temporary and will not cause any problems.

Pregnancy: Pregnant women naturally retain more water. Most cases of pregnancy-related edema are mild and don't require medical attention. However, you should always mention any edema at your regular doctor's appointment, as it can be a symptom of something more serious.

Menopause and menstruation: Women regularly retain more water right before their periods and during menopause. However, if you notice a sudden increase in edema during this time, consult with a doctor.

Steroid and cortisone medication: If you are taking steroids or cortisone, your body will retain water. When you stop taking the medication, symptoms should subside. 

When is Water Retention Serious?

If you have any of the following symptoms, don't ignore them. They could indicate a more serious health condition. Consult with a doctor right away if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Edema lasting longer than a week
  • If your skin doesn't spring back after it is pressed
  • If you are diabetic or are taking medication
  • If you are pregnant and notice a sudden increase in swelling
  • If you have any serious medical condition

You Can Get Rid of Water Retention

Water retention is a common problem that most people face at some point in their lives. A combination of diet, lifestyle changes, supplements, and diuretics can work together to relieve edema and stop it from returning. The biggest thing to remember is that edema is caused by a combination of too much sodium in the body and poor circulation. By reducing salt intake and encouraging the excess water to leave with diuretics, edema will quickly fade. Combining these lifestyle changes with an increased exercise regimen will also make a difference in reducing edema

For more information about how to get rid of water retention, read these articles: Edema Home Remedies, Drugs For Edema, and Acupuncture for Edema.

Next Article: Edema Diet: Foods to Avoid for Edema