Water retention in the body usually manifests itself as swelling in the legs, hands and stomach. Usually, it is also a problem among women. The reasons for water accumulation in the body can range from hot weather to hormonal changes or diseases. What should you do if you experience troublesome water retention? What are the best ways to remove water from the body?
Water retention in the body - symptoms and causes
The accumulation of liquids (lymph) in the body, which is popularly known as water retention, affects women more often than men and can be an annoying problem. How does it occur?
Liquids regularly move from the blood into the tissues. The lymphatic system is a densely spread system of vessels which, like drains, take fluid from the tissues and return it to the bloodstream. Water retention in the body occurs when fluids are not properly removed from the tissues.
Water retention in the body can affect the whole body or just its parts, usually the feet, ankles, hands, stomach, neck or face. Symptoms of water excess in the body include swelling of specific areas of the body, pain in the swollen tissues, joint stiffness, rapid weight gain over days or weeks, large weight variations, and a dimple on the skin that lasts a few seconds after being pressed.
Water excess in the body - causes
Why does water remain in the body? There can be many causes, ranging from those resulting from everyday life to serious health problems. The most common reasons for water retention in the body include:
- Standing for long periods. Spending many hours a day standing causes gravity to kick in. The gravitational forces block the drainage of fluids from the tissues in the lower body. That is why people who work in a standing position, often complain of water accumulation in their legs.
- Long periods of sitting. Long journeys, during which we do not have the opportunity to get up and move around for at least a few minutes, are particularly problematic. Sitting for a long time causes water retention due to both gravity and pressure on the legs, especially the thighs, which impedes the flow of lymph.
- High temperatures. When it is hot outside, the organism is less efficient in draining water from the tissues.
- Diet and lifestyle. The most common factors mentioned among the culprits for water retention in the body are excessive salt in meals, drinking alcohol and lack of exercise.
- Burns. The skin swells and accumulates water as a result of burns, including sunburn.
- Menstruation. Due to hormonal changes, many women experience water retention in the body during the second half of the menstrual cycle. Often, the closer it gets to menstruation, the more troublesome water retention becomes. It may be noticed as a bloated belly or soreness of the breasts.
- Pregnancy. Hormonal changes during pregnancy make it more difficult to remove excess water from the body.
- Hormonal contraception. Hormonal contraception raises the levels of oestrogen in a woman's body, which increases the accumulation of fluid in the tissues.
- Medication intake. Corticosteroids as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are known to retain water in the body.
- Medical conditions. Vein insufficiency, kidney disease, liver disease, hypothyroidism, heart failure, chronic lung disease, cancer of the lymphatic system, allergic reactions, autoimmune diseases, or arthritis are conditions in which water retention in the body occurs.
How do you get rid of water from the body?
To effectively get rid of water from the body, it is best to start by identifying the source of the problem, observing the body's reactions carefully and looking for a cause-and-effect relation. If we are unable to do this ourselves or suspect a health problem, then we should consult a doctor for a diagnosis.
If we know what is causing problematic water removal from the body, we can effectively begin to eliminate this unpleasant condition. As far as possible, it is always better to focus on eliminating the causes rather than alleviating the effects. However, the removal of retained fluids can be improved. There are quite a few proven ways to get rid of water from the body.
Less salt in meals
Salt, or rather the sodium contained in sodium chloride and table salt, is a common culprit for the retention of water excess in the body. It is related to the sodium-potassium balance of every cell in the body and the maintenance of an adequate concentration of sodium within the cell as well as in the intercellular space. By providing too much salt with meals, the body needs to build up a certain amount of extra fluid, which allows the sodium to dissolve to an acceptable concentration for the body..
Therefore, it is worth looking at the salt content of your diet and lowering it to ensure that the removal of water from the body takes place more efficiently. Most salt is supplied to the body not by salting meals prepared at home, but by eating processed foods and salty snacks. Products richest in sodium include fast food, ready meals, sausages, yellow cheese, processed meats and crisps.
Eating potassium-rich foods
When it comes to getting rid of water from the body, potassium is in the opposite spectrum to sodium. Potassium is responsible, among other things, for maintaining proper blood volume, so increasing the amount of potassium in the diet removes excess water from the tissues To help remove water from the body, it is advisable to eat foods rich in potassium – avocados, potatoes, spinach, watermelon, pulses (lentils, beans, peas, chickpeas), tomatoes as well as tomato puree, pumpkins, dried apricots, beetroot, pomegranates, fish, seafood, bananas and green leafy vegetables.
Drinking diuretic herbs
One common method for getting rid of water from the body is to drink infusions and decoctions of herbs with diuretics and cleansing effects. The most well-known herb for getting rid of water from the body is nettle, but the choice in the herb collection does not end there. Other plants that help to remove retained water include parsley, couch grass, dandelion, yarrow, cistus, silver birch, field horsetail or goldenrod.
Herbs can be easily bought in pharmacies and shops as single-ingredient products or as blends dedicated to getting rid of water.
To boost lymphatic circulation and stimulate the removal of water from the body, it is good to remember to move regularly. It doesn't have to be a sport. A walk or a few jumps at home as well as avoiding spending many hours a day in the same position is enough.
Getting rid of water from the body is also possible with a specialised massage – lymphatic drainage – which stimulates stagnant fluid deposits in the tissues, increases the activity of the lymphatic system and the excretion of fluids by the kidneys.
Drinking enough water
The removal of water from the body in persistent oedema can be additionally hampered if you do not drink enough water. The body, which is often exposed to dehydration, in a way protects itself for the future by storing fluids in the intercellular space. To avoid this problem, as well as to stimulate the lymphatic system to drain when water retention is already present, it is important to ensure regular daily hydration.. Remember that the feeling of thirst only appears when the body is already mildly dehydrated. Therefore, water should be drunk in small portions throughout the day, so that you do not let go until you feel thirsty.
How much water should you drink per day?
There is no single answer to the question of how much water you should drink per day. A common recommendation is to drink at least 2 litres of water each day, but this is inaccurate as the amount of water the body needs depends on several factors..
The need for water depends on gender. In women, it is lower due to an average lower body weight and higher body fat content compared to men. The greater the percentage of muscle in the body, the more water needs to be drunk per day. Body weight alone within the same gender is also a crucial factor influencing how many litres of water should be drunk daily.
What other factors affect the amount of water you need to drink per day?
- The period of pregnancy and breastfeeding increases the body's need for water.
- The quality of the diet and, more specifically, the content of water-rich foods, mainly vegetables and fruit. This is because hydration does not only come from liquids. The more water we provide with food, the less water we need to drink.
- Physical activity level. Sweated-out fluids need to be replenished.
- The temperature and humidity. The more sweat the body produces to cool the body, the more water needs to be drunk.
How many litres and glasses of water a day?
The most common recommendation is that the amount of water to drink per day is 30 ml for each kilogram of body weight. It means that a person weighing 70 kg should drink 2.1 litres of fluids each day. Some of the more recent recommendations state a water requirement for women of 2.7 litres, or 11 glasses, and men of 3.7 litres, or 16 glasses. However, this refers to the amount of total fluids, together with tea, coffee and water contained in food.
It is difficult to estimate precisely how much water the body needs per day. A good indicator of hydration is the colour of the urine, which should be a light yellow, straw colour. Darker and especially orange urine indicates that it is very concentrated and that too little water is being drunk.
Tablets to drain water from the body
One way to get rid of excess water from the body is through tablets. Tablets for draining water can help, but unfortunately, they can also harm if not taken correctly.
Let's start with diuretics - pills prescribed by a doctor. There are situations when taking them is justified, but they must not be taken on their own and abused. It is a simple way to disrupt the electrolyte balance. It is worth emphasising that body water tablets do not make you lose weight. Their purpose is to remove backed-up fluids and possible swelling, not cellulite and tyres from the abdomen, as many people mistakenly imagine.
Dietary supplements for getting rid of water from the body mainly contain extracts of diuretic herbs. They can therefore be used interchangeably with herbal infusions or replace them. Tablets are more convenient to take and, in addition, not everyone likes the taste of herbs. Pills for water excess can help mainly when the problem is short-lived, e.g. there is swelling in the legs due to hot weather or a long journey. However, if water retention is a chronic problem, you need to look for the cause and seek medical advice.