OEDEMA (WATER RETENTION, EDEMA, PERIPHERAL OEDEMA)
Written by Slawomir (“Swavak”) Gromadzki, MPH
Water retention (also called Oedema, Edema) is the accumulation of fluids (water) in body cells and tissues and in the circulatory system. Women usually experience this problem before their period or during pregnancy. It leads to swelling of hands, legs, ankles, and feet.
Oedema also effects bedridden people and those who are not physically active for a longer period of time such as during long flights.
When the smallest blood vessels, called capillaries begin to leak water into tissues, it causes puffiness and skin tightness.
There are two types of oedema, pitting and non-pitting.
If after applying pressure to the swollen area your finger leaves a mark, it is a pitting oedema. This type of water retention is caused by too much sodium in the body, sitting or standing for too long, or pressure from body weight.
Non-pitting oedema, on the other hand, does not leave a mark and should be regarded as more serious condition caused by kidney, heart, liver, or lungs problems.
– Using too much salt and consuming foods high in salt (sodium) such as canned foods, processed meat, etc. Too much sodium causes oedema because sodium holds on to water and keeps it in the body.
– Dehydration (drinking insufficient amount of water and diet high in sodium and low in fruits and vegetables). As a result of dehydration your body may go into the “reserve mode” and start retaining water which leads to oedema as water can make the cells expand by up to 20 times.
– Magnesium deficiency (very common today due to the soil depletion and refined diets)
– Vitamin B6 deficiency. Vitamin B6 is responsible for controlling a number of water balance aspects in the body, so if this vitamin is deficient, it can lead to oedema.
– Potassium deficiency. Potassium is critical for maintaining normal water balance in the body. Levels of this mineral drop by eating too much salt, and avoiding foods which are rich in potassium such as raw vegetable salads, baked in skin potatoes, watermelon or bananas.
– PMS (premenstrual symptoms). In this case oedema is caused by hormonal imbalance and changes.
– Pregnancy. During pregnancy uterus puts pressure on the major blood vessel responsible for returning blood from the legs to the heart. This pressure allow water get into surrounding tissues, leading to swelling in the legs and feet.
– Inflammation in legs or hands caused by allergies, arthritis, infection, cellulitis, broken bone or sprained ankle may cause swelling.
– Certain medications (such as ibuprofen, naproxen, blood pressure drugs, insulin, steroids, etc.) may cause oedema through leading to dehydration or renal dysfunction.
– Deficiency of albumin (protein that is made by the liver) in your blood as water leaks out of blood vessels more easily when there isn’t enough of this protein. Usually kidney and liver problems can cause low levels of albumin in your blood.
– Poor peripheral blood circulation. When veins are not able to carry enough blood between feet and heart your feet and ankles become swollen as blood accumulates in legs, forcing water out of blood vessels and into the surrounding tissue. This type of peripheral oedema can be caused by thrombosis (blood clot) or varicose veins.
– When the kidneys aren’t efficient in removing sodium and water from the body, it increases pressure inside blood vessels which can lead to peripheral oedema.
– In congestive heart failure the heart is too weak to pump blood around the body, it can cause fluid to leak out into the surrounding tissue and swelling in the abdomen or legs.
– Failure of the lymphatic system to drain fluids properly may lead to a non-pitting oedema.
– Liver disease (such as cirrhosis) can cause oedema (called ascites) in the abdomen.
– If pressure in the lungs gets high, as a result of certain medical conditions (like emphysema or pulmonary fibrosis), this can cause the legs and feet to swell.
– Conventional treatment for peripheral oedema includes diuretics (such as Lasix) which are prescribed to treat peripheral oedema or heart failure. Unfortunately, their chronic use causes side effects such as potassium deficiency.
– Since diuretics are not effective in treating a non-pitting oedema, doctors usually recommend elevating the legs and wearing compressive stockings to reduce swelling.
– Avoid foods high in salt (sodium) and instead of salt use only Celtic or Himalayan salt as unlike refined salt they can even help reverse the damage caused by the table salt.
– Take at least 200 mg of good magnesium such as magnesium citrate two times a day before breakfast and before bed. Studies proved that daily supplementation with magnesium reduced oedema in woman suffering from PMS (premenstrual symptoms).
– Take 50-100mg of vitamin B6 with breakfast. Research gave evidence that women whose oedema was associated with PMS, experienced significant improvement after taking vitamin B6 supplements.
– Treat PMS using Agnus castus (Vitex) and other remedies (read more >).
– Potassium reduces water retention by lowering sodium levels in the body. To increase potassium avoid salt (sodium), and consuming foods which are rich in potassium such as raw vegetable salads every day, potatoes (baked in skin), watermelon or bananas.
– Drink 8-10 glasses of distilled or at least filtered water a day (3 times 3 glasses between meals). Avoid coffee or soda drinks as they may dehydrate the cells even more.
– Avoid processed foods.
– Dandelion root and/or leaf tea is an excellent and well-known natural diuretic. In addition, it also helps liver to eliminate toxins that contribute to inflammation. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that when fresh leaf dandelion extract was ingested by volunteers, it caused a significant increase in the frequency of urination.
– Apart from dandelion the following herbs (in the form of teas, capsules or tinctures) are very beneficial in decreasing water retention: Horsetail, Corn silk, Nettle.
– Eat parsley rot both raw and cooked. Parsley is a well-known natural diuretic, which means it stimulates production of urine by the kidneys, thus drawing out excess water and reducing peripheral oedema. Pregnant should rather avoid too much parsley to prevent complications.
– To keep your bodily fluids pumping back to your heart, you need to exercise as many times during the day as possible, even if it is only 5-10 minutes.
– Grapefruit and fennel essential oils help to reduce water retention because they work as natural diuretics and they reduce inflammation. You can use both oils to stimulate blood circulation and relieve swelling associated with peripheral oedema. Mix 4 drops of grapefruit essential oil or fennel oil with one teaspoon of base oil such as coconut oil. Massage the mixture into the area affected with oedema at least two times a day until the swelling has gone down.
– A gentle massage toward heart will improve blood and lymph circulation and reduce oedema.
– To reduce water retention in your legs, elevate both legs whenever possible in order to relieve pressure.
If your oedema occurs suddenly or when it is accompanied by chest pain, dizziness, or shortness of breath seek medical care immediately as lower extremity oedema can be a symptom of a heart issue or blood clot in your lungs.
If you are pregnant consult your health care provider before using any herbal remedies.
Improve your health and cope with your health problems by implementing principles from the HEALTH RECOVERY PLAN >