What causes fluid retention?


Your body is made up mainly of water. When your hydration level is not balanced, your body tends to hang on to that water. Usually, water retention may cause you to feel heavier than normal, and less nimble or active. It can also cause:

  • bloating
  • puffiness
  • swelling

Fluid retention is otherwise know as Edema: swelling caused by the abnormal buildup of fluid in the body. The fluid collects under the skin within the tissues that are outside of the circulatory system. The circulatory system carries blood through the body.

Edema is most common in the feet and legs. It can also occur in the hands, arms, face, and abdomen.

A number of factors can cause edema – including:
  • diet
  • menstrual cycle
  • genetics
  • Cancer, especially kidney, liver, or ovarian cancers
  • Some types of chemotherapy, including cisplatin (available as a generic drug) and docetaxel (Taxotere)
  • Hormone replacement medications
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen (multiple brand names) or naproxen (multiple brand names)
  • Some blood pressure drugs
  • Other medications, including the following: Corticosteroids, which are drugs that reduce swelling
  • Low levels of protein in the blood, caused by poor nutrition
  • Inactivity, which can cause fluid to collect in the feet and legs
  • Problems with kidney, liver, or heart function
  • weak heart: A weak heart that can’t pump blood well can cause the body to retain water.
  • deep vein thrombosis (DVT): Leg swelling can be caused by DVT, which is a clot in a vein.

Symptoms of water retention can include:

  • bloating, especially in the abdominal area
  • swollen legs, feet, and ankles
  • puffiness of the abdomen, face, and hips, swelling, or a heavy feeling
  • stiff joints
  • weight fluctuations
  • indentations in the skin, similar to what you see on your fingers when you’ve been in the bath or shower a long time
  • Feeling that clothes, shoes, rings, or watches are too tight
  • Less flexibility of the joints in the arms and legs, such as the ankles, wrists, and fingers
  • Shiny, tight, or stiff skin
  • Indentation when pressing on the skin. This does not happen when edema is severe.
  • Sudden or rapid weight gain
  • Decreased amount of urine
Managing edema focuses on treating the underlying cause of fluid buildup. Edema caused by drugs or poor nutrition can be fixed in some people. Edema caused by cancer or by kidney, heart, or liver problems may be more difficult to treat. In these situations, edema may be permanent. It is worth trying Lymphatic drainage for conditions that are more permanent, it can most certainly help to manage if not reduce symptoms. The following suggestions may help reduce swelling and relieve symptoms:
  • Ask your doctor about prescription diuretics. These medicines help get rid of extra fluid from the body by increasing urination.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Add in potassium- and magnesium-rich foods. They will help balance out your sodium levels. Options include:
    • bananas
    • avocados
    • tomatoes
    • sweet potatoes
    • leafy vegetables, such as spinach
  • Lower the amount of salt in your diet.
  • Increase protein intake (protein attracts water and helps keep the fluid in the blood stream)
  • Take a vitamin B6 supplement
  • Walk or do other exercises, which helps pump fluids back to your heart.
  • Raise the affected area when sitting or lying down.
  • Avoid standing for long periods or sitting with your legs crossed.
  • Wear compression stockings or elastic sleeves to help push fluids back into your circulation system.
  • Do not reduce the amount of water or other fluids you drink without talking to your doctor.
  • Talk with your doctor about whether physical therapy or occupational therapy may be helpful.

Should you take fluid retention tabs rather than try lymphatic drainage?

This is something that comes up a heck of a lot at R2H. A lot of people we have seen come through our doors and have tried lymphatic drainage have had good results yet prefer to just ‘keep taking the tablets’. So, we are going to follow that question up in another blog. Watch this space, and don’t forget to hit follow to get updates straight to your inbox.

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