Water retention can be a common issue or a sign of a health condition. Some lifestyle changes can help reduce water retention when not caused by a serious health condition.

Water retention, known as edema, is swelling in parts of the body. You can experience water retention in the legs, ankles, or feet as well as the face and hands.

It’s caused by fluid buildup in body tissues.

Sitting for a long time during the workday or on plane flights, hormone changes during pregnancy, and even standing for too long can all cause this to happen. Your body is made up of 50 to 60 percent water. When your hydration level is not balanced, your body tends to hang onto that water.

However, some serious health issues also cause edema.

Depending on the cause, you may be able to help relieve edema by making changes to your diet or by avoiding sitting for long periods of time throughout the day. If it’s caused by other health conditions, doctors may be able to help manage the condition.

Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms and causes of edema, as well as how you may be able to prevent it.

Water retention may cause you to feel heavier than usual, and less nimble or active. Retaining excess water can also cause some noticeable symptoms.

Symptoms of water retention can include:

  • bloating, especially in the abdominal area
  • swollen legs, feet, and ankles
  • puffiness of the abdomen, face, and hips
  • stiff joints
  • weight fluctuations

A number of factors can cause water retention. Some causes may be a sign of a severe health condition while others may not be serious.

Causes of water retention can include:

  • Flying in an airplane. Changes in cabin pressure and sitting for an extended period of time may cause your body to hold onto water.
  • Standing or sitting too long. Gravity keeps blood in your lower extremities. It’s important to get up and move around often to keep blood circulating. If you have a sedentary job, schedule time to get up and walk around.
  • Consuming too much sodium. You may get too much sodium by using a lot of table salt or ingesting processed foods and soft drinks.
  • Certain medications. Some medications cause water retention as a side effect. These can include:
    • chemotherapy treatments
    • over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers
    • blood pressure medications
    • medications for Parkinson’s disease
    • certain hormonal birth control pills
  • Heart failure. Heart failure, which occurs when the heart can’t pump blood effectively, 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. This is considered a medical emergency.
  • Pregnancy. The shift in weight during pregnancy can cause the legs to retain water if you are unable to move around regularly.
  • Kidney disease. Advanced chronic kidney disease can cause water retention in the arms and legs. This happens when the kidneys are not able to filter excess fluids from the body, leading to buildup.
  • Cirrhosis of the liver. When someone has cirrhosis, increased pressure in the liver and reduced production of proteins by the liver can lead to water retention.
  • Menstrual changes and fluctuating hormones. The menstrual cycle may cause water retention.

Consistent water retention might be a symptom of a serious condition including:

  • DVT
  • uterine fibroids
  • heart failure
  • liver disease
  • kidney disease

Medical emergency

DVT is a medical emergency. It happens when a blood clot forms in a deep vein typically in the leg or arm. Symptoms can include:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • tenderness
  • skin that feels warm to the touch

If you think you may be experiencing DVT, please call 911 or your local emergency services or go to your nearest hospital.

Was this helpful?

While also a type of edema, pulmonary edema, or fluid buildup inside your lungs, would cause shortness of breath rather than visible swelling.

If your body doesn’t return naturally to its balanced state, you should seek medical help. Medical professionals typically treat edema by treating its cause.

A doctor can determine if you need any of the following to relieve your water retention:

You may be able to treat and prevent water retention at home if it’s not caused by another health condition. However, treatment depends on the cause and may require diagnosis by a medical professional.

Remedies for water retention can include the following.

Follow a low salt diet

Try to limit your intake of sodium to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. This means shopping the perimeter of the grocery store and not eating processed and packaged foods. Try adding spices instead of salt to flavor vegetables and lean proteins.

Eat potassium- and magnesium-rich foods

They will help balance out your sodium levels. Options can include:

  • bananas
  • avocados
  • tomatoes
  • sweet potatoes
  • leafy vegetables, such as spinach

Take a vitamin B6 supplement

According to a 2020 study, vitamin B6 significantly helped with premenstrual symptoms like water retention.

Eat protein

Protein attracts water and keeps your body balanced. A special protein called albumin produced by the liver keeps fluid in the bloodstream and prevents it from leaking out and causing swelling.

Keep your feet elevated

Elevating your feet can help move the water upward and away from your lower extremities.

Wear compression socks or leggings

Compression socks are becoming more popular and easier to find. They are available at athletic clothing stores and many online sites.

Compression socks are made to fit tight. They may even feel a little uncomfortable at first. The purpose of compression apparel is to squeeze your legs and prevent fluid from accumulating.

Seek a doctor’s help if your problem persists

A doctor may prescribe a diuretic medication to make you urinate more.

You can live a healthy life if you naturally retain water. It’s a common health issue. Its side effects typically include feeling like you’ve gained weight and clothes fitting tighter than usual.

If you feel concerned about your symptoms, or if they start suddenly, consult with a doctor.

It’s best to follow a balanced diet and limit foods high in sodium. Keep a diary of what you’re doing and eating when you feel like you’re retaining extra water. This may help you pinpoint the causes.

Then you can make appropriate lifestyle changes to help prevent water retention or seek guidance from a medical professional.

Water retention is a common health issue that can be caused by a number of factors, including diet, menstrual cycles, and genetics. You can help relieve water retention by making some lifestyle changes.

If water retention persists, consult with a doctor who may prescribe medications.