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, feet, face, and hands.

It’s caused by fluid buildup in body tissues.

Your body is made up of 50 to 60% 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 throughout the day. If it’s caused by other health conditions, doctors may be able to help manage the condition.

Keep reading to learn about the symptoms and treatment of edema and 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:

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.

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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 (mg) per day. This means avoiding ultra-processed and packaged foods and focusing your diet on whole foods. You can try adding spices instead of salt to flavor vegetables and lean proteins.

Eat potassium- and magnesium-rich foods

Foods high in potassium and magnesium can help balance your sodium levels. Options can include:

Get enough vitamin B6

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

You can also get vitamin B6 from your diet. Foods high in vitamin B6 include:

  • milk
  • avocado
  • salmon and tuna
  • eggs
  • carrots
  • spinach

Eat protein

Protein attracts water and keeps your body balanced. A 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 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.

You can find compression socks at athletic clothing stores and online.

Seek a doctor’s help if your problem persists

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

Doctors typically recommend avoiding over-the-counter (OTC) diuretic medications. They may contain other ingredients, such as caffeine and acetaminophen (Tylenol), and diuretic use without monitoring by a healthcare professional can lead to dangerous electrolyte imbalances.

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:

Some causes of water retention may occur with severe health conditions, 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 may cause your body to hold onto water.
  • Standing or sitting too long: Gravity keeps blood in your lower extremities. But getting up and moving around often helps keep blood circulating. If you have a sedentary job, try scheduling 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: Medications that cause water retention as a side effect can include:
    • chemotherapy treatments
    • OTC pain relievers
    • blood pressure medications
    • medications for Parkinson’s disease
    • certain hormonal birth control pills
    • steroids
  • 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): DVT, which is a clot in a vein, can cause leg swelling. 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 cannot 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

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

You can live a healthy life if you naturally retain water. 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 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.

How do you get rid of water retention fast?

You may be able to reduce water retention by eating foods rich in protein, potassium, and magnesium. However, some causes of water retention may require medical attention.

What is the main cause of water retention?

Water retention has many causes, including sitting still for a long time, particularly while flying, taking certain medications, and consuming too much sodium. Some severe health conditions like blood clots and heart failure can also cause water retention.

What is the best drink for water retention?

Coffee and tea are natural diuretics. Because dehydration can cause your body to hold onto water, drinking water may help prevent water retention.

Water retention is a common health issue with many potential contributing factors, including diet, menstrual cycles, and genetics. You can help relieve water retention by making some lifestyle changes.

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