Dietary and lifestyle changes may help reduce water retention and promote fluid balance. You may consider eating more fruits, vegetables, and herbs and limiting processed foods and refined carbs.

Water retention, also known as edema or fluid retention, occurs when excess fluids build up in your body. This may cause swelling in your feet, ankles, hands, and legs (peripheral edema).

Edema could have several causes, such as:

Sometimes, fluid retention may be a symptom of a serious medical condition that could require medical treatment.

But if your swelling is mild and you don’t have an underlying health condition, you may be able to reduce water retention with these six methods.

Salt is made up of sodium and chloride.

Sodium binds to water in your body and helps maintain the balance of fluids inside and outside your cells.

If you often eat foods that are high in salt, such as many packaged foods, your body may retain water. These foods are the biggest dietary source of sodium in most Western diets.

The most common advice for reducing water retention is to decrease sodium intake. However, the research on this is mixed.

Some studies suggest that increased sodium intake leads to increased fluid retention. However, many other factors are also involved in regulating fluid balance, and the effects of salt on water retention may vary from person to person.

Magnesium is a key mineral involved in more than 300 enzymatic reactions that keep your body functioning properly.

Some research suggests that increasing your magnesium intake may help reduce water retention.

For example, one older study found that taking 250 milligrams of magnesium per day improved several symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), including water retention and bloating. However, further studies are necessary to explore magnesium’s role in decreasing water retention.

Good sources of magnesium include nuts, whole grains, and leafy green vegetables. It’s also available as a supplement.

Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a central role in:

It also regulates fluid balance and may help reduce water retention.

One 2012 study suggests that vitamin B6 may decrease bloating and fluid buildup in women with PMS. The authors of a 2016 study describe similar findings, adding that vitamin B6 may be even more effective when combined with calcium supplements.

However, research on vitamin B6’s fluid-retention effects outside of PMS is lacking.

If you want to increase your vitamin B6 intake, you can do so by eating foods such as:

Potassium serves several important functions, especially regarding heart health, muscle contractions, and nerve function.

It’s also essential for maintaining blood volume and fluid balance to help decrease water retention. It works by counteracting the effects of sodium to prevent fluid buildup and swelling, as well as by increasing urine production.

Low potassium levels may also increase:

Foods that are high in potassium, such as bananas, avocados, and tomatoes, can help support healthy fluid balance.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) has long been used as a natural diuretic in folk medicine. It may help reduce water retention by increasing urine production.

In a small older study, 17 people took 3 doses of dandelion leaf extract over 24 hours, which led to a significant increase in urine production.

Other studies in test tubes and animals suggest that the diuretic properties of dandelion leaf extract may also help protect against conditions such as kidney stones.

Additionally, dandelion may have antiviral, antifungal, and antioxidant benefits.

However, larger, more recent studies are necessary to support these benefits.

Speak with a healthcare professional before adding dandelion supplements to your routine.

Refined carb sources such as white bread and pasta are typically high in carbs or added sugar and low in fiber. As a result, consuming these foods may lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.

High insulin levels may cause more sodium retention by increasing sodium reabsorption in your kidneys. In turn, this may lead to more fluid volume in your body and increased water retention.

Additionally, your liver and muscles store carbs as glycogen, a form of sugar that is bound to water. Each gram of glycogen is stored with at least 3 grams of water, so following a high carb diet could increase water retention.

Fiber-rich whole grains, such as oats, brown rice, and whole wheat bread, are better food sources than refined carbohydrates.

Certain natural remedies may also help reduce water retention by increasing urine production and decreasing inflammation. These might include drinking more water, increasing your physical activity, or consuming foods or supplements such as:

However, some of these tips are supported only by anecdotal evidence, not by research.

Speak with a healthcare professional before adding supplements to your diet, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications.

What are the signs of water retention?

Water retention, also known as edema or fluid retention, occurs when excess fluid builds up in your body.

Swelling in your ankles, feet, hands, or legs is a common symptom.

If dietary or lifestyle changes don’t help reduce inflammation, speak with a doctor. Water retention may be a symptom of a serious condition.

What causes me to retain water?

Several conditions, diseases, and dietary or lifestyle habits may cause water retention. Examples include:

  • hormonal changes or pregnancy
  • lack of physical activity
  • chronic kidney disease
  • congestive heart failure
  • capillary leak syndrome
  • lymphatic dysfunction (lymphedema)
  • obesity
  • malnutrition
  • allergies
  • infections
  • certain medications, such as oral contraceptives and corticosteroids

How does water retention go away?

You may be able to help reduce water retention and promote fluid balance by making certain dietary and lifestyle changes, such as:

  • reducing sodium and refined carb intake
  • increasing potassium, vitamin B6, or magnesium intake
  • trying certain herbs such as dandelion, horsetail, or parsley

Many factors could contribute to water retention. Though medical treatments may be necessary depending on the cause, several simple dietary and lifestyle changes may help reduce water retention and promote fluid balance.

Following a balanced diet and limiting processed foods and refined carbs may be especially beneficial.

If water retention persists even after you’ve made changes to your diet or lifestyle, consult a healthcare professional to determine the best course of treatment.