How To Reduce Water Retention

How To Reduce Water Retention

If you feel sluggish, stiff and bloated, you could be carrying excess water weight. Thankfully, there are some simple steps you can take to ease the discomfort. From the role exercise plays to the supplements worth trying, here’s what a pharmacist and a nutritional therapist recommend…

Drink More Water

If you don’t give your body enough water, it takes action to hold onto the water it is getting, explains nutritional therapist Ellie Woodhouse-Clarke. “It may sound counterintuitive, but when the body is dehydrated, it’ll hold onto water reserves, making you feel bloated and puffy. It also goes without saying that alcohol should be kept to a minimum if you’re prone to water retention, as this can also lead to dehydration. Staying hydrated is really important when it comes to relieving water weight.” Aim for eight to 12 large glasses of water per day, Ellie advises. 

Get Moving

“Being sedentary is the second biggest trigger for water retention,” Ellie tells SL. “When you’re sat at a desk all day, circulation becomes sluggish, which can lead to water retention. If you spend most of the day sat down, try taking regular walking and stretching breaks – these can make a huge difference.” If you’re not a gym bunny, know that anything that boosts circulation will have the same effect. Dry skin brushing can kickstart lymph flow, which helps circulation in the body. If your budget allows, go all out and treat yourself to a lymphatic drainage massage – Flavia Morellato, aka the queen of drainage, is the name to know in London for body sculpting massage. 

But Take A Rest Day If You Feel Sore

If you’ve stood on the scales the morning after a tough workout and appear to have gained a few pounds, it’s worth understanding the water-fitness connection. As you stress your muscles – whether on a run, lifting weights or during a Peloton session – microscopic tears form in your muscles, creating inflammation and signalling your body to start repairing so you can grow stronger and fitter. To aid the recovery process, your body moves fluid to the damaged muscles, leading to water weight gain. Remember inflammation is a main cause of water retention, and a sore muscle is an inflamed one. Take a rest day and spend 20 minutes on your foam roller to aid the recovery process and ease fluid retention in sore muscles. 

Lower Your Salt Intake

Salt plays a key role in your body’s hydration levels and ability to balance fluids, Ellie explains. “Excess sodium will disrupt the balance, leading to a build-up of fluids,” she says. If you’ve woken up feeling puffy after a carb- and salt-heavy dinner, rest assured you haven’t gained weight overnight, but you may have gained water weight. “For every gram of carbohydrate stored in the body, the body retains around 2-3g of water,” Ellie explains. This may not sound like much, but if you’re out for dinner and have a large bowl of pasta followed by a pudding, it’s likely your body will retain a couple of pounds in water weight as a result. 

“It may sound counterintuitive, but when the body is dehydrated, it’ll hold onto water reserves, making you feel bloated and puffy.”

Cut Back On Processed Foods

Cooking from scratch is a simple way to tackle water retention, says Ellie. “Eating processed foods – which are typically high in salt – can contribute to water weight, so prioritising a balanced diet based on fresh fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and lean protein is a good place to start. This will also boost your nutrient status, including key nutrients such as potassium, magnesium and vitamin B6, all of which are associated with shifting water. A useful tip to avoid salt in home-cooked meals is to season with spices instead of salt.” Ditching refined carbs is also a non-negotiable, adds Shabir Daya, co-founder of Victoria Health. “Eating refined carbs – that’s anything made with white, refined flour – leads to a spike in blood sugar levels, which triggers insulin production. Insulin causes the body to retain more sodium, and therefore more fluid.”

Give Your Hormones A Helping Hand

Water retention in the time leading up to your period is normal, albeit frustrating, adds Shabir. “During your cycle, there are significant fluctuations in oestrogen and progesterone, and it’s the relative levels of these hormones which can cause fluid retention. Bloating – triggered by water retention – tends to occur as a symptom of PMS and by the third day of your period it tends to diminish. In a nutshell, when oestrogen levels rise, bloating increases, and when oestrogen levels fall, bloating decreases. In the run up to your period, try to avoid excessive salt, as this can compound the problem. And while there isn’t much you can do about the hormones your body produces, you can limit other factors that contribute to water retention,” Shabir says. “For example, try to cut down on white bread and white rice in the days leading up to your period, as this can trigger water retention; and eat foods rich in potassium, such as bananas, tomatoes and asparagus, which helps the body regulate fluids.” Ellie adds that taking 200mg of magnesium daily as well as 50mg of vitamin B6 (a natural diuretic) can also aid period-related water retention. 

Try Dandelion

“Dandelion is a potent diuretic, meaning it’ll increase urine flow, ridding the body of excess water and helping to relieve feelings of bloating and puffiness,” says Shabir. “Dandelion root is also a rich source of vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants. Try A. Vogel’s Dandelion Tincture, which contains organically grown dandelion root as well as the leaves. Take 15-20 drops up to three times a day just before and during your period. Dandelion can also relieve cramps and may even aid with the symptoms of stress and anxiety which often accompany menstrual bloating.”

Stress Less

It’s common knowledge stress increases your level of the hormone cortisol, but did you also know cortisol triggers production of another hormone called ADH, which is anti-diuretic? ADH works by sending signals to your kidneys, telling them how much water to pump back into your body. If water retention is something you struggle with, make an extra effort to keep stress levels under control and chances are you’ll feel less puffy. At the same, getting adequate shut-eye is vital, says Shabir. Studies suggest adequate sleep may also help your body control hydration levels and minimise water retention. Aim for around seven to nine hours every night. 


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