Holding on to extra water weight can be super annoying. Besides making your stomach feel like a weighted balloon, it can cause your hands, feet, and face to swell. Fun times, right?
So why exactly does this happen? Well, there are a few different reasons. “It can be due to an imbalance of minerals, be PMS-related, or a side-effect of the contraception you’re using,” says Jessica Sepel, CNS, clinical nutritionist and founder of JSHealth, all of which, she adds, are worth talking to your doctor about.
If you’re experiencing the symptoms on a regular, long-term basis, Sepel recommends paying your doctor a visit because it can be a symptom of something more serious like high blood pressure. But, on it’s own, fluid retention is nothing to freak out over. There are a few nutritional and lifestyle things you can do to correct the issue.
Below, Sepel and functional medicine dietitian, Miriam Jacobson, MS, RD, CNS, of Every Body Bliss share ten things you can do to banish the water bloat once and for all.
Keep reading for 10 expert tips on how to get rid of water retention, the natural way.
1. Lower your salt intake
“When you have too much sodium in your body, that’s when you hold on to fluid retention,” Sepel says. So the first point of action is to reduce your salt intake. Instead of adding table salt to your food, she recommends using different herbs and spices to add flavor instead. Cutting back on processed and packaged foods will help too, since those are often loaded with sodium.
2. Reduce your stress levels
Another reason to lock yourself in the bathroom and run a bubble bath: excess stress can cause water retention, according to Jacobson. She explains that when you’re stressed out, your adrenal glands secrete more aldosterone hormone, which tells your body to hold onto fluid.
To reduce the stress in your life (we can all need this), Sepel prescribes 10 to 20 minutes a day of being in a stress-free zone. Whatever that means to you, make it happen. It could mean playing with your dog in the park, stocking up on clean beauty staples at Anthropologie, meditating…whatever gets you in your zen zone. Something else that will majorly help, according to Jacobson: Getting enough sleep.
3. Drink more water
Although it may seem a little counterintuitive, Sepel recommends upping your water intake to 1.5 to 2 liters a day. “We need those fluids to drain the excess salt and help our bodies to cleanse,” she says. If you’re not a big water lover, no worries. You can also sip on other healthy cleansing fluids like herbal tea or kombucha.
4. Limit foods you’re sensitive to
Unlike a food allergy which produces an immediate reaction, a food sensitivity, Jacobson explains, has a delayed effect. It could be a few hours or even days before you have an inflammatory response and that inflammation will then trigger your body to hold onto extra fluid.
The solution: Identify what foods you’re sensitive to and cut them out. You can do a Whole30-style elimination diet and stop consuming some of the culprits that could be behind the inflammation and water retention, like dairy and gluten, which she says tend to be the most common.
Taking a gut microbiome test is a hugely beneficial way to be your own food sensitivity detective too, as a potential sensitivity could really be anything. The good news is, once you pinpoint it, Jacobson says the water retention resolves itself pretty quickly.
5. Cut back on coffee and alcohol
According to Sepel, getting caught up in the coffee-to-wine cycle could lead to water retention. This doesn’t mean you have to breakup with your morning cup of Bulletproof coffee and your Friday night glass of rose; just don’t over do it. “Moderation is key,” Sepel says. Her rule of thumb: stick to one cup of coffee a day and only drinking a little booze on the weekends.
6. Up your potassium intake
To help balance out all the sodium in your body that’s causing the swelling, both Sepel and Jacobson advise loading up on potassium. Fill your shopping cart with things like bananas, spinach, apricots, melons, and beans. Tossing tons of potassium-rich fruits and veggies in your morning smoothie is an easy way to squeeze it into your daily routine.
7. Eat a balanced diet
“You want to make sure you’re having your whole foods,” Sepel says. “ Ideally, your plate should be balanced with protein, healthy fats, dark leafy greens, and slow-releasing carbs with fiber. All those foods really help keep the body in balance.”
Maintaining a healthy diet will not only help you get rid of fluid retention, but it’ll also help with preventing it from happening again because when your body is nice and nourished, you’ll be less likely to reach for the processed stuff.
8. Get circulation in your lymph nodes flowing
“Dry skin brushing can be really helpful for getting lymph flow, which helps circulation in the body,” Jacobson says. Or, if your budget allows it, Sepel suggests going all out and treating yourself to a lymphatic drainage massage.
9. Switch to non-dairy milks
Dairy is one of the most popular culprits for water retention, according to Sepel. Her advice is to go for organic cow’s milk or experiment with an alternative milk. (Hey, they are all the rage now.) Stick with it for a few weeks and see if it makes a difference. If not, you’ll at least know dairy isn’t what’s causing your bloat probs and you can move on to experimenting with cutting out other possible sources.
10. Skip over-the-counter remedies
Although there are tons of over-the-counter remedies that claim to help you get rid of water retention fast, Jacobson says that they can actually make the problem worse. “When you’re releasing fluid on a superficial level with one of those water pills or even prescription diuretics that your doctor gives you, often times the body is going to try to compensate that and it’s going to tell your body to hold onto more fluid,” she says.
The only way to resolve the issue is to really get to the root of why the retention is happening in the first place. And now, fortunately, you know plenty of places to start.
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