Nutrient deficiency e.g. potassium, unhealthy eating habits, food sensitivities and digestive disorders might contribute to oedema.
Oedema or water retention is an abnormal collection of fluid in the cavities or tissues of the body. The accumulation of water causes the body to bloat up in specific areas. Retention can be mild but at times may be of serious concern as it may occur due to kidney problems, hypertension, gout, arthritis or thyroid malfunctions.
In most cases, it results from changes in the body’s balance of salt and hormones, especially in premenstrual women.
A high-salt diet: When salt is consumed, it draws water from the cells out into the bloodstream and skin. This process of osmosis, although necessary to balance the salinity level in the body, is what leads to water retention puffy skin!
Also eating too much sugar raises the levels of hormone in the body. High levels of certain hormones can make your body hold on to water and these include insulin, which is needed to process sugar; cortisone which is produced when you are under stress; and the female hormones (oestrogen) and progesterone.
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Certain drugs, such as contraceptive pill, antidepressants and some painkillers can affect levels of your hormones, thereby leading to water retention. Nutrient deficiency e.g. potassium, unhealthy eating habits, food sensitivities and digestive disorders might contribute to oedema. It may also be due to menopause and not drinking enough water.
Accumulation of toxins in the body causes water retention and the body’s natural elimination process becomes weakened. As toxins accumulate between the fat cells, cellulite appears as the fat cells expand to accumulate trapped toxins.
Sometimes water retention is due to poor circulation or blockage of blood flow, for example, in varicose veins. Excess heat may also trigger water retention, as veins near the skin dilate to help cool you down, thereby, making it easier for water to pass into the tissues, causing swelling.
Bloating and swelling of the face, fingers, feet, ankles and abdomen.
Tightening of the rings on the fingers. Puffy face, stretching and bagging of the skin, which result in “pitting” and overall weight gain.
How serious is it?
Mild oedema (up to a 15 per cent increase in the body fluid) usually causes an increase in weight and a bloated feeling. If water retention increases more, blood pressure may go up (due to the extra pressure caused by the water) and you may notice puffiness around your feet and ankles. Standing can make symptoms worse because gravity encourages pooling of fluid in your lower legs.
More serious oedema, with wide spread fluid accumulation in the tissues (affecting the lungs and resulting in breathlessness) can occur as a result of heart problems (which may cause blood pumping failure), poor kidney function, abnormal loss of protein from the blood, cirrhosis of the liver and blocked lymph circulation.
Press your thumb into an area of flesh you think may be affected, for a few seconds. If you have water retention, when you take your thumb away there will be a visible dimple that will take several seconds to flatten out, as fluid slowly seeps back into the area.
Botanicals to ease oedema
Bitter leaf: Leaves and stem are decocted for 45 minutes and taken in all cases of water retention – 1⁄4 tumbler daily for two weeks.
Pawpaw: Contains papain, a protein-digesting enzyme, which takes care of bloating and other digestive complaints. Green unripe pawpaw provides more papain than the ripe. Add this to your salads.
Dandelion: Fresh or dry leaf of this herb is a powerful diuretic (improves the body’s fluid-flushing capabilities and increases urination). For better results, use along with horsetail, stinging nettle or parsley. 1 teaspoon of each should be infused in a tea cup of boiled water for 15 minutes and taken 2 x daily, preferably with a meal. (Do not take during pregnancy or if you are taking prescription drugs).
Fruits and vegetables high in water content are also great diuretics. Fresh watermelon, onions, citrus and cucumbers generally prove most useful in reducing water retention.
Potassium-rich fresh fruit and vegetables: such as tomato juice, parsley, almonds, bananas, cabbage, melons and potatoes may help flush salt out of your body. Potassium is an important mineral responsible for proper functions of cells, tissues and organs in the body. It is an electrolyte that, with sodium is required for water balance. It thus maintains the fluid balance in the system. Potassium is the key component of any anti-bloat diet. Make these fruits and vegetables a part of your daily diet.
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Corn silk: This is also very beneficial, especially when taken along with potassium-rich foods. A handful is infused in a teacup of boiled water for 15 minutes and taken 1-2 times daily. Do not sweeten.
Club moss: For digestive disorders accompanied by too much bloating and formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract, gouts and rheumatism club moss tea is recommended. Prepare by infusing one teaspoon of club moss in 150 mls of boiled water for 15 minutes. A cup per day is consumed slowly in the morning, on an empty stomach or at least half an hour before breakfast.
Vitamins A and C: play an important role in diminishing the fragility of the capillaries and help in decreasing problems associated with water retention. Therefore it is recommended to consume foods that are high on these two vitamins to aid in the process. For example, lemon water has high amount of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant. Drinking lemon water will detoxify the body and help eliminate potentially harmful body acids. The lemon water will also improve the kidney function thereby enhancing the elimination process.
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Drink plenty water: Water moves through your kidneys and bladder, diluting the urine. And since urine has some fluid-retaining salt in it, the more it is diluted, the easier it is to remove salt and prevent or reduce oedema.
Cut back on salt: Avoid table salt and foods such as potato chips, bacon, canned soups, pizza, popcorns. These encourage your body to retain water.
Also avoid foods that tend to worsen oedema: coffee, alcohol, cow’s milk, tobacco, white flour and chocolate.