How to reduce water retention naturally
At last the British summer is here to stay, with the warm weather bringing to mind barbecue parties, drinks and fun in the sun.
However, for many people, especially women, sun and hot weather is more hassle than fun, bringing to mind tired, puffy, sometimes even painful legs - not to mention cellulite and not being able to fit into clothes.
Medical causes of water retention may be more tricky to tackle, but most of the lighter cases are lifestyle-caused or at least can be improved with simple lifestyle measures.
Here we put together a comprehensive list of 39 simple and actionable lifestyle and nutrition tips to help you beat fluid retention this summer, naturally.
8+31 tips to get rid of fluid retention
My top eight tips to beat water retention quickly
Have a cold and hot shower, at least on the legs
Take a quality centella asiatica or a diosmin+hesperidin supplement
Keep your legs elevated
Have light food, comprising loads of berry fruit, salads, vegetables and lean protein (especially oily fish)
Have some pressotherapy sessions
Go for a swim
Use a low sodium, high potassium salt
Use graduated compression garments, in a cool room
39 tips to get rid of water retention this summer
First and foremost, stay active. The more your muscles contract, the more they help your veins and lymph vessels to pump blood and lymph, respectively, from your extremities, where fluid retention is at its worst, towards your heart. Try walking, running or cycling, if possible, but not in the heat.
If walking or running is too much for you, try swimming. With swimming you reap the benefits of exercise on circulation, without having to fight gravity.
Replace common salt with low-sodium salt. Sodium is known to retain water in your body, while potassium is a diuretic. Low-sodium salts typically contain 67% potassium with only 33% sodium.
Have a cold shower or a contrast shower. Both cold showers and hot-and-cold (contrast) showers stimulate blood and lymph vessel contraction and therefore blood circulation and lymph drainage. If you cannot have a full body cold or contrast shower, have a legs-only one.
Have a berry smoothie. All berries, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, you name it, contain polyphenols which help support your blood and lymph vessels, fibre for your gut and very few calories.
Try centella asiatica extract, bilberry extract, horse chestnut extract or flavonoids with vitamin C. These supplements, popular in France, Germany and Italy, are widely available in the UK these days and are proven by multiple studies to help boost circulation and fight water retention. The flavonoid combination of diosmin and hesperidin, specifically, has been used for several decades in Europe and is extremely popular with women who suffer from fluid retention.
Massage your lower legs and thighs with firm, long upward movements - or have your partner to do it for you. Even a few minutes a day are enough to bring valuable relief. You may use a simple vegetable oil or add a few drops of essential oils of fennel, lemon or mint to it.
Have oily fish or take some fish oil. Oily fish and fish oil contain highly unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids (HUFA), which help control inflammation, reduce blood coagulation and improve circulation. Sardines, mackerel, salmon, trout and halibut are all good examples of omega-3 rich fish. If you are a vegan you can take vegan HUFA supplements.
Have herbal teas, such as dandelion leaf tea, nettle tea and fennel tea, which are known to have a natural diuretic effect on the body
Do some vibration plate training, which is proven to boost circulation
Keep your legs elevated. If you work from home, put your legs on a stool while working on the computer. At night, and if possible during the day too, place a couple of cushions under your legs for half an hour or more.
Have lots of fruit - not just berries. Fruits are rich in potassium, especially bananas, watermelons and peaches. Refreshing and perfect for the summer heat.
Use graduated compression stockings, leggings or flight socks. However, try not be too dependent on them, as long-term they tend to weaken your own circulation/drainage function. These garments can also be too hot in the summer, but as an emergency measure, worn in a cool room, they can help a lot.
Have a manual lymphatic drainage massage treatment. For those more frail or the more severely affected by water retention, with puffy, sensitive and painful legs, MLD is the treatment of choice, as it is very mild.
Have a normal massage treatment, if you cannot find an MLD treatment. Any relatively firm massage treatment that includes upward long strokes (effleurage) and some kneading (petrissage) will help boost circulation and lymphatic drainage and provide valuable relief.
Lose weight. This sound like quite basic advice and not suitable for immediate relief, but it is one of the best things you cannot do for fluid retention in the long run.
Avoid sugar. Sugar is known to cause glycation and chronic, low-grade inflammation, both of which affect the function of your blood vessels.
Avoid saturated fat, such as fatty meat, butter, as well as palm fat and coconut fat contained in many prepared/manufactured foods. The saturated fatty acids are more solid, in relation to any other fatty acids, and impair blood circulation.
Get rid of hydrogenated/trans fats, which are well-known to increase inflammation. Trans-fatty acids are usually found in pastries, pasties, margarines, biscuits, cookies, muffins, fried food and generally low quality prepared food.
Avoid frying. Frying results in oxidised fatty acids, which are known to cause inflammation.
Avoid omega-6 oils and foods rich in omega-6. The Western diet contains up to 20x more omega-6 in relation to omega-3, when the correct ratio is 4x more omega-6 to omega-3. Excess omega-6 fatty acids are well-known to cause inflammation. Omega-6 fat is found in sunflower oil, seeds, many nuts (macadamia nuts, sunflowers and sesame seeds have a very high content of omega-6), fatty meat and chicken and processed/prepared food.
Boost your intake of omega-3 fat instead. Omega-3 fatty acids, contained in walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds and flax seed oil, all contain omega-3 fatty acids.
Have extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), as a general use oil (and as mentioned above, don’t fry or cook at high temperatures). EVOO is omega-9 with lots of natural antioxidants contained in it, meaning it does not have the potentially pro-inflammatory profile of omega-6, but neither the benefits of omega-3. Given, however, that we cannot have too many omega-3s, neither too many omega-6s, nor too much saturated fat, omega-9s are the fatty acids to go for, found in olive oil and some nuts, such as almonds.
Cut down on smoking and vaping. Both tar and nicotine are known to have a negative effect in blood vessels and circulation.
Have some turmeric. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, is known for its anti-inflammatory action.
Drink two litres of water a day. It may sound counterintuitive, but dehydration makes your body hold on to excess water, thereby increasing water retention.
Have some coffee or tea, but avoid excessive caffeine intake. Caffeine is diuretic and it can make a quick difference in the short run, but excessive caffeine intake is known to increase water retention.
Cut down on alcohol. Alcohol is a known diuretic but has a negative impact in several systems of the body, so drinking alcohol is not a great idea when suffering from water retention in the heat.
Get rid of your constipation. Constipation can increase fluid retention by inhibiting the function of blood and lymph vessels in the pelvis area. A couple of tablespoons of ground flaxseeds or chia seeds with two large glasses of water or juice can return most people to regularity. Vegetables, fruits and drinking lots of water are also essential to better bowel function.
Avoid dairy. Most adults are to some extent intolerant of dairy. Some are severely intolerant, suffering from a variety of symptoms, including gastrointestinal problems, constipation, low-grade inflammation, water retention and low energy. Replace milk and yoghurt with a vegan option and avoid cheese.
Try an elimination diet or a food intolerance test. Food intolerances can contribute to water retention and there are two ways to identify your food intolerances: an elimination diet or a test.
Get rid of "the pill". The contraceptive pill is well-known to impair circulation in many women. Have a chat with your GP regarding other forms of non-hormonal contraception, such as the coil.
Have a pressotherapy treatment. Pressotherapy (alternate compression therapy) is a great way to eliminate excess fluid. You can also buy a pressotherapy machine for home use. Those may not be as good as professional machines, but you can use it every day, for maximum benefit.
Do some calf flexions. Your calf muscles are known as the second heart, helping drain water from your calves. Do 50 calf muscle contractions at a time, several times a day to boost lower leg circulation.
Please don’t waste your time with dry body brushing. Dry brushing is the worst advice one can give for a water retention sufferer, as they could do/have a much more effective oil massage with long strokes and kneading (or better still lymphatic massage), instead of scratching the epidermis with the silly dry brushing.
Have more magnesium. Magnesium is known to help alleviate premenstrual fluid retention, plus it is a mineral that participates in 300 processes in the body and one that most people are deficient in. Have more vegetables and vegetable juices or take a magnesium supplement.
Have some high flavanol cocoa. High flavanol cocoa is proven to improve arterial function and these days you can find high flavanol cocoa powder in most health food stores and on the internet.
Invest in air conditioning: I know it sounds obvious and may be a bit expensive in the beginning, but it is absolutely sane advice and it works out cheaper than endless massages and pills and suffering in the long run
See your GP: If in doubt, or if you suffer from severe water retention, see your GP to identify any underlying health problems that may make you retain water.
My top eight tips to quickly beat fluid retention
If I suffered from water retention in the heat of the summer, these are the things I would immediately do:
I would have hot and cold showers or plain cold showers, at least on my calves and thighs
I would definitely take a maximum dose centella asiatica supplement (proven to help beat water retention better than compression garments) or the diosmin+hesperidin supplement mentioned above (if in doubt, ask doctor’s permission first)
I would try to keep my legs elevated at night or even during the day, if possible
I would have very light food, mainly comprising salads, vegetables, berry fruits and lean protein (especially oily fish)
I would have some pressotherapy sessions
I would use a low sodium, high potassium salt, ideally an one with a ratio of 2:1 potassium to sodium
I would take up swimming
If desperate, I would use graduated compression garments, but in a cool room
And of course I would follow all 39 tips to keep water retention at bay in the long run.
What you can do about cellulite with water retention
Water retention is known to be a cause of cellulite. If you wish to reduce your cellulite, the 39 tips above are to a large extent anti-cellulite tips too, as they will also help you fight aspects of cellulite other than water retention.
For more cellulite removal tips, not found on this list, check our 60+ tip guide on how to “get rid of” cellulite:
You may also wish to check our highly concentrated cellulite creams:
You can also check our intensive cellulite treatments in London: