Fluid Retention

Fluid Retention

Fluid retention or oedema is the accumulation of fluid in the spaces between the cells in the soft tissue of the body. Fluid retention is often a problem during the late stages of pregnancy and may also be a symptom of premenstrual syndrome or cardiovascular disease.


  • Swelling of the hands, feet and abdomen
  • Fluid retention is most common in the evening and in hot or humid weather
  • People with Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis sometimes experience puffiness or swelling in the affected joints


  • During pregnancy, rising oestrogen levels increase the body's tendency to retain fluids, resulting in swelling of the hands and feet. This is a normal part of pregnancy, but must be regularly monitored since excessive fluid retention may be a sign of a more serious condition called pre-eclampsia (oedema accompanied by elevated blood pressure or protein in the urine)
  • Other hormonal fluctuations cause premenstrual syndrome, which, besides fluid retention, can also cause other symptoms, including breast tenderness, headache, Depression and Period Pain
  • Legs affected by Varicose Veins may be more prone to fluid retention
  • Oedema may also be a feature of some forms of cardiovascular disease and other serious health problems, and should be medically investigated
  • Consuming high levels of salt can increase the tendency towards fluid retention, especially in heart problems

Nutritional & Herbal Support

  • Vitamin B6 tablets may help to relieve fluid retention that occurs as a symptom of premenstrual syndrome, along with other symptoms, including breast tenderness, Period Pain, and Depression
  • If you regularly experience fluid retention as a symptom of premenstrual syndrome, take Vitex agnus-castus, a herb that has traditionally been used to balance female hormones
  • Vitex is sometimes combined with other herbs and nutrients that provide PMT support. Important ingredients to look for include magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin B6
  • Grape seed extract can also help relieve fluid retention and heaviness of the legs when they occur as symptoms of Varicose Veins or premenstrual syndrome. It may need to be taken for up to four cycles before reaching its full effect
  • Celery seeds are traditionally taken to relieve fluid retention, especially when it occurs in joints affected by GoutOsteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • Severe or persistent fluid retention may be indicative of underlying disease, and require urgent medical investigation
  • Drink at least two litres of water every day
  • Don't add salt to your food, and avoid pre-packaged foods and condiments, which tend to contain high levels of salt
  • Potassium-rich herbal teas such as dandelion leaf and couch grass have a diuretic action and may help to relieve fluid retention
  • Regular exercise is important for healthy circulation. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking) on most days of the week, after seeking your doctor's approval. In addition, stimulate the circulation by performing foot exercises; rotate your feet clockwise and anti-clockwise, and bend them up and down
  • Lying with the legs elevated against a wall may help to relieve swollen and congested legs, especially those with Varicose Veins. At night, try sleeping with a pillow beneath your feet so that they are slightly higher than your head
  • Wear comfortable shoes and non-restrictive clothing, and avoid standing up for long periods
  • Massage your legs using firm flowing movements to direct the blood flow towards the heart. Good essential oils to add to your massage oil are lemon, orange, geranium and lavender. (However these oils are not suitable for use during pregnancy)

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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