When excess fluid accumulates in your body, fluid retention, or edema, occurs.
Accumulation of water occurs in the circulatory system or within tissues and cavities. This causes swelling in your hands, feet, ankles, and feet.
There are several possible reasons, including:
Hormonal changes. Changes in certain hormones, such as progesterone, can cause water retention during pregnancy or before your period ( 1Trusted Source ).
Lack of physical activity. Whether it’s because you can’t walk for medical reasons or you’re just sitting on a long flight, people who are physically inactive can develop fluid retention, especially in the lower legs ( 2Trusted Source ).
Kidney disease. Because the kidneys are responsible for fluid retention, fluid retention is common in people with chronic kidney disease ( 3Trusted Source ).
Heart failure. If your heart can’t pump enough blood around your body due to heart failure, fluid can build up in your lungs, arms, and legs ( 4Trusted Source ).
Capillary damage. Damage to capillaries, the tiny blood vessels that carry nutrients to your cells, can cause excess fluid to enter the spaces between your cells and cause water retention ( 5Trusted Source ).
Problems of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system plays a key role in immune health and fluid balance. Injury, infection, certain types of cancer, and even local cancer treatment can cause lymphatic problems, causing fluid retention and swelling ( 6Trusted Source ).
Obesity. Obesity can also be associated with water retention in the trunk, arms, and legs ( 7Trusted Source ).
Malnutrition. A severe protein deficiency can cause kwashiorkor, which is characterized by fluid retention and an enlarged stomach (8).
Infection. Some infections can cause inflammation and swelling, which is a normal part of your body’s immune response ( 9Trusted Source ).
Allergies. When your body detects an allergen, it releases a compound called histamine, which causes fluid to leak from your capillaries into nearby tissues, causing short-term swelling and inflammation ( 10Trusted Source ).
Medicines. Certain medications, including oral contraceptives, corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), calcium channel blockers, and certain diabetes medications, can increase water retention (11).
Fluid retention can be a symptom of a number of serious medical conditions that require medical treatment, but if your swelling is mild and has no underlying medical cause, you can reduce it with a few simple steps.
- Eat less salt
Salt consists of sodium and chloride.
Sodium binds to water in your body and helps maintain fluid balance inside and outside your cells.
If you eat foods high in salt, such as many processed foods, your body may retain water. In fact, these foods are the largest source of sodium in most Western diets ( 12Trusted Source ).
The most common tip to reduce water retention is to reduce sodium intake. However, research on this is mixed.
Several studies have shown that increased sodium intake leads to increased fluid retention. However, many other factors are involved in regulating fluid balance, and the effects of salt on water retention may vary from person to person (13).