Fluid retention aka oedema may be a red-flag sign of a serious chronic condition such as high blood pressure, heart disease or diabetes, so it's advisable to see your GP, who in any case will probably advise you to cut down on salt and up your potassium intake. Your doctor may also prescribe diuretic tablets.
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These 'water pills' stimulate the kidneys to produce more urine, flushing out excess water and salt from the body. Certain foods and drinks have a similar albeit less potent effect, and while they can't replace prescription medication, these natural diuretics should help de-puff your body and keep your fluid levels in check.
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Several studies have identified the diuretic properties of this aniseed-flavoured herb. “Fennel tea is a natural diuretic and reduces excess water storage,” says medical doctor and nutritionist Michelle Storfer of the Food Effect website. “It’s a very healthy way of preventing bloating and you can notice results in just a few days.”
If you're not overly keen on herbal teas, you can enjoy the fennel bulb as a vegetable side, or you could try flavouring your meals with the seeds and fronds.
Potato, fennel and tuna bake
Out-of-season asparagus doesn't come cheap, but it may be worth the expense if you're susceptible to fluid retention. A 2010 study published in the West Indian Medical Journal demonstrated the diuretic properties of asparagus, backing up previous research findings. Asparagus contains an amino acid called aspargine, which stimulates and supports kidney function, helping to rid the body of excess water and salt.
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The French name for dandelion, pissenlit, means 'wet the bed' in English – for very good reason. Dandelion has been used for centuries in folk medicine as a way of removing surplus water and salt from the body. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, which found that the plant increases the frequency of urination, confirms this.
Look out for the leaves at your local greengrocer or market – some supermarkets even stock them these days – or you can snap up dandelion tea bags or extract from a health food store.
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Ever noticed you go to the toilet more often after eating grapes? The moreish fruit boast impressive diuretic properties and contain significant amounts of potassium, a mineral that balances out salt levels in the body and stimulates the kidneys to produce more urine.
A handful of grapes or a couple of glasses of grape juice several times a week should do the trick and help keep your fluid levels in balance.
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Ironically, this salty marine vegetable is useful for ridding the body of excess sodium and water. “Samphire acts as a natural diuretic,” says Rob Hobson, Healthspan nutritionist and co-author of The Detox Kitchen Bible.
An esteemed cure for swollen joints since the medieval period, samphire has been used for centuries to treat oedema. The vegetable was once hard to get hold of and could only be found in posh farmers' markets. Luckily, you can find fresh samphire in most major supermarkets these days.
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Packed with water, minerals and plant sugars, watermelon makes for an effective mild diuretic. The 92% water content promotes more frequent urination, while the fruit's mineral and sugar content triggers the kidneys to produce a higher volume of urine, bolstering the diuretic effect.
If you can't face munching your way through huge slices of watermelon, try the fruit whizzed up in a smoothie or added to a refreshing salad.
Watermelon and rosewater slush mocktail
Celery – the veggie and its seeds – contains a unique chemical called butylphthalide, which research suggests has strong diuretic properties, stimulating the kidneys to excrete more urine and flush away excess water and salt.
The chemical, which gives celery its distinctive love-it-or-loathe it taste and aroma, has also been shown in clinical studies to help regulate blood pressure and may even protect against Alzheimer's disease and dementia.
Celery soup with Stilton cheese
Coffee and tea to a lesser extent are packed with caffeine, which is responsible for the beverages' stimulant effects. Caffeine acts as a mild diuretic in the body, triggering the kidneys to expel more urine and eliminate surplus salt. The effects are more pronounced if you're particularly sensitive to caffeine and not a habitual drinker. “Caffeine will exert a diuretic effect to varying degrees depending on dosage and caffeine tolerance of the person ingesting it,” says leading dietitian Sarah Schenker.
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Allium vegetables such as garlic and onions are loaded with sulphur. This essential mineral regulates the metabolism and supports kidney function, which helps modulate levels of water and salt in the body. If you're not a big fan of strong-tasting garlic or onions, you might want to try a milder alternative such as spring onions or chives, or consider taking an odourless garlic supplement.
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An effective natural de-bloater and the cornerstone of many a flat stomach weight loss diet, watercress is high in potassium, which helps control excess salt levels in the body.
The peppery green is also packed with substances that promote urine flow and frequency. Watercress is super-low in calories to boot. Try it in blended in a healthy soup, wilted like spinach or served raw in a salad, sandwich or savoury smoothie.
Watercress soup recipe