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How to reduce water retention

Siski Green / 17 March 2021

Reduce water retention to help alleviate symptoms such as a bloated belly, swollen ankles and puffy fingers.

Avoid salty foods if you have fluid retention.
Avoid salty foods if you have fluid retention.

Have you ever treated yourself to a takeaway pizza, and the following morning found your weight jumps by two or three (or more!) pounds, undoing any weight loss attempts you might have been doing? Fear not, this is likely water retention, not fat, and some healthy diet and lifestyle changes can help shed those pesky pounds.

A puffy face and an ill-fitting ring can often be signs that for one reason or another your body is retaining excess water. Thankfully there are ways to help your body avoid storing that water and also help it flush it out if you’re already bloated.

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Drink more water 

This might sound counterintuitive, but water retention is a result of your body’s attempt to keep you hydrated.

Your liver uses water to convert fat you’ve ingested into energy. When you’re dehydrated your kidneys can’t cope with the highly concentrated fluid that they need to clean up, removing toxins and other substances, and so they pass on the work to your liver.

As your liver is busy helping the kidneys, it doesn’t do its main job as effectively resulting in less fluid being flushed out of your body. What’s more, your body retains liquid to reuse too.

So how much water do you need to drink? Find out here

Eat fruit and vegetables to reduce the swelling

Try celery or cabbage – they are natural diuretics so should help remove the excess fluid that’s causing your puffiness. Bananas, which contain potassium, are also useful as potassium is used in eliminating fluid from the body.

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Opt for a high protein, low carbohydrate diet

Protein naturally aids the body in removing fluid, while a carbohydrate-rich diet which does the opposite.

So try to steer clear of pasta, white rice and bread, and instead go for fish and lean meat, as well as plenty of liquid-heavy fruit and vegetables.

Avoid salty foods

That obviously includes the usual culprits such as crisps and pretzel sticks, but also some other foods that might surprise you - bread, salad dressing, olives, soya sauce, sausages and other processed meats, and many types of cheese (cottage cheese and Cheddar, for example) are all high in salt.

Salt holds water in your body which is useful when you’re sweating a lot but if you eat too much of it, you’ll end up bloated.

Spot the signs that you're eating too much salt


While exercise might trigger swelling when you first start doing it regularly, the fitter you are, the less you should experiencing swelling as the body becomes more efficient at pumping blood around your body.

Exercise: 10 ways to get fit without going to the gym

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.