We’ve all felt bloated after eating too much, but there are times where an enlarged stomach is actually due to water retention. There are a wealth of reasons why our bodies can do this, and here’s how best to treat it.
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So you’ve eaten that kebab and chips and now you’ve got a big, bloated belly. It’s uncomfortable but totally normal.
But what if you haven’t been stuffing your face and you’ve developed an extended stomach? Well, that could be due to water retention.
If you ever have this problem, you will doubtless want to fix it – and fortunately there are many home remedies that can help.
Dietitian Katherine Zeratsky says the issue can be alleviated through certain herbs, such as ginger, dandelion, parsley, juniper and hawthorn.
“In theory, natural diuretics may help relieve fluid retention by making you urinate more,” she says.
While these additions to your diet may help some, it is important to note there is little scientific evidence to back it up.
As such, Zeratsky says “whether you’re hoping to lose water weight as part of a weight-loss goal or you’re concerned about water retention related to menstruation, you should focus on eating a healthier diet”.
Zeratsky advised to always let your doctor know about any herbal or dietary supplements you are thinking of taking.
Simple adjustments such as cutting down on salt and getting plenty of exercise can make a huge difference to your wellbeing.
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Excess sodium in the body is notorious for bringing about water retention, which can lead to puffiness and swelling.
Food expert Dr Khatri says it’s a good idea to check the sodium levels of food and drink before consuming them, with these foodstuffs being particularly problematic:
- Lunch meat
- Canned vegetables and soups
- Fast food
- Soft drinks
To combat sodium levels in the body, think about adding in some potassium-rich foods such as spinach and bananas.
It is also important to avoid a sedentary lifestyle, as doing so can cause tissues to hold onto water, resulting in swollen legs and ankles.
Women may experience water retention in the days leading up to their menstrual period, with Dr Khatri noting that feeling such symptoms was entirely normal.
Such bloating should settle within a few days of bleeding.
It is important to note that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or birth control measures can also cause you to hold onto water.
Likewise other medications such as ibuprofen, antidepressants and chemotherapy can each have this effect.
Rarely the symptom can be a sign of a more worrying health condition
Fortunately water retention is rarely a sign of a more concerning health problem.
But it can be.
For example a weak heart will do an inefficient job of pumping blood around the body, which could lead to water retention, showing through swelling in the legs and abdomen.
Indications of heart failure can include:
Rapid heart rate
Shortness of breath.
Another red flag that water retention can highlight is that it could be a sign that valves inside your veins aren’t working the way they should be, causing your lower limbs to swell up.
Other symptoms can include: enlarged veins, aching legs, changes in skin colour, rashes and ulcers.
Swelling could possibly indicate kidney disease, cancer, or lymphedema – the build-up of fluid in tissue when the lymph system is blocked or damaged.
Any transient bloating that comes and goes is usually not serious.
If the swelling is persistent, it’s wise to seek medical advice.