More commonly referred to as water retention, oedema is swelling of the soft tissue due to an increase in interstitial fluid.
While this fluid usually and predominantly consists of water, it may also contain protein as well as other cell-rich fluids, especially in the case of lymphatic obstruction.
Water retention occurs mainly in the lower body. It’s a problem familiar to many women: heavy legs, swollen feet and ankles , etc. (these symptoms may be similar to those of venous insufficiency, but the latter is due to different mechanisms).
Water retention in the abdomen is often characterized by swelling or bloating of the abdomen, sometimes accompanied by rapid weight gain, a feeling of heaviness, and tight or shiny skin on the abdomen.
The common causes of this retention include:
Please note that ascites specifically refers to the accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity. It is often linked to severe liver problems.
In case of persistent abdominal swelling or other worrying symptoms, it is crucial to consult a doctor for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment (1-3).
Those whose water retention is related to sodium retention may benefit from following a salt-free or low-salt diet. Occasionally, doctors may prescribe a diet with potassium salt as a substitute for sodium (4).
Naturally, it’s also important in the case of abdominal water retention to stop drinking alcohol, to allow the liver to regenerate.
In addition, certain foods and drinks such as celery (5), cucumber and green tea are known traditionally for their diuretic properties and may help eliminate excess fluid.
Regular exercise stimulates the circulatory and lymphatic systems, thus helping to reduce water retention. Activities such as walking, swimming and yoga may all be beneficial.
A sedentary lifestyle makes the cardiovascular system weaker and promotes weight gain, creating a vicious circle. Even 30 minutes of light exercise a day can be enough to produce a rapid decrease in water retention.
Chronic stress can affect hormone levels and promote water retention. Stress management techniques, such as meditation and yoga, can help reduce the symptoms of water retention.
In some cases, when the water retention is severe or related to an underlying medical condition, diuretic medication may be prescribed. It’s important to consult a health professional before taking drugs for water retention as they can have side effects.
There are natural methods that may help reduce water retention in the stomach. The most popular home remedies include drinking cranberry juice (6), or infusions of dandelion or artichoke leaves and applying cold water compresses to the abdominal area.
Caraway, meadowsweet, prickly pear, grape, fennel, dandelion, etc.: traditional pharmacopoeia across the world contain many medicinal plants which are now widely used by naturopaths and recognised by conventional medicine.
For example, troxerutin, a flavonoid extracted from sophora Japonica, is a recognised venotonic and vascular protector used in the manufacture of a number of drugs prescribed for veno-lymphatic problems (7).
Several clinical studies suggest that betalains, pigments found in prickly pear, increase diuresis (the amount of urine excreted in a given time) and reduce water retention concerns in the legs (8).
Caraway, dandelion, meadowsweet, etc. have long been recognised as natural diuretics, promoting a reduction in oedema. Many of the compounds mentioned here can be found in targeted synergistic formulations (such as Water Retention Formula).
Though water retention is often associated with women, men can also suffer from it. Hormone imbalances, such as those related to testosterone or thyroid, can contribute to water retention in men. The same methods of reducing water retention mentioned above are equally applicable, including adopting a healthier lifestyle and improving stress management.
Water retention, whether in the stomach or any other part of the body, is often a sign of an underlying disease. Therefore, if the problem persists after trying natural methods and targeted supplements, you should consult a health professional to obtain a diagnosis.
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