Fluid Dynamics

Water retention bogs down many of us and is often a symptom of other health problems. Water balance within our bodies depends on many factors.

Poor kidney function will cause excess fluid to build up in the body. There are many herbs that act as diuretics while also being nutritive to the kidney and strengthening it over time. These include uva ursi, dong quai, juniper berries, asparagus, burdock, dandelion and more. There are many good herbal blends available at health food stores.

Sodium/potassium balance controls fluid balance in the body. Sodium governs the fluid between the cells while potassium governs fluid within the cells. Sodium in general attracts water and increases the amount of fluid in our bloodstream and throughout our bodies. The increase in blood volume from high sodium intake results in high blood pressure, which explains why high blood pressure is sometimes treated with diuretics.

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Potassium is depleted by diuretics. When our mineral stores of potassium get low, the body tends to hold onto this valuable mineral by retaining water. A more natural solution in managing excess fluid would be to decrease sodium intake and increase potassium intake. Supplementing potassium helps, but since potassium and sodium compete with each other for absorption, it is necessary to reduce sodium intake.

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Histamine release due to allergies also causes water retention. Eating foods that you are sensitive to will cause water retention. The most common food sensitivities are related to wheat (both refined and whole), dairy, corn, citrus, sugar, soy, and food additives and/or preservatives. Several successful weight loss methods involve eliminating reactive foods resulting in loss of up to 10 pounds of water. If allergies make you puffy and bloated, supplements that help are quercetin, bromelain, and vitamin E.

Hormone balance also affects water retention. Excess estrogen in relation to progesterone tends to cause fluid retention. Excess estrogen is a problem common today since estrogen is in commercial meat and since there are estrogen-mimicking chemicals in our environment and in our food supply. Vitamin B6 helps to block the salt-retaining effect of estrogen and is a good supplement to use cyclically for hormone-related bloating and/or PMS.

Blood vessel weakness (capillary fragility) allows fluids to leak out into the tissues, resulting in water retention. Supplements that help strengthen vein walls such as rutin and butchers broom will help with this condition. Butchers broom is particularly effective if the fluid retention is due to poor circulation.

Finally, diets too low in protein or poor protein assimilation will contribute to water retention. Increasing the amount and/or quality of the protein in your diet along with adding digestive enzymes containing betaine HCL will help the body fluids normalize.

An interesting note about water retention: Traditional Chinese medicine links the water element to emotions. Too much water or water retention is related to depression.

Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.