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Everyday health

Fluid retention

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Oedema is the swelling that occurs when fluid accumulates in the tissues. It may be localised to a certain body part, or be generalised and affect the whole body.


  • Puffiness or swelling of the hands, feet, ankles, legs, or other body parts
  • Aching and stiffness of the affected area
  • Weight fluctuations with no apparent cause; weight may increase quickly over a short period of time
  • In some cases, pressing or pushing on the skin may cause the skin to become indented for a few seconds; this is referred to as pitting oedema
  • Fluid retention in the legs may be a symptom of varicose veins


Causes of fluid retention range from easily treated conditions through to serious and life-threatening diseases including kidney, liver or lung disease, heart failure and some forms of cancer . Consequently it is important that you consult your healthcare professional for a full check-up and diagnosis before commencing self-treatment.

Other causes may include:

  • Standing up for long periods of time (due to the effects of gravity on the fluids in the legs)
  • Circulatory issues, especially damage to the valves in the veins of the legs, which may allow blood to move against the normal direction of the bloodstream (i.e. away from the heart rather than towards it), and accumulate in the legs. This is known as chronic venous insufficiency, and may ultimately cause varicose veins.
  • Hormone fluctuations that occur prior to the menstrual period, during pregnancy, or when taking oral contraceptives
  • The use of certain medicines, including some blood pressure drugs, corticosteroids and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Hot weather
  • Burns (including sunburn)
  • Thyroid disease such as hypothyroidism (underactivity of the thyroid gland)
  • Allergies may also cause fluid retention. Note that sudden severe swelling may indicate a life-threatening form of allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Call for emergency help immediately

Diet and lifestyle

  • Work with your healthcare professional to identify and treat any underlying problems that are causing or contributing to your fluid retention.
  • Dietary intake of salt should be restricted as it may cause the body to retain water. At first you may find that food is not as tasty as you’re used to, but over a few weeks your taste buds will become accustomed to the reduced saltiness, and you will find yourself noticing and appreciating different tastes in your food. Don’t add salt to your cooking or at the table, and avoid smoked meats, processed foods, takeaway meals and packaged goods, all of which tend to be high in salt.
  • Ensure you eat a balanced diet that includes daily serves of lean protein, as well as an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
  • Don’t be tempted to reduce your fluid consumption – aim to drink at least two litres of water per day. Being dehydrated may actually increase the body’s tendency to retain fluid. For the same reason, avoid drinking diuretic beverages such as tea, coffee, and alcohol.
  • Many of the recommendations for the relief of varicose veins also apply to fluid retention in the legs. For example:
    • Lie with your feet elevated above your heart for 30 minutes as often as you can during the day.
    • Maintain a regular exercise regime. (Be sure to talk to your healthcare professional before starting any new exercise programme though).
    • Wearing compression stockings may be beneficial.

Important notes

Many causes of fluid retention are simple and easy to treat, but others may be very serious. Consult your healthcare professional, who can determine the cause of the problem and arrange appropriate treatment.

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Dear Margaret,
Thank you for your post. In answer to your question, celery seed is a plant that has been traditionally used to gently remove excess fluid. Dandelion tea also acts as a diuretic. Avoiding excess salt and sugar in your diet may assist with reducing fluid retention.
However, before you start anything new, I suggest that you check in with your health care professional to determine what treatment options may be suitable for you as an individual with your particular health condition.
I hope this help Margaret and I wish you all the best of health. Please call the Naturopathic Advisory service on 1800 803 760 if you need any further assistance.
Kind regards, Rebekah (a Blackmores naturopath)
I was on dapatabs (indapamide) one tablet per day, however my Doctor told me to discontinue taking these as my potassium levels - is there a herbal remedy for fluid retention that could assist -
Anonymous 11 Sep 2014
Hi Jean,
Thank you for your post.
I’m sorry to hear that you are suffering from oedema & swelling in the legs.
I think the best thing you could do would be to make an appointment to see your GP to find out the cause of this symptom.
All the best Jean.
Warm regards,
Charmaine (Blackmores naturopath)
Charmaine 01 Sep 2014
Fluid in the ankles legs odeama
Anonymous 01 Sep 2014
Hi Mesi, thank you for your post and I'm sorry to hear about your mother being so unwell. Mesi, firstly it is really important that your mother goes back to her doctor to discuss her condition and the medications she is currently taking.

If you would like to discuss this further with a Blackmores naturopath after she has seen her doctor, please call the Naturopathic Advisory line on 1800 803 760 from Australia or via email on

Kind regards, Leanne(Blackmores Naturopath)
My mother, 71, is on sevikar 1 tablet per day for a year and half. Three weeks ago she was sick and they said it is bladder and kidney infection and was given antibiotics. Since then her legs have started to swollen. Even after the antibiotic she legs are swollen. Could it be sevikar side effect can it have side effect after taking it for more than a year.
Anonymous 06 May 2013
Hi Barrie
Thank you for your post.
As you do have a history of hypertension it is always best to check with your GP that the fluid retention is not due to any medical condition.
However due to the long period of standing during golf it is possible that circulation is to blame and you may wish to consider using product that contains grape seed extract.
Grape seed extract has the following features and benefits:
1) Helps to relieve swelling (oedema), heaviness, pain and itching of the legs.
2) Helps to protect against the breakdown of skin collagen and elastin.
3) Helps to reduce the risk of cell damage attributed to free radicals.
I trust this information is of assistance and I wish you all the best of health.
Kind regards, Emma (a Blackmores naturopath)
Hi I play a lot of golf and lately I have been getting swelling around my ankles making it dame hard to walk.In the morning they are good,but by the end of the day you can see where my socks have been.
I am on Sevikar 1 tablet per day
Metoprolol Tartrate 1/2 tablet per day
Regards Barrie
Anonymous 08 Apr 2013