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Water Retention

Why do I suffer from Water Retention?

Question

I have been suffering from water retention for a long time. I feel as if my whole body is bloated, especially my legs, which are always swollen and blotchy. At night one leg seems to turn black. If I drink water during the night, I end up going to the loo six or seven times. I also find it difficult to lose weight.

Answer

It seems that you have a combination of water retention and venous (relating to veins) congestion. The cause of your leg going dark at night is probably poor circulation of blood, leading to its stagnation in one foot. If blood is deprived of oxygen (ie, stagnant), it changes colour from red to purple or black. Your doctor should refer you for investigation in case you have a clot in the veins or deep-vein thrombosis. Meanwhile, follow the general treatment I outline below for water retention, which will encourage nature to heal your body. Also, to improve circulation, gently massage your legs, starting at the ankle and moving up to the thigh, for ten minutes every other day; walk and practise yoga every day.

A common cause of water retention is the kidneys not working well. Swelling in the feet and legs is usually accompanied by a puff face, which is worse in the mornings, then gradually eases as the circulation improves during the day. Swelling in the feet and legs may also be due to poor circulation of lymph (part of the body's self-cleaning mechanism). This subsides at night when you're horizontal, or with slightly raised legs. Lymphatic complications are usually on one side, however. Varicose veins, which affect the circulation of blood, can also cause swelling in the feet though, again, this is often just on the side where the veins are affected.

Another possibility is a poorly functioning heart leading to blood being pumped very slowly from the lower limbs. This leads to 'flooding' in the feet, and swelling in the feet and ankles. The weaker the heart, the more the swelling - in chronic heart failure, the puffiness can rise to the thighs.

However, a large percentage of people suffer from water retention due to dehydration. In the pituitary gland in your brain, there is a section that produces the antidiuretic hormone (ADH); this literally means ‘stop urine production hormone'. If the body is dehydrated, it tries to stop producing urine and generally retain water in order to prevent further loss of fluids. Even sweating stops, however hot the weather.

Sometimes the trigger is lack of blood flow to the pituitary gland, due to poor supply from the vertebral arteries in the neck. Tight neck muscles and impaired blood flow are usually the result of physical traumas such as whiplash, falls, birth injuries, as well as stress and neck stiffness due to long hours driving or at the computer. If the pituitary gland doesn’t get its full supply of blood neither does the ADH centre, and this is interpreted as lack of fluid or dehydration. So the ADH centre mistakenly decides it must hold on to water, the kidneys stop producing urine and the feet swell. The swelling happens however much or little water you drink because it's dependent on the ADH hormone, not water intake. At night, the blood flow to the pituitary increases (because you're horizontal) and the ADH centre registers that there is enough fluid and stops producing ADH, so you pass water several times.

It is important that you go to an expert for investigation, but my feeling is that your condition could be due to a problem with your pituitary gland, allied to your kidneys not working well.

Here are my suggestions:

  • Avoid foods that are high in protein, because they place too much of a load on the kidneys; eat eggs, fish and chicken in moderation, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, all organic if possible.
  • Check with your doctor to see if any medicines you may be taking are affecting your kidneys; this should show up in a blood test.
  • Every day, drink three cups of Gokhru tea, an Ayuruedic preparation that helps water retention, or drink three cups of nettle tea daily, both for three months.
  • Take Chandraprabha Vati, another Ayurvedic product for water retention: one daily for two months.
  • Massage your neck and shoulders with Lifestyle Massage Oil to ease the tension in this area and improve blood how to the pituitary gland. Do this every other night at bedtime for two months.
  • Practise yoga, particularly the boat and child poses to improve circulation in the extremities, and the cobra, semi-bridge and turtle poses to ease the tightness in your neck. These are explained in my book Therapeutic Yoga (co-written with Jiwan Brar).
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