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Water Retention In Your Legs and Ankles? These Essential Oils Can Help Reduce The Bloating
If you’ve ever noticed swelling or puffiness in your legs, ankles, or feet, you were probably quite scared when you noticed that some parts of your body were twice their normal size. But there’s actually nothing to worry about. The swelling is simply an indication your body is holding on to too much water, and it’s actually a common condition that typically goes away on its own.
Your body is made up of mostly water—which can be found in your blood, inside and outside of your cells, as well as inside muscles and organs. Water levels in the body are kept constant by the circulatory and lymphatic system, but sometimes fluids build up in the tissues and cause noticeable symptoms, like swelling. You may also notice that the skin around a swollen area feels tight and warm, and when you press your finger into it, it leaves a dent.
Most of the time, this water retention isn’t a serious problem, but it can be uncomfortable and even unsightly. The good news is that there are natural ways to relieve these symptoms naturally, while also addressing the root of the problem so that it occurs less frequently.
What Causes Water Retention in the Ankles and Legs?
When treating any health condition—whether major or minor—it’s important to address what’s causing it in the first place. And when it comes to water retention, those puffy legs and feet can be caused by a number of circumstances, including dietary choices, physical activity (or lack thereof), and hormones.
If you stand for a long period of time, you may notice swelling in your ankles and feet; this can also happen if you have a sedentary lifestyle and spend most of the day in one position, such as sitting at your desk. In cases like these, water retention occurs because gravity keeps your blood lower in your body, so there’s more pressure inside the blood vessels in your legs, ankles, and feet—which causes fluid to leak into your tissues where it builds up and cause swelling.
Although we need to consume sodium foods so that fluid levels inside and outside of our cells remain balanced, research shows that consuming too much sodium can also increase fluid retention in the tissues and cause swelling. Water actually follows sodium in your body, so when you consume too much of it, your body holds onto to excess water.
Another major cause of water retention in the ankles and legs is pregnancy and menstruation. Scientists believe that the hormonal changes women experience during these cycles contribute to the bloated, heavy feeling that’s common for women. Estrogen and progesterone levels seem to impact the regulation of body fluids and sodium content, too.
Using Essential Oils to Treat Water Retention
If water retention is an ongoing problem for you, you should start by altering your diet. Your circulatory and lymphatic systems are responsible for bodily fluid balance, so to keep them working properly be sure to:
- load up on essential vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and antioxidants
- avoid processed and packaged foods that are usually high in sodium
- focus on eating fresh fruits and vegetables, like potassium-rich avocados (which help to balance your sodium levels) and leafy greens that supply plenty of magnesium
- eat foods like organic, grass-fed beef, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats (like coconut oil) that are nutrient-dense and help to improve circulation and decrease inflammation
It’s also important to stay physically active. Avoid sitting in one place for a long period of time, and if you work at a desk or fly often, take breaks, stand up, and walk around a bit.
Finally, try using essential oils to combat the problem. Following are my four favorite oils that effectively treat water retention.
- Grapefruit Oil
Grapefruit oil is a strong diuretic that helps to cleanse the body, reduce inflammation, and decrease fluid retention. By increasing blood circulation, grapefruit essential oil relieves the bloating and pain of swollen ankles and legs, and research shows that the terpenes found in grapefruit and other citrus oils have powerful anti-inflammatory effects that help to reduce the redness, heat, pain, and swelling that occurs as a result of water retention.
I recommend combining three drops of grapefruit oil with one teaspoon of any carrier oil (like coconut oil or jojoba oil) and massaging the mixture into the swollen area 2-3 times daily until the water retention has subsided.
- Eucalyptus Oil
Studies show that eucalyptus essential oil suppresses edema formation, reduces inflammation, and relieves pain associated with water retention. One study, in particular, found that when inhaled, eucalyptus oil benefits helped to control pain, inflammation, and swelling after knee replacement surgery, by activating serotonin receptors, promoting relaxation, reducing blood pressure, and lessening inflammatory reactions.
To use eucalyptus oil to relieve water retention, inhale it directly from the bottle every few hours, diffuse it at home, or combine three drops of eucalyptus with a teaspoon of coconut oil and massage the mixture into the swollen area.
- Fennel Oil
Fennel essential oil supports the release of built-up fluid in the tissues while helping to detoxify the body of the toxins that cause inflammation. Fennel oil has been used in traditional medicine to treat a range of health conditions, including those related to the digestive and respiratory systems. Studies also show that fennel is rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, antioxidants and many other nutrients that help to support the circulatory, lymphatic, and immune systems.
To reduce inflammation and promote the release of water that’s being stored in the body, add 1-2 drops of fennel oil to a glass of warm water or chamomile tea and drink. You can also apply fennel oil topically by combining 4-5 drops with a teaspoon of any carrier oil and rubbing it into the swollen area.
- Lavender Oil
Several studies indicate that lavender oil has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and can be used to relieve edema symptoms. If you experience water retention before or during your monthly period, or because you are pregnant, lavender oil benefits can also include relief from mood changes, trouble sleeping, and headaches.
Lavender oil is safe to use while pregnant, and it’s gentle on the skin, so it can be applied topically without a carrier oil. Simply add 2-3 drops to the area of concern, or, to cover a larger surface area, combine the lavender with coconut oil. You can also add 5-7 drops of lavender oil to warm bath water to reduce inflammation and pain while simultaneously promoting deep relaxation.
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Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. Dr. Axe is the author of Eat Dirt
and Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine
, and he's also the founder of www.DrAxe.com
, one of the world's top natural health sites that draws more than 11 million visitors each month.
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