Beat the bloat

If water retention has you feeling like you’re about to pop, try these natural remedies.

Beat the bloat
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You wake up in the morning after too many salty chips or margaritas (a double whammy, you’ll soon learn) the night before, and stare in the mirror at your chipmunk cheeks and puffy eyes. You can’t pull the rings off your fingers, and when you step on the scale you discover that somehow, you managed to gain 3 pounds overnight. Worse, when you try to put on your jeans, you can’t get them buttoned. Or: It’s the end of a long workday, and you struggle to squeeze your swollen feet into a pair of pumps before going out for the evening. If these scenarios sound familiar, your body is probably holding on to water. Unlike gas, which builds up in your stomach and intestines and causes abdominal bloating, water can swell every part of your body. If you feel inflated like an air bag, that’s probably gas; when you feel like a waterlogged sponge, that’s fluid retention. And although it’s often considered normal and is usually temporary, water retention can be annoying and uncomfortable while it lasts.

Feeling swell
Body fluids (not including blood) account for approximately 60 percent of most women’s weight. They contain water, salts, electrolytes (minerals such as sodium and potassium) and other substances whose levels are regulated by your hormones and kidneys. “Your body has to maintain a balance between sodium and water,” says Joseph G. Verbalis, M.D., chief of the endocrinology and metabolism division at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and an expert in body fluid disorders. When the ideal ratio changes, your kidneys hold on to water so they can dilute the sodium. The result is bloating. Because of hormonal shifts, fluid retention commonly occurs during the premenstrual phase of a woman’s cycle as well as during pregnancy. Puffiness that’s unrelated to PMS or pregnancy is often due to overeating, which can alter insulin production in such a way that the kidneys retain sodium and fluid, says C. Wayne Callaway, M.D., an endocrinologist and clinical nutritionist in Washington, D.C. Besides avoiding overeating, the following lifestyle changes and natural remedies can help flush out fluids from a bloated but otherwise healthy body.

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