by Nick Marshall
If you’ve ever come off a long-haul flight feeling a little heavier in the legs than usual, you’ll be familiar with bloating. Normally, this will have corrected itself by the time you clear the arrivals hall, but if you’re consistently noticing swollen or sore limbs, you could have edema. Lots of things can cause fluid retention and bloating. Standing or sitting in the same place for too long, obesity or ankle injury are common causes, as are pregnancy, certain medications or a diet that’s too high in salt. Whatever the cause, there’s no need to suffer. Try these simple natural remedies to combat swelling.
1. Compression Socks
Fluid can’t build up in your lower limbs if there’s no room to settle. Slip into a pair of compression socks, and fluid is forced back up out of gravity’s reach. In one Danish study in 2019, airplane passengers were given one compression sock to wear. At the end of a three-hour flight, the circumference of the sockless leg was, on average, 5 millimeters bigger than the one wearing a sock. If you’ve never worn compression socks before, we recommend starting off with a lighter everyday sock.
It might come as a surprise, but the source of inflammation in the body is often the intestine. If pathogenic bacteria in the gut are left untamed, the body can be forced to respond. That can manifest itself as swelling, whether it’s skin acne or ankle bloating. You can balance the bacteria in your intestine with live probiotic bacteria that boast anti-inflammatory properties. Look for a probiotic yogurt, or increase the frequency of fermented foods in your diet, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles or miso. You’ll be giving your taste buds a treat, too!
3. Water & High-Potassium Foods
Though it seems like a paradox, one of the most common causes of fluid retention is dehydration. If your body isn’t getting enough water, it fights harder to hold onto what it already has. So the simplest way to flush out swelling is by drinking plenty of water. You can eat away bloating, too. Foods rich in potassium (banana, chicken, salmon) or magnesium (spinach, broccoli and dark chocolate!) temper inflammation in the body. Sodium, however, doesn’t belong at the party. Try to cut down or eliminate salt from your diet to bring down your blood pressure and let your blood vessels relax.
4. Natural Diuretics
The good news is that your body has all the systems in place to flush excess fluid away. You just have to give them a tune-up from time to time. Certain foods have natural diuretic properties, meaning that they stimulate your kidneys and bladder to work harder. These foods, which include celery, grapefruit, asparagus, cucumbers, beets and watermelon, happen to be some of the healthiest plants you can feed your body. You’ll not only feel lighter in your ankles but will also have an extra spring in your step. If healthy vegetables aren’t your thing, try wrapping swollen ankles in soothing cabbage leaves instead. These, along with greens or other leafy vegetables, are also natural diuretics.
5. Simple Exercises
Gravity can be the culprit where swelling is concerned, so turn it into the solution by lying down with your feet up for 20 minutes or so when your feet and ankles are sore. Light exercise will also get the circulation going, but don’t push swollen feet into anything too strenuous. Bloating is also a great excuse to demand a massage from your partner or family. Try stimulating your circulation with anti-inflammatory essential oils flavored with peppermint, ginger or turmeric.
Swelling or bloating should normally disappear after a few days with a combination of compression socks, exercise and tweaks to the diet. If it does linger any longer, or becomes noticeably achy, seek medical advice since this may be a symptom of a health condition that needs professional attention.