Volume 2, Issue 19
May 7, 2009

Five hidden causes of fluid retention — and how to cure it naturally

If you take your thumb and push down on your lower leg with it, does it cause a pit that remains for awhile? If you wear over-the-calf socks, do they leave a severe compression in your leg at top of the sock? And do your legs swell up when you've been on your feet for several hours? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have a very serious health problem.

These are the classical symptoms of edema. In lay language edema is referred to as fluid retention. The term "pitting" edema describes edema that is significant enough to leave pits when you press down on your skin.

Edema is an important indicator of a significant imbalance in the body. And, as such, you need to discover the cause and properly treat it.

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When you first consult your doctor about edema, the two primary causes that he's been trained to discover are heart failure and kidney disease. If the edema is just in your legs, you can rule out kidney disease. The edema caused by kidney disorders is typically present not only in the legs but also in the face and arms and hands.

Your doctor can quickly determine if the cause is heart failure. He just has to do a clinical examination, and perhaps a chest X-ray.

The problem is that about 90% of the time, the cause of edema, even severe edema, is not one of these conditions. Once he rules out these two causes, all too often doctors will just stop looking for the real cause. Instead, they might prescribe a diuretic drug to "pull the water off." This approach however introduces a drug into the system while at the same time failing to determine what the actual cause of the disorder is.

So, if you have edema, but don't have kidney disease or heart failure, it's time to find the real cause. Here are some of the most common causes and what you can do about them.

Obesity - Frequently the development of edema is simply secondary to excessive weight. Lose the weight and the edema goes away. This is particularly true if hot weather aggravates the edema.

Low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) - Hypothyroidism is extremely common. I often diagnose it in young persons. And I find it in over 80% of all patients over the age of 50. Most doctors will miss the diagnosis, however, because their medical school taught them that hypothyroidism can't be present unless a blood test called "TSH" is abnormal. This is very unfortunate because several studies published in medical journals have pointed out that the TSH test can be normal in patients with obvious hypothyroidism. And edema is certainly a very common symptom of hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism will often respond to iodine supplements, which you can buy at many health food stores and on the Internet. My favorite brand is Iodoral.

A protein-deficient diet - If edema exists in a patient that's a vegetarian, I always first think of this as being the cause. The best way to determine this is to get a blood test called a serum albumin. In healthy patients, the serum albumin is over 4 grams/dl. If the value is lower than this, the odds are pretty good that either the patient is not eating enough protein, or they have a digestive disorder that interferes with the proper digestion and assimilation of protein. Correct the disorder and the edema will go away.

Excessive use of salt - This is probably the most common cause of fluid retention. Even if you don't add extra salt to your food, many foods, especially processed and restaurant foods, are high in sodium. If you suspect this to be the cause, then simply go on a very low sodium diet for three weeks, and take some additional magnesium supplementation (500 mg). The edema will go away if excessive salt is the cause.

Excess estrogen (in women) - During hormone replacement therapy, edema can occur either as a result of the excessive use of estrogen or an insufficient dose of progesterone. Keep in mind that the drug Provera, which doctors commonly use as a substitute for progesterone, is a very poor substitute. In fact, it often causes fluid retention. The other cause, one that's common in menstruating women, is when the body doesn't produce enough progesterone. In these cases, the woman will often notice the edema in the two weeks before she has her menstrual period. The treatment for both of these conditions is to use over-the-counter progesterone cream. The problem will typically disappear after one to two months of therapy.

If your doctor rules out kidney disease and heart failure, don't let him put you on a diuretic. First, look for one of these causes. Then fix the cause and your edema will go away. It really is that simple.

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD

Copyright 2009 Soundview Publishing, LLC

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