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Edema Swelling: 6 Natural Ways to Reduce It (At Home)

Is edema bringing you down? When your legs or other limbs retain fluid, you experience more than just swelling: Edema can also be itchy and uncomfortable.

While some cases of edema are serious and may require medical intervention, plenty of cases can be managed at home.

A few tiny habit changes may do the trick…

What Is Edema?

Edema is a form of swelling caused by fluid retention. It can be an indicator of a larger health issue, so it’s always worth getting checked out by a medical professional. But in many cases, edema is more uncomfortable than it is harmful (1). Most people experience edema in their legs from the knee down, but it can also occur in your hands, face, or other body parts (2).

6 Home Remedies for Swelling

Natural remedies for edema can be tried at home with some simple techniques that take just a few minutes. Here are a few you can try…

1. Elevate Your Legs

A woman's legs elevated on a pillow to increase circulation and alleviate edema swelling.

Elevating your legs offers a simple but vital form of assistance: It taps into the natural forces of gravity to improve your circulation. Elevation helps the blood from your feet and legs flow more easily to your heart. Proper circulation is tougher when you are standing or sitting upright with your legs on the floor, so lifting your legs can enhance circulation.

To maximize the benefits, make sure your feet are lifted above your heart. You can do this by propping your feet up while you sleep or elevating them throughout the day for about twenty minutes at a time.

NativeNote: Elevating your legs is especially helpful for heat edema, where swelling in the feet or hands occurs when sitting or standing in a hot environment for an extended period of time. (How long does heat edema last? Often for as long as you’re in that hot environment!)

2. Pump Your Ankles

Foot Exercises Ankle Pump Down
Foot Exercises Ankle Pump Up

If your doctor gives you the okay, pumping your ankles can be an amazing way to increase circulation. Ankle pumping is one of the best natural remedies for edema, because when you do these exercises, your calf muscles help pump blood to your heart. This is an effective way to simultaneously soothe your edema symptoms while helping to prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT) (3).

Important Note: Because ankle pumps can be dangerous for people living with certain heart conditions, be sure to talk to your doctor before doing this exercise.

How to pump your ankles: Lay on your back with your feet up. From there, alternate pointing your toes away from your head and then back toward your head. Ankle pumping can also be done while sitting, so if your mobility is limited, gently tap your toes from a sitting position.

Here’s a how-to video from Dr. Chad, DPT and Co-Founder of NativePath:

3. Take a Krill Oil Supplement

Hand holding a NativePath Antarctic Krill Oil softgel.

One of the main causes of edema is chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). This occurs when your leg veins don’t allow blood to flow back up to your heart (4).

Certain supplements (like krill oil) may help manage chronic venous insufficiency. Krill oil—which is eight times more powerful than fish oil—is high in omega-3s, which have been found to combat chronic venous insufficiency (5, 6, 7). The omega-3 boost provided by krill oil may help open your arteries and promote better blood flow, effectively reducing symptoms of edema.

4. Wear Compression Socks

Woman sitting on bed putting compression stockings on her legs to help reduce edema swelling.

Compression socks, or compression stockings, help alleviate edema by applying pressure to the legs. This can help boost circulation and curb fluid retention. There are several different weights of compression socks available based on your needs. Unless your doctor says otherwise, it’s usually best to start with the lowest intensity, which you can buy at a drugstore or grocery store. If your doctor determines you’d benefit from a more heavy-duty level of compression, they can get you fitted for tighter prescription-only compression socks.

 

Who shouldn’t wear compression socks?

If you experience certain health issues, like peripheral artery disease (PAD), you should not wear compression socks. This is because they’ll add too much additional pressure to your legs and could further stress your arteries, or even cut off your circulation. If you’re unsure whether or not to wear compression socks, talk to your doctor (8).

 

How long to wear compression socks for edema?

If compression socks are right for you, wear them throughout the day and take them off when you go to bed at night. If you need time to adjust to the pressure of the socks or they feel uncomfortable, start by wearing them for a few hours each day and work your way up to longer wear.

5. Increase Your Water Intake

Close-up cropped image of woman sipping glass of water.

Surprisingly, drinking more water can actually prevent water retention! When the body is dehydrated, it tends to retain more fluids. If your body detects that you’re not getting enough water or you’re not balancing your sodium and water intake, it will opt to hold onto any bit of water it can get. And that retained water can often show up as edema.

Most medical professionals in the US still recommend drinking about 8 to 10 glasses of water per day. Make it part of your routine by carrying a refillable water bottle and keeping it near you throughout the day. Before you know it, you’ll be staying hydrated on autopilot.

NativeTip: Unsure of how much water you should drink each day? At NativePath, we recommend drinking half your body weight in ounces of water, daily. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, you’ll want to drink about 75 ounces of water daily.

6. Eat a Nutritious Diet

Selection of healthy fat sources rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

As we mentioned in Remedy #3, omega-3s can make a big difference in managing chronic venous insufficiency (one of edema’s main causes). In addition to increasing your omega-3 intake with the help of krill oil supplements, you can also boost your omega-3s by eating whole foods that are loaded with this healthy fat.

 

What foods are good for reducing edema?

Reduce edema by adding foods like salmon, mackerel, cod liver oil, avocados, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, and macadamia nuts to your weekly meal plan. Each of these tasty options is packed with omega-3s. This not only curbs edema, but can also improve inflammation, heart function, eye health, and more (9)!

The Bottom Line

Edema is frustrating, but that doesn’t mean it has to be your permanent reality. There are natural solutions that only take a few minutes a day…

Reduce edema symptoms by elevating your legs, pumping your ankles, wearing compression socks, staying hydrating, and integrating omega-3s into your daily diet with an easy supplement like NativePath Antarctic Krill Oil. Each capsule contains an abundant 500mg of pure krill oil so that you can manage your edema with convenience and confidence.

As a writer, editor, and wellness seeker, Claire has written for Self, Health, Prevention, CNN, Mic, Livestrong, and Greatist, just to name a few. When she's not writing, she specializes in traveling, getting lost in health-related research rabbit holes, and finding new ways to spoil her cat.

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Medical Disclaimer
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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