Edema, or water retention, is caused when fluid leaks out of your small blood vessels and pools in the surrounding area. In Oriental medicine, we call it “water” when it’s in one specific area and “dampness” when it affects your body as a whole.
1. Injury to your Kidney: infection, stones, and dehydration are common indicators for Kidney problems, but in Oriental medicine, we also count overwork, having too many children or too much sex as causes for Kidney weakness as well. Also, Oriental medicine theory states that our genetic inheritance is seated in our Kidney. In other words, if our parents had poor health, we have a tendency to inherit weak Kidneys.
2. Injury to your Heart: Heart problems such as a valve irregularity may have been with some people since birth. Long-term stress or “heart-break” is also a cause of Heart problems in Oriental medicine.
3. Improper Diet: too much sugar or carbohydrates (grains and sugars) lead to fluid accumulation. In Oriental medicine, we say this is because sweets weaken your Spleen. A weakened Spleen does not transform food into nutrition that your body can use efficiently. Instead, dampness – or fluid – accumulates. This could also occur in the presence of food or environmental allergies.
4. Hormone Imbalance: excess estrogen, whether from (again) improper diet or pregnancy or medications can lead to water retention.
5. Medication Side-Effect: NSAIDs, calcium-channel blockers, and diabetes medications all have a side-effect of water retention. The very things a lot of these medications aim to fix, hypertension or diabetes, if fixed with natural solutions such as dietary modifications or herbal medicines, would not lead to the water retention that the medication does.
6. Lack of exercise: lack of exercise leads to poor circulation. Poor circulation leads to pooling of blood, weakening of vessels, and – over time – edema.
7. Cirrhosis: usually a side-effect from alcoholism.
8. Injury: Post-surgical complication such as lymph node removal is less common, but also most injured areas swell.
Also, most of the causes of edema are things that we have control over! Here’s a recap of the ways you can prevent or treat your own edema:
1. Eat less sugars and grains; take fish oil and vitamin C to improve blood vessel integrity.
3. Do not take unnecessary medications. Instead of using natural medicine as the “alternative” when nothing else works, try it first!
4. Drink plenty of filtered water.
5. Manage your stress: you are not responsible for anyone else’s happiness; you taking care of yourself first allows you to better take care of others that depend on you; a relaxed body moves quicker than a tense body.
6. Use acupuncture to heal an injured area 75% quicker than it would heal on its own.