A close up image of a woman lying in a bed with one leg bent and the other straight. She is holding onto her calf muscle.

Do you suddenly have swollen legs, a rounded belly, or swollen feet, arms, hands, fingers, breasts or face? Don't worry - you haven’t put on weight. It’s probably water retention, which is very common during perimenopause.

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Help, I'm swelling up! Many women experience increased water retention during the early stages of menopause, known as perimenopause. You might notice a few extra pounds on the scale and feel uncomfortable tightness and swelling in specific parts of your body. If this has never happened to you before it can be quite confusing.

How and Why am I Retaining Water?

Well, water retention occurs when water exits the blood vessels or lymphatic system and accumulates in the tissues, leading to swelling in specific parts of your body. When you apply pressure to the affected area, you may notice a temporary indentation.

One of the main causes of water retention is hormonal fluctuations. 

You may already have experienced this phenomenon during pregnancy or your menstrual cycle. Did your breasts and abdomen feel swollen during the second half of your cycle, just before your period starts? You might even have thought you look like you’re three months pregnant. Or you noticed a few extra pounds when you stepped on the scale. But a few days later the swelling disappears and everything is back to normal.

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It’s Oestrogen’s Fault

Oestrogen plays a role in promoting water retention, especially during the second phase of the menstrual cycle when the hormone estradiol increases.

With the onset of menopause, an additional factor known as oestrogen dominance often comes into play, further contributing to water retention. In the early stages of menopause, called perimenopause, your body initially produces less progesterone. As a result, the relative levels of oestrogen compared to progesterone can become elevated, leading to a condition called oestrogen dominance.

It's understandable that with this high dose of oestrogen, water retention becomes more noticeable. Swelling tends to concentrate in the tissue of our legs and abdomen, but it can also affect our feet, hands, fingers, breasts and face. If you suddenly find that your rings no longer fit on your fingers, now you know why.

By the way, it's worth noting that hypothyroidism can also contribute to water retention. Be sure to get a hormone test at your doctor’s office that includes all thyroid hormones to find out if this is the case.

How to Find Relief from Water Retention

#1 Diet and Nutrition

Certain vitamins and minerals, especially magnesium, potassium and B vitamins, help to flush excess water out of your tissues. So, of course, you need an adequate amount of them. A diet of leafy greens, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grain products is naturally rich in these nutrients, but you can also supplement if necessary.

High-volume foods have a naturally high water content and, like drinking water, help promote water elimination. This applies, for example, to cucumbers, leafy greens like arugula, watermelon and different types of cabbage. It’s also a good idea to eat more cauliflower, broccoli and any of the other vegetables that belong to the cabbage family such as bok choy, turnips, radishes and brussel sprouts. Why? Cruciferous vegetables contain compounds like diindolylmethane (DIM) and sulforaphane, which can counteract excess oestrogen. This is why we’ve used sulforaphane from broccoli extract as an ingredient in our XbyX Peri Balance.

Excessive salt intake can promote water retention. For this reason, it’s a good idea to reduce your salt consumption. Season your food with fresh herbs instead. An easy way to reduce your salt intake is to avoid fast food and processed food as these provide empty calories and often contain a high amount of salt.

To start your day in a balanced way, you could opt for XbyX Daily Energy which contains lots of fibre, protein and vital nutrients. Try it as a wholesome and healthy homemade smoothie using one of our delicious smoothie recipes.

#2 Plant Power

You can help counteract the hormonal imbalance that leads to water retention with herbal remedies like chasteberry or milk thistle. While chasteberry has a progesterone-promoting effect, milk thistle supports the liver in breaking down excess oestrogens. XbyX Peri Balance contains both of these ingredients. The adaptogen maca, which XbyX Lust For Life contains, can also be used to address water retention. Various studies on maca root show a hormone-balancing effect.

#3 Get Moving

Standing and sitting only make water retention worse! So, it's best to get up and walk briskly, exercise, tiptoe. Movement activates lymphatic flow and thus the removal of water retention.


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#4 Stay Hydrated

It may sound counterintuitive, but drinking water boosts your metabolism and stimulates water elimination. It’s so important to drink 2-3 litres of water per day, even if you don’t suffer from water retention. You can also try teas that naturally promote diuresis, such as dandelion or nettle tea.

#5 Dry Brushing

This is a technique using a dry brush to activate your skin and nervous system. It’s called dry brushing because you literally brush off your dry skin using a special brush before you hop in the shower. Always brush towards your heart and begin with the farthest part of your body from your heart. Brush your body with long strokes in the direction of your heart, following the flow of your lymphatic vessels. After you have dry brushed yourself you can take a shower. Alternating between hot and cold water while you shower can further enhance your circulation. This stimulation helps move the water trapped in your body by activating your lymphatic system.

#6 Hot and Cold Showers

Alternating between hot and cold water when you take a shower stimulates your lymphatic system and metabolism. To do this, shower with warm water for one minute, then switch to cold water for ten seconds. Repeat this cycle three times and end with cold water. If this sounds too much for you, you can always opt for a lymphatic drainage massage instead. It’s best to book an appointment with a trained professional who will know how to stimulate your  lymphatic flow. Lymphatic massages are especially helpful in treating severe cases of water retention.

Bring your hormones into harmony and learn how to stay fit and healthy during midlife and beyond! The Body Balance Guide is chock full of helpful checklists, exercises and useful tips. Here’s to healthy ageing!
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To Sum up

Even though you might feel like you've gained weight or a few extra inches, it's simply not the case. Water retention does not mean permanent weight gain or additional body fat. It is simply part of the hormonally driven menopausal journey. It will subside, usually within a few days. Try the tips in this article and see what works best for you.

If you persistently suffer from water retention and think you might have oestrogen dominance, speak to your doctor or trusted medical healthcare practitioner who can prescribe you with a bioidentical progesterone to provide relief.

References & Studies

Perimenopause: The Ovary's Frustrating Grand Finale
BC Endocrine Research Foundation, Volume 3, Number 3: Fall Equinox, 2001
Hormonal Changes During Menopause and the Impact on Fluid Regulation Reprod Sci. 2014 May; 21(5): 555–561, doi: 10.1177/1933719113518992
Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (I) Biochemical and Pharmacodynamic Study on Maca using Clinical Laboratory Model on Ovariectomized Rats Meissner HO, Mczisz A, Kedzia B et al., Int J Biomed Sci, 2006, 2(3), 260-272