You enjoyed a deliciously salty bowl of ramen, drank one too many margaritas, or hopped off a long flight and you woke up… puffy. Fear not, it’s only temporary! While there are many reasons you might feel a little more swollen or bloated than usual, two of the top culprits are water retention and sluggish lymph. 

Water Retention

Your body is made up of about 60% water, which is pretty wild to wrap your head around. And you need sodium for vital functions including contracting and relaxing your muscles, conducting your nerve impulses and regulating your water and mineral balance. Yet when you eat a heavy dose of salt (often from dining out or processed foods), your kidneys can’t keep up and sodium builds up in your bloodstream, causing your body to hold onto extra water in order to dilute the excess sodium (1). You’ll usually notice this water retention right away, often the morning after a particularly salty meal. This retention of water in your cells and bloodstream isn’t problematic if it happens from time to time, but can be detrimental for your organs (especially your heart) if it becomes a regular pattern over time. 

Another reason for hanging onto excess water is simply dehydration. And while it might seem counterintuitive to drink more water when you’re dealing with water retention, it will help your kidneys to properly regulate the concentration of water and sodium in your body. Essentially, your kidneys won’t retain excess fluid and the water will be excreted in your pee. Luckily, the solution to waking up puffier than normal from water retention is quite simple: reduce your sodium intake and/or be cognizant about upping your water consumption. So if you know you’re going to be indulging in a deliciously salty food, like Chinese takeout or movie theater popcorn, make sure you’re diligent about drinking extra water. 

The last piece of the puzzle here is potassium. Potassium is actually sodium’s counterpart, which is why you’ll see these two minerals paired up or hear about the sodium-potassium ratio. They have an inverse relationship, which means that as sodium increases in your body, potassium decreases, and vice versa. So one way you can give your body a boost in flushing out sodium and excess water weight is by eating potassium-rich foods such as bananas (and other fruits), leafy greens, beans, and starchy vegetables. 

Sluggish Lymph

If you think about your body as a sink, your lymph nodes act like the drain. Therefore if they get clogged, you end up with a backup of lymphatic fluid. Not what we want! This stagnant lymph can show up in your arms and legs as lymphedema, your face (a common one), or even in your digestive system since your abdomen has the largest lymph node in your body. To dig into this a bit more, your lymphatic system is technically part of your immune system and its primary functions are to maintain fluid balance and defend against infections. It’s responsible for filtering your lymph and your blood, removing toxins, fighting infection, and more. A complex network of vessels that carry lymph throughout your body exists just below your skin, in the fatty tissue. These vessels are what filter fluid through the lymph nodes and move this purified lymph to the rest of your body. Because lymph is so close to the surface of your body, it’s possible (and highly effective!) to manually move your lymph through techniques like lymphatic drainage massage, dry brushing, gua sha and an ancient practice called honey tapping. 

Blood is pumped throughout your body by your heart, while lymph fluid is squeezed through lymph vessels during physical activity. If you’ve ever used compression boots, you can visualize how they simulate this natural muscle contraction on a much larger scale to engage a lymphatic flush. This is why exercise is one of the best things you can do for your lymphatic system! Getting in daily movement of some sort will help to push lymph through your lymph vessels and prevent any stagnation, and, therefore, puffiness or bloating. 

Depuff With The The Support Of Herbs

The last tip for supporting your lymphatic system is getting in herbs that gently promote lymphatic drainage. In herbalism, vibrant green plants are often really wonderful for clearing stagnation and encouraging elimination, which is why they are used so frequently in the springtime after a more sedentary winter. We often hear about how crucial liver support is for detoxification and forget that the kidneys play a crucial role in the elimination of waste products! 

Our kidney supporting tea, The Purifier, contains mineral-rich herbs (like cleavers, horsetail, and dandelion Leaf) that work in harmony to help us maintain fluid balance by eliminating excess, without causing depletion. Brew yourself a cup after a long flight, before you gua sha, or when you wake up feeling a little puffier than usual.

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