The Link Between Hydration and Productivity
Words / Stephanie Osfield
Though it’s true that beauty comes from your spirit and soul, feeling good in your clothes and when you look in the mirror is also very important. Your body love affects your mood and self-image, but it’s not just about vanity — a body that looks and feels healthy reflects homeostasis and indicates you are glowing on the inside, too. To promote hydration, wellbeing and feel and look their best, most people focus on diet and exercise.
Yet, despite healthy green smoothies and HIIT workouts, sometimes at the end of the day you may notice that your face looks puffy, your feet feel a little squashed in your shoes and your jeans feel tighter than they did that morning. To help prevent your body from holding on to excess fluid and feel more productive in your regular work and everyday life, follow these natural beauty fixes.
Although we are primarily talking about losing excess fluid, you don’t want to become dehydrated. It’s important to remember that staying hydrated is essential for health and also looking your best. In fact, water is one of the cheapest, most natural beauty remedies on offer. Your bodyweight is made up of about 60 per cent fluid, so hydration is pivotal to important bodily functions like digestion, metabolism and muscle contraction.
Hot weather, perspiration, sitting in a heated room, even some medications can all cause a lack of hydration. When you’re not well hydrated an imbalance can also occur in electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, which are used for important chemical reactions such as balancing your levels of fluid and blood. Dehydration can also cause your body to panic that it does not have enough fluid, so it then holds on to more fluid and you offload less fluid through natural means, such as passing urine.
Natural beauty tip. A long, tall glass of water is the best source of fluid because it’s free of kilojoules and easily absorbed. To replenish lost fluid, drink 1–2L (6–8 glasses) of water every day. Add a twist of lime, lemon, orange or mint for taste. The fluid will also plump up your skin, making it look healthier and suppler. Also try this delicious (and nutritious) choc-mint smoothie recipe.
When your temperature goes up, heat-induced swelling occurs because the body copes by dilating the blood vessels and this especially impacts on the legs. This not only increases fluid but can also make your complexion ruddier, because your capillaries dilate and become more obviously red.
Natural beauty tip. Avoid hot showers, spas or saunas. For some people, cold showers are also not ideal because your body responds to the sudden drop by increasing your core temperature. Instead, have tepid baths or showers and take a break after a hot day with your feet up, in front of a cool fan.
Watch salt intake
There is no question that after a long, stressful day some people find they crave salt and actually need it to feel well and healthy. Salt is necessary for healthy muscle contraction, healthy heart function and maintaining the right volume of blood. However, some people are very sodium-sensitive and for them salt can increase fluid retention. When they eat food high in sodium, they change the balance of sodium and potassium in their bodies, which affects their kidneys’ ability to filter excess water from the bloodstream. In simple terms – it undermines hydration.
Natural beauty tip. Don’t add salt to food and steer clear of foods like cheese, tamari, processed meats, canned soups or vegetables, crackers and crisps, which are all high in sodium.
Fight inner fire
Hormone changes that occur with age and stress, combined with being unfit and eating too much processed food, can contribute to an increase in fat cells, which send out inflammatory chemicals and also retain fluid and swell. These cells cause inflammation, now considered the major cause of ill-health and wrinkles.
Natural beauty tip. Minimise intake of inflammatory foods such as salt, sugar and alcohol, as well as foods you are sensitive to, such as gluten or dairy.
When you’re stressed at work and your fight-or-flight response kicks in constantly, your body pumps out a hormone called aldosterone, which increases sodium levels in the kidneys and sends a signal to hold on to fluid. You may then notice swelling in your face, hands, legs, feet, belly and breasts.
Natural beauty tip. De-stress. Every day. Take time out to meditate, engage in yoga nidra or just sit still at your desk at lunchtime and listen to soothing music. If you find yourself in the middle of a stressful situation, take a moment, drop your shoulders and slow your breathing to calm down. The following natural remedies are far gentler on your body and can also help reduce fluid retention.
Horseradish. Contains high levels of glycosides. One in particular, called sinigrin, can help to alleviate fluid retention. Horseradish also helps stimulate better circulation, which in turn also reduces fluid retention.
Dandelion leaf. Historically, dandelion has been used in Europe and Asia as a health tonic and diuretic. Its fluid-reducing action has been confirmed by research involving the University of North Carolina, which showed a significant increase in the frequency of urination within five hours of dandelion doses.
Rosemary. A relative of the mint family, rosemary has a slightly bitter, astringent taste and has long been used to alleviate liver problems. It’s a natural diuretic, which means it can help reduce fluid retention, maintain hydration and elevated blood pressure, shows Spanish research.
Vitamin B6. This may help relieve fluid retention and other symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, including breast tenderness, mood changes, irritability and fatigue.
Parsley. This herb’s unique health benefits come from flavonoids and volatile oils that help stimulate your body’s use of glutathione, the “mother of antioxidants”, which is present in almost every cell. Glutathione helps protect your cells against oxidative stress and boosts the liver’s detoxification process that ensures toxins, which can exacerbate fluid retention, are made water-soluble so they can be filtered from your body.
Combat circulation issues
Good circulation is a key foundation of hydration, natural beauty and good health. Fluid retention is often related to the following circulation issues.
Congestion. Stress, lack of exercise, hormonal fluctuations and genetics can all lead to sluggish circulation. Gently massage the areas where fluid builds up using circular and kneading movements. This will help boost blood flow, improve drainage of the lymph nodes and help make fat or fluid more mobile, reducing fluid retention and inflammation of soft tissue. Dry skin brushing is another technique favoured in European countries. Using a natural bristle brush and small, gentle, circular motions, brush from the souls of your feet then move up your calves and thighs, then all over your body, always brushing towards your heart. Make sure you try these approaches gently, so you don’t push or brush too hard and cause sensitivity or red, broken capillaries.
Sitting and standing. The impact of carrying your bodyweight on your legs can cause areas like thighs, calves, ankles and feet to become swollen. On the flip side, sitting at a desk for many hours can prevent good circulation, which can also cause fluid retention. Get up every 20 minutes to stretch and move. Back on the chair? Stretch legs out in front of you from time to time and make circular movements. This will help to reduce fluid build-up and boost blood flow. Keep your legs a little raised on a footstool and avoid crossing them, as this can worsen fluid build-up.
If you stand all day, during breaks lie down on the floor and climb your feet up the wall until they are straight. Stay in the position for 5–10 minutes to encourage fluid to drain away from your legs and feet. At the end of the day, engage in yoga postures that help hydration flow back away from the lower limbs.