Though ankles may swell for many reasons, more often than not, it is due to fluid retention in the lower parts of the body. Normally, the body works to create a balance of fluid within the bloodstream, cells, and lymphatic system. Many factors can throw off this balance, some of which are mild and some serious, so it's best to seek medical attention if you have swollen ankles. However, when swollen ankles are not indicative of a greater medical problem, home remedies can help alleviate the symptoms.
Bananas are rich in potassium, which helps maintain the balance of fluids and electrolytes in the body, thus reducing water retention. Combining bananas with other potassium-rich foods can compound the beneficial effects: add the fruit to yogurt and a bit of cocoa powder for a healthy smoothie option. Dry fruits, avocados, beans, and leafy greens are also high in potassium. Note that people with kidney disorders need to reduce their potassium intake, however.
Elevating the feet can help drain fluid accumulating in the ankles. People with swelling in the lower extremities can sleep with a pillow under their feet, or ensure their legs are elevated above the heart when reclining. Those who work at desk jobs that do not allow for the feet to be elevated should take regular breaks where the legs are parallel to the ground, and rotate the ankles gently.
Exercise helps improve blood circulation, which helps prevent blood and other fluids from accumulating in the lower extremities. Walking, jogging, and running all mobilize the calf muscles, and swimming is an excellent low-impact option that is easy on knees and ankles.
Epsom salt is a mixture of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen also called magnesium sulfate. Magnesium can lessen fluid retention quickly. To make an Epsom salt foot bath, dissolve one cup of Epsom salts in a small tub of warm water and immerse the feet for between 20 and 30 minutes. Doing this once a day can significantly reduce ankle swelling. Be sure to use plain epsom salts as scented ones can irritate the skin, which may increase swelling.
Certain massage techniques help increase blood circulation and reduce edema. Manual lymph drainage massage is particularly proficient in optimizing blood flow, improving lymphatic function, and aiding in the movement of body fluid. It involves directional manipulation along the calf and can be done on one's own body. Simply sit with the feet on a low stool and rub the calves and ankles in an up-and-down motion, continuing for approximately ten minutes per leg.
Inversion yoga involves poses that invert the body. Viparita karani or legs up the wall pose is highly efficient in draining fluid from the ankles. Simply support the lower back with a cushion and then, while lying flat on the floor with the seat near or against the wall, raise the legs to rest perpendicular to the lower body. Hold this pose for ten to 20 minutes to see an almost immediate improvement in ankle swelling. However, this pose may not be good for those with high blood pressure, so be sure to check with a doctor first.
Dandelion is known for its diuretic properties, and it helps the kidneys expel excess fluids. Drinking dandelion tea prompts the body to urinate more, which reduces the retention of fluids. Fresh-made dandelion tea is considered more potent than store-bought, dried versions, though it is important to choose sources that were not sprayed with weed killer.
Sodium causes water retention. When sodium levels in the blood are high, the body holds onto excess fluid to dilute the salt, which can cause edema. People prone to swollen ankles should reduce the amount of salt they consume. Instead, opt for a low-sodium diet and choose salt alternatives such as dried herbs for flavoring food.
Grapefruit oil has diuretic properties, and using it as a topical treatment can significantly reduce edema-based swelling. Consider adding grapefruit essential oils to a warm bath (but mix them with Epsom salts or coconut oil first so they can disperse throughout the water). Adding the oils to a self-massage can also help, but always mix a small amount of the concentrated essential oil with a carrier oil. Soaking the feet in warm water with grapefruit oil can also reduce swelling.
It may seem counterproductive to drink water if the body already has excess fluids. However, keeping the body hydrated helps the kidney flush excess fluids from swollen tissues, including any fluid around your ankles. This option is only for certain causes of swollen ankles; conditions such as congestive heart failure and pulmonary edema can be made worse by excess water consumption.
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