If you’ve ever taken a long haul flight, you’ll probably have noticed your feet swelling afterwards. For me, I have to make sure to wear open toed shoes as if I wear fitted shoes they will often be too tight when I try to put them on to exit the plane. Like most women, I also experienced swelling in my feet and ankles during pregnancy.
Although swollen feet are usually not painful, they can be a worry if you don’t know the source. There are many different reasons for swollen feet – once you’ve ruled out something serious, why not try these 15 home remedies for swollen feet?
What Causes Swollen Feet?
Swelling in the feet and ankles (also called “peripheral edema”) is a result of fluid buildup. The fluid leaks out from your blood vessels and accumulates in the surrounding tissues. (source)
Why does this fluid escape from your vessels? Well, your heart pumps blood to every part of your body. Your feet are the furthest away from your heart so sometimes your body has a hard time fighting gravity and blood pools, causing the vessels to swell and leak. (source)
Symptoms of Swollen Feet
Obviously the main symptom of peripheral edema are enlarged feet and ankles, i.e. an increase in diameter. Some other things you might notice along with this are:
- Change in colour of the skin
- Change in skin texture
- Warmth in the area
- In severe cases – ulcers
You will usually see swelling in both feet. If you experience an enlargement in just one foot, please see a doctor immediately.
Risk Factors for Swollen Feet
The risk factors for swollen feet will depend on the exact reason behind it, but here are some of the most common situations which can lead to peripheral edema:
- Pregnancy, especially during the third trimester
- Taking long haul flights
- People who work at jobs that require prolonged standing or sitting e.g. retail and office workers
- Many medicines can cause fluid retention as a side effect which results in swelling. E.g.anti-inflammatory drugs, hormones, antidiabetic drugs and blood pressure tablets
- Injury to the foot or ankle e.g. a sprain will cause swelling.
- Some more serious illnesses that cause foot swelling are heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, cellulitis, blood clots…
15 Home Remedies for Swollen Feet
Exercise helps get your heart pumping and pushes fluid back to your core. You should aim for 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days a week. Yoga is particularly useful if you have swollen feet, especially poses that raise your feet above your head.
Daily exercise will gradually decrease swelling. Even small changes like walking to work or taking a bike ride at weekends will make a difference. (source)
2. Add Magnesium to Your Diet
If you are low on the element magnesium, this can cause edema. Foods high in magnesium are leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, soybeans, avocado and bananas. (source) Talk to your doctor first to determine the source of your swelling as in some cases it’s not appropriate. (source)
3. Soak Your Feet in an Epsom Salt Bath
Epsom salts are a naturally occurring substance which is high in magnesium. Soak your feet in a bowl of warm water for 25 minutes to allow the salts to penetrate your skin and relieve swelling. Repeat 2 – 3 times a week. If your calves are also swollen, try taking a full body Epsom salt bath. (source)
4. Wear Compression Stockings
Wearing compression stockings is one of the best methods to get rid of swollen feet. They work by creating a pressure gradient – tighter on your feet and ankles – to push blood upwards to your core.
You can buy compression socks in most pharmacies and they work best if you’re measured for best fit. They also help relieve aches and pains from standing all day so I highly recommend them for people who work on their feet. (source)
Flight socks work the same way but are a bit stronger, of course it goes without saying (but I’m gonna say it anyway) that you should wear flight socks on long haul flights to prevent swollen feet and, more importantly, deep vein thrombosis.
5. Try a Leg Massage
You don’t have to go to a spa for this one, you can easily massage your legs and feet at home, or even better, convince a partner to do it. Massage increases circulation to the area and gets blood moving on from your legs. Use firm motions in the direction of the heart. (source)
6. Elevate Your Feet
As I’ve already mentioned, gravity is a big part of why we get swollen feet. Make gravity work in your favour by raising your legs – ideally above your heart. This can be as simple as lying with your legs on a pillow for 30 minutes or using a foot rest under your desk in work. (source)
7. Float in Water
Another way to relieve the effect of gravity on our limbs is to float in water. This can be swimming, an aerobics class or just spending some time water-walking in the pool. (source)
8. Drink More Water
As well as floating in water, you should be drinking it too. It may seem counter-intuitive but drinking water helps dilute excess salt in the body which is a big factor in swelling. Ideally you should drink 8-10 glasses of water per day. (source)
9. Cut Out Salt
There are lots of reasons why you should avoid salt in your diet – it causes high blood pressure and heart disease for starters but it’s also involved in swelling. Cutting down salt in your diet will help reduce water retention. (source)
10. Take Stretching Breaks
Much like the in-flight exercises we’re encouraged to do to avoid blood clots at 30,000 feet, you should also take a break if you’re spending long periods sitting at work. Every few hours, take minutes to stretch, or walk around if you’re sitting. (source)
11. Contrast Hydrotherapy
Contrast hydrotherapy is a fancy term for alternating hot and cold water treatments. Fill two buckets with water – one warm and one cold. Soak your feet in the warm water for 3 minutes and then cold water for 1 minute. Repeat for 15 minutes. This will improve your circulation and remove fluid from your legs. (source)
12. Avoid Tight Clothing
If you have a pair of pants or underwear that are too tight, now’s the time to ditch them. Wearing tight clothes on your legs and waist restricts circulation and makes swollen feet worse. (source)
13. Check Your Shoes
Sometimes the cause of swollen feet can be as simple as wearing the wrong pair of shoes. Make sure you have enough room to wiggle your toes – shoes that are tight will restrict blood flow. (source)
14. Check Your Medicines
Sometimes prescription medicines can cause fluid retention so make an appointment with your doctor to discuss this. If you identify the culprit, it may be possible to try an alternative.
15. Use Grapefruit Essential Oil
Essential oils are not only relaxing but some have medicinal properties too. It’s suggested that the potassium in grapefruit helps you eliminate excess fluid so try soaking your feet in water with a few drops of grapefruit essential oil. A warning though, grapefruit interacts severely with many prescription medicines so check with your doctor or pharmacist before trying this. (source)
In most cases, swollen feet have a simple underlying cause, however in some cases they can be a sign of something sinister. Always have swollen feet checked by your doctor before proceeding with the above remedies. Some serious conditions which result in swollen feet include:
- Preeclampsia in pregnancy
- Congestive heart failure exacerbations
- Liver failure
- Kidney failure
- Foot and ankle fractures
- Blood clots
Some of these illnesses can be life-threatening so don’t ignore it. In addition, if you do have one of the above illnesses, using natural remedies could make it worse so only proceed with the above remedies if your doctor has given the go ahead. (source)
If you try some of the above home remedies for swollen feet, you should see an improvement in matter of days. I can’t emphasise the importance of regular exercise and low-salt diet in prevention of swollen feet enough. And it’s great for your overall health so make sure to focus on these as a priority. Your body will thank you!