Water Retention in TCM Perspective

Your hands and feet are the most common parts to experience water swelling, or edema, especially in the third trimester. During pregnancy, the fluids in your body increase so that  it can support both you and your baby. They accumulate in your tissues as a result of increased blood flow and there is additional pressure of your growing uterus on the veins in your pelvis as well as your vena cava. The vena cava is this large vein that returns blood to the heart from your lower limbs. If it is blocked, there can be fluid retention and swelling in your lower limbs.

What causes swelling during pregnancy from a TCM perspective?

According to TCM, edemas are caused by poor Qi flow in the body and the kidney may be too weak to metabolise the water. This causes dampness in the body, or an excessive buildup of Yin energy, which is bad for the body.

You are advised to see a certified practitioner to find out what kind of edema you have according to TCM, so you can have the right treatment to support you in your final pregnancy trimester so as to achieve a harmonious and healthy pregnancy.

What can I do to relieve swelling during pregnancy?

Pre Partum Massage

Not only is this helpful for edema issue, it is superb to help with relieving of tension and aches associated with pregnancy weight gain as you go along.

Foot Reflexology

Reflexology has long been a popular way to relieve foot swelling and pain. However, do ensure that the establishment and therapist is fully trained.

Elevate Your Foot

This is great for maintaining good blood pressure and decreasing water retention. It’s best to do it for at least 15 minutes at a time, three times a day.

Try Compression Socks

They are crafted to help control swollen feet, ankles, and lower legs. They work by squeezing your lower legs to prevent fluid retention in the area.

Food that you can eat or avoid to prevent edema

Fun Fact! Did you know that you should actually drink more water if you are having Edema? 

Many people would think that they should avoid drinking water and that is incorrect. If your body thinks you’re dehydrated, it will hold on to even more fluid to try to make up for it. 😮

Food to Avoid

Food to Take

  • Sufficient protein in each meal that you take. Go for the healthier choice like lean meat such as chicken breast
  • Foods that are high in potassium such as bananas, avocado, and kidney beaLs
  • Leafy greens are great natural diuretics, not only great to keep swelling low but also provide plenty of vitamins and minerals that are important for pregnancy in general. 
  • Drink more water – if your body thinks you’re dehydrated, it will hold on to even more fluid to try to make up for it. So try to drink at least 10 glasses of water every day to keep your kidneys flushing out the bad stuff and your body happily hydrated.
  • Red dates This amazing dried fruit is packed full of B-vitamins for energy creation, fibre for keeping regular and iron for your increased pregnancy needs.  Plus! Red dates are chock full of magnesium, calcium and potassium to help regulate fluid retention and reduce pregnancy swelling.
  • TCM Herbs – Poria 茯苓 – that eliminates water retention and dampness in the body

Red Bean Soup with Dried Orange Peel

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, red beans are believed to reduce fluid retention, alleviate edema, promote diuresis, eliminate skin heat and toxins.

While dried orange peel (陈皮) is a warming ingredient high in antioxidants and helps with indigestion, reduces nausea and treats diarrhoea. 


  • 1 cup red beans  (soaked overnight)
  • 1 piece dried orange peel (soaked for 10 – 15 minutes till soft)
  • 100 g rock sugar – or to taste (may be substituted with brown sugar)
  • 6 cups water (1.8L of water)


  1. Put the red beans, dried orange peel and water into a medium sized soup pot.
  2. Bring to a boil and let it remain boiling for about 5 minutes. Lower the heat and simmer for about 1.5 to 2 hours or until the red beans are broken and soft.
  3. Remove dried orange peel.
  4. Add rock sugar and stir over medium heat till it dissolves.

In summary, other than the food that you should take more of or avoid that we have shared, you can help prevent foot swelling or water retention by practising a balanced lifestyle, such as  getting regular gentle exercise, drinking plenty of water and resting enough.

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