Under the Horse Chestnut Tree

Or, The Maddening Saga of Water Retention.

Under the Horse Chestnut Tree, by Mary Cassatt

This morning when I got on the scale, it told me I’d gained four pounds. Since yesterday. I know what the problem is, I can see it in my hands and feet. It is the decidedly unsexy problem of “water retention.”  There are no nice phrases for it– “fluid buildup, or oedema.” Call it what you like, it is an ongoing aggravation for many.

Sometimes “water retention” is very bad news– a signal that your heart isn’t up to the task at hand or that your kidneys have packed up. For most of us, though, it’s nothing so dire. Just the sad conclusion of one or a number of causative factors that have caused one’s fingers to resemble fat pink sausages, or their legs the sturdy limbs of, say, elephants.

And water weighs something, hell it weighs a lot. If you’ve hauled a five-gallon bucket of water to a stable in subzero temperatures, you really know what it weighs.  (About 40 pounds if you’re curious.) It weighs enough to make you “gain” four pounds overnight. Of course, this is “water weight” and will go away, as other “water weight” does– but it’s maddening just the same.

What causes water retention? Oh, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, let me count the ways: if not a matter of the heart, then perhaps one of these slight insults:  too much sloth, too much salt, too many carbohydrates, too much coffee, too little coffee, a glass of wine, tight garments, not wearing support hose when you ought to wear support hose, pregnancy (oh Thank God it’s not that), a low-calorie diet, dehydration, certain medications, estrogen, pre-menstrual symptoms,  potassium loss, hot weather, increased humidity, sunburn, insufficient vitamin B1, chronic venous insufficiency (more on that in a minute), thyroid issues, allergic reactions, use of anti-inflammatories, use of antidepressants and gravity. Gravity. Really.

So you poor puffy bloated thing, you may be suffering from kidney failure, cirrhosis of the liver, pulmonary oedema or gravity.

Let’s have a look at my weekend: I drove 200 miles in one stretch, got out of the car, stood around a lot.  Ate a hot dog for lunch. Ran around on concrete at a dog show. At least I was wearing black tights. But it was hot, so the next day, I just wore Spanx, a kind of long-line girdle. (Tight clothes, remember?) But no stockings as it was so hot. I munched on some roasted almonds with sea salt. Poached a few of my son’s deliciously salty waffle fries. Drank several bottles of water, but probably not enough. I didn’t see a banana all weekend. Indeed, no fruit at all except a handful of grapes. I usually eat a banana a day, so my potassium had probably ebbed some. Stood around, sat around, ran around a ring with a dog and then got back in the car and sat still as I drove another 200 miles home again.

But wait, there’s more. Because I’ve had this problem with swollen ankles, I’d done a little reading on what to do about them. Andrew Weil, MD is generally a reliable source of homeopathic suggestion and he wrote about Horse Chestnut extract and its ability to strengthen vein walls to help counteract venous insufficiency.  Those of us who are a bit sedentary, and overweight (and even some who are not overweight) have a situation to contend with where the blood pools in the lower legs and leaks out of the capillaries and veins. It sounds like it ought to be life-threatening, and it can make very ugly varicose veins– haven’t seen those yet, thank heavens. But I have taken the advice to sleep with my feet slightly elevated, and I have exercised more, and I have taken my Horse Chestnut extract even those it tastes like you’re swallowing wet chewed-up sticks. All of these things worked somewhat, and my legs were less swollen, in fact, I was less swollen all over.

Then I ran out of Horse Chestnut extract. Having taken it faithfully since March I thought– “Eh, I could use a break and anyway, I probably don’t need it anymore and besides which it tastes like chewing on a wet stick.”  Wrong-o. Guess I will be going by the health food store in the morning to pick up some more. And some bananas. And getting back into my regular exercise routine. And steering clear of salt. And gravity.

Target number 60. (Damn water weight.) Steps today 6157. Breakfast was the old standby, brown cow maple yogurt with a quarter cup granola. Lunch was smoked salmon with a mixed green salad, and two small medallions of a vegetable medley, plus a cup of tea. Dinner was green salad, 4 oz of pot roast, a cup of steamed spinach (measured after steaming, not before, lol) 4 Brussel sprouts, quarter cup of cottage cheese, one red potato, 3 tiny carrots, a chocolate dipped strawberry and a two-inch square of bread pudding, no sauce.


2 thoughts on “Under the Horse Chestnut Tree

  1. Great info Larkin – I struggle with the water weight – I love salt and have to force myself to drink water…for me there is a direct relation. It drives me nuts because I feel better when I drink more water, yet I still have to force myself to do it…

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