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Swollen Thighs - Edema?

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For the past few weeks I have been getting very bloated in both my stomach and thighs in the evenings (for some background info I am recovering from anorexia). I understand the tummy bloating because its from the food I'm eating but I am very confused about why my thighs are getting swollen/puffy. Like I said, it builds up throughout the day and is worse in the evenings but when I wake up in the morning I'm back to normal.

At first I thought the thigh swelling was ED distorting what I was seeing in the mirror, but I decided to measure myself one day and my stomach had increased by 5.5 inches by the time I went to bed, and my thighs by about 1.5 inches!

I've heard of edema during refeeding but was told that that would cause puffy ankles rather than thighs? And furthermore, this is my 5 month of refeeding (I am on about 2200 cals) so its not like I've recently drastically increased my intake, although I have started to introduce some light exercise.

Does anyone have any idea what this could be? Its making me very anxious and self conscious.

3 Replies (last)

it definitely sounds like you are experiencing fluid imbalances.  there could be several factors causing this:

1. in refeeding, hormones and chemicals in your body get thrown out of whack.  during prolonged states of food deprivation, the body also is severely dehydrated. it has adaptive mechanisms to conserve fluid that don't shut off right away when you begin increasing your intake.  for instance, there is often an increase in anti-diuretic hormones, and decreased excretion of sodium. hence, increased retention of fluids.  i know you're not in the very beginning of recovery, but maybe your body was shocked for awhile and is just starting to try to balance things out.

2.  idiopathic edema is a common problem correlated with a woman's cycle and hormones.  your water retention may be due to hormonal fluctuations now that your body is getting healthier. google it!

3. you might be building muscle because you are increasing exercise.  muscle retains water. if your thighs are increasing lean mass, they may be retaining some water.


i am going through the same thing.  i'm not in the beginning of my recovery's been a few months.  but i have recently made some changes that for which i think my body is compensating by retaining water. i've got generalized edema all over. my lower legs definitely are swollen, as are my thighs, my arms are even larger (measurements, not just what i'm seeing).  too many fluids can actually make things worse (usually you read the opposite, i know), so make sure you aren't drinking too much (i learned that one the hard way). avoid caffeine (coffee, anyone?), which is a diuretic and can prolong the problem. elevate your legs as much as you can so that the fluid can get back into your circulatory system and excreted via your kidneys. avoid excess sodium and processed foods.  be gentle with the exercise so your body doesn't flip's still in very delicate condition. get enough protein...too many carbohydrates result in increased insulin and more water retention, and lack of protein messes with the osmotic pressure that holds fluids where they should be. oh, and it's summer, so jump in the pool!  the pressure can help push the fluid back into your circulatory system.  


sorry so long...i kind of was writing to myself as much as i was writing to you ;) ...good luck <3

Thank you so much cruumb! Your reply has been really useful - I'm going to google some of the things you suggested.

Good Luck with your recovery :-)

Hi there Grapefruit,

I hope you are doing well and were able to solve the swelling problem.  I know your post regarding it was quite some time ago, but I am wondering if you were able to identify what was causing it.

I am experiencing the same symptoms: swollen thighs that for a few weeks would be less swollen in the morning and way larger at night, but now the swelling is more present in the morning and still does get worse throughout the day; and a swollen stomach which is not as bad as a few weeks ago but is still there.  

This has been going on for a month now and I can't even leave the house due to being self-conscious and not having clothes that fit now with the swelling.  I have been to an ob/gyn and am seeing a gastroenterologist but nothing has been identified yet.

I am so desperate to get well and get my life back, also desperate to get healthy and concerned this could be something dangerous that needs to be treated.  I was just hoping that maybe you found out some information since your symptoms sound identical to mine.  I thought it might be something I could at least check out so that I might get to the bottom of this sooner than later.

I hope I am not bothering you.  I am just crossing my fingers and hoping for some miracle.  I would so appreciate any information you have that might help.

Thank you so very much!  Best wishes!

3 Replies