Water Retention, we all heard about this term but most of us don’t really have a clear idea what it is and what causes it. We will try to explain the Symptoms, Causes, Complications, Remedies and Prevention of Water Retention.
What is Water Retention?
The human body is made up of about 60% – 70% water on average and it is essential for life. Water retention, medically speaking, is called Edema, where water or fluid collecting in the body’s tissues. Water retention occurs frequently during pregnancy or with age. The occurrence of water retention is more frequent among older individuals because they are more likely to have an underlying medical condition or are taking medication that alters the way excess fluids are removed. But water retention can happen to any gender or at any age.
There are many reasons that may cause water retention to occur. The simplest of cases occur because someone is standing on their feet all day. Gravity pulls water down into tissues within the feet, ankles and legs. Other cases of water retention may be caused by heart failure or liver disease. If your body cannot remove the fluids efficiently and effectively, they can build up over time. Another common factor for water retention is the excess salt consumption. It could also be due to toxins from the food and the environment that you have ingested or absorbed. If your body cannot get rid of the toxins effectively, your body will retain water to dilute these toxins.
What are the Symptoms of Water Retention?
When someone has water retention, they can find the following symptoms:
- Bloating, especially in the abdominal area,
- Swollen legs, feet and ankles,
- Puffiness of the abdomen, face and hips
- Stiff joints
- Weight Fluctuations
- Indentations in the skin, after pressing the affected area for ten seconds with fingers
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
When the water retention occurs in the legs, it may make the legs feel heavier than normal. In more severe cases, it can make walking or movement difficult. Over time, the water retention will cause compression of blood vessels and interfere with blood flow. Water retention may also affect the lungs, causing shortness of breath leading to lower oxygen levels.
What are the main causes of Water Retention?
There are a number of factors that cause water retention. Here are the common ones:
- Flying long distances in an airplane: Changes in cabin pressure and sitting for an extended period of time may cause your body to hold on to water. So, it is important to stand up and move around in the plan for long flights.
- Standing or sitting too long: Gravity keeps blood in your lower extremities. People with a sedentary job or jobs that require long hours of sitting or standing may suffer from water retention. It is important to move and walk around to improve circulation.
- Menstrual cycles: Each month, women may suffer from side effects like water retention. This results in feelings of being bloated or a heavy sensation a week or two before menstruation begins. Why hormonal changes cause water retention is not known but women with a family history of water retention may be more likely to develop problems.
- Varicose Veins: In the first stages of varicose veins, no visible change is apparent on the legs. As the disease progress, spider veins will appear. Unable to effectively transmit blood throughout the body, the veins may begin to bunch up and create a lumpy appearance along the skin’s surface. Individuals who suffer from varicose veins may deal with swelling and pain. Often, this pain is worse during the nighttime hours. Since the weakened blood veins cannot transmit fluid throughout the body, it can start to pool in certain areas of the body. This leads to fluid retention and a buildup of toxins in the body part. Unfortunately, there are very few cures for varicose veins. Although the affected veins can be removed, the additional cardiovascular problems may be difficult to treat.
- Pregnancy: The shift in weight during pregnancy causes an added strain on some of the major veins in the pelvis. The added strain can stop fluid from being removed easily and can lead to water retention. It is important for pregnant mothers to move regularly to alleviate the water retention condition. This is a natural part of pregnancy and most women do not have to worry about any long-term effects. Once the child is born, the body will revert to normal.
- High Salt Intake: Specifically, Sodium. Food these days such as processed food, snacks, canned and preserved foods are high in salt content. Our bodies are smart and will retain water to dilute the sodium content when the excess salt cannot be eliminated quickly enough.
- Dehydration: Yes, dehydration can cause water retention. It seems ironic but according to Dr. Batmanghelidj in Water for Health, for Healing, for Life, water retention is one of the body’s adaptive measures “to correct dehydration inside the vital cells of the body, such as the brain cells, the liver cells, the kidney cells, the lungs, and other important organs and glands.” . When the body is dehydrated, salt is retained in the body, and extra salt will retain extra fluid in the tissues.
- Wastes and Toxins: Metabolic wastes and toxins, including heavy metals, pesticides, chemicals from personal care and household cleaning products, and various other environmental pollutants are often stored in fat cells. The causes of water retention in cellulite, a type of fat that retains water, are believed to be caused by the body’s attempt to dilute the toxins and protect the body from cellular damage. In addition, toxins not removed from the blood stream will trigger our bodies to produce more fat to store these toxins.
- Medications: One of the possible side effects of certain medications is water retention. The types of medication most commonly associated with water retention include oral contraceptives, high-blood pressure medications, steroids, and some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Heart Failure: The heart circulates blood, nutrients and fluid through our body and when the heart does not pump blood properly due to disease, it stops removing fluids and toxins. Over time, this allows water to be retained within the tissues.
Complications of Water Retention
Most complications are minor and relates to puffiness and feeling of bloating, which is more cosmetic than a real problem. However, sometimes the condition may be more serious when joints becomes affected, movements become restricted and starts to damage joints.
Some water retention is caused by medical conditions such as heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver, kidney failure, premenstrual syndrome and preeclampsia. These underlying causes are serious and a physician should be consulted when you have any of the above conditions.
Water retention in the lungs that causes difficulty in breathing is called pulmonary edema. This makes it difficult to breathe and raise the pressure in the pulmonary artery. Prolonged pulmonary edema increases the risk for heart failure.
One of the dangers of water retention in the feet and ankles is skin wounds caused by friction from footwear. This can be dangerous for people with diabetes.
Remedies and Prevention
Here are 6 ways to help and prevent water retention.
- Exercise on a regular basis.
Exercising may be one of the best ways to reduce water weight in the short-term. Any form of activity that increases sweat means that you will lose water. The average fluid loss during 1 hour of exercise is anywhere between 0.5 – 2 litres of water, depending on factors such as the climate, environment and clothing.
When exercising, your body also shifts a lot of water into your muscles, making muscles bigger. This can reduce water outside of the cells and decrease the “soft” look associated with excessive water retention. However, it is still vital to drink plenty of water during exercise, which will help to flush out toxins from the body. Another option to increase sweat and water loss is the sauna, which you could add in after your workout.
- Adequate Sleep
It is well known that sleep is just as important as diet and exercise. Sleep may also affect the sympathetic nerves in the kidneys, which regulate sodium and water balance. Your body detoxes while you sleep and flushes out toxins from your body. Less toxins, less need for your body to retain water. For most individuals getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep will be beneficial.
- Reduce Salt Intake
Sodium plays an important role in hydration levels. Too low or too high will lead to imbalances within the body and therefore fluid retention. Diets with lots of processed and preserved foods are typically high in salt and will increase water retention. Water retention will be exacerbated by low water intake and no exercise.
So, avoid processed and preserved foods if possible and have more fresh food and use less salt in cooking.
- Drink More Water
Increasing water intake will also reduce water retention. It seems ironic but when having more water will flush out the salt, reducing the need for the body to retain water. Your body is always trying to achieve a healthy balance, so if you are constantly dehydrated, your body tends to retain more water in an attempt to prevent water levels from becoming too low.
Achieving an optimal daily water intake can also be important for liver and kidney health, which may reduce water retention in the long term. So, drink at least 2 litres of water every day, more if you exercise.
A simple way to assess your hydration levels is to monitor your urine colour. It should be light yellow or fairly clear, which is a good indicator that you are well hydrated.
- Cut Carbs
Cutting carbs is a common strategy to quickly drop excess water. Carbs are stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen, but glycogen also pulls water inside along with it.
For every gram of glycogen, you store, 3–4 grams of water may be stored with it. This explains why people experience immediate weight loss when switching to a low-carb diet, which reduces glycogen stores.
Carbs also lead to a rise in the hormone insulin, which can cause an increase in sodium retention and re-absorption of water in the kidneys. Consequently, by changing to a low-carb diet, it will lead to a drop in insulin levels, which then leads to a loss of sodium and water from the kidneys.
In contrast, if you are on a low-carb diet or dieting in general, then a high-carb meal may pull excess body fluid into your muscles and increase water weight.
Try altering your carb intake and see what works best for you.
- Take a Balanced High Quality Nutritional Supplements
Certain nutrients are well known to help with water retention. For example, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B5 are known for their ability to reduce fluid retention. Vitamin B6 is especially effective for mild cases that are caused by premenstrual syndrome.
Calcium, potassium, magnesium and manganese can help with water retention. They cause the body to release extra liquid and fluids. There are a lot of evidence showing that magnesium can reduce water weight and premenstrual symptoms.
You might ask why not just take specific nutrients instead of a broad spectrum, balanced and high quality nutritional supplements. The fact is that our cells need a balanced range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to function. Providing our cells with the optimal levels of nutritional support would ensure optimal function, including purging toxins from our cells. Doing so will reduce water retention since there will be less toxins in our cells and less need for cells to retain excess water to dilute the toxins.
A high quality nutritional supplements should be manufactured under pharmaceutical grade GMP, it should have potency guarantee and adheres to US and UK Pharmacopeia for potency, uniformity and disintegration. To choose a high quality nutritional supplements, refer to “Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements” which compares thousands of products and rank them in a scientific and fair manner.
Water retention is a common health issue that can be caused by a variety of factors including diet, menstrual cycles, medication, pregnancy, age, disease and toxins. You can help relieve and prevent water retention by making some lifestyle changes including exercising, consume less processed food, drink more water and take high quality nutritional supplements.
As with all health issues, if water retention persists, consult your doctor to determine if there is any underlying disease causing the water retention and medical intervention is required.