Water retention is everyone’s favorite reason for explaining weight gain, or difficulty in achieving weight loss. But, water retention can affect the best of us, and can sometimes sabotage weight loss plans. If you’re feeling puffed and bloated, and don’t seem to get anywhere no matter how many crunches you do, you may be suffering from water retention.
What is Water Retention?
Edema, also known as fluid or water retention, and is caused by the accumulation of excess fluids in the circulatory system and areas between the body’s cells. It can cause different body parts to swell, with the face, hands, feet, ankles and legs being most common. Edema often affects pregnant women, but anyone can develop the condition. Certain diuretic and potassium-rich foods can help combat edema.
Causes of Water Retention
According to University of Maryland Medical Center, there are many potential causes of water retention, such as the body’s reaction to humid weather, hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, menopause and side effects of oral contraceptive pills among women. Nutritional deficiencies, hypothyroidism, heart or liver disorders could be the reasons behind water retention for both, men and women. Further, a lack of protein, poor kidney function, prescribed medications and inadequate intakes of certain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are all thought to be potential causes. Even the presence of toxins in the body caused by everything from pollution and smoking to dust and processed foods, are also believed to be possible contributors. But top of the hit list are food allergies.
As we get older our stomachs become less efficient at producing acid and our food doesn’t digest properly. The partially undigested food then passes into the intestine where it can cause irritation and inflammation. This also damages the intestinal wall, causing it to become ‘leaky’, allowing undigested food particles and other potentially harmful substances to enter the blood.
Because these particles should not be in the blood, the immune system springs into action and releases antibodies to deal with them, this is what causes allergy symptoms, including fluid retention. It is thought we are more likely to become allergic to the foods we eat most often such as wheat, dairy and eggs, so these are the main foods that are most likely to be responsible for causing fluid retention.
Eliminating the foods causing problems will cause the fluid retention to disappear and you’ll lose weight quickly. If, however, fluid retention is caused by another problem, weight loss may be much slower.
How To Beat The Bloat
Lay Off The Salt
Eating foods such as french fries, potato chips, and various other foods loaded with unnecessary amounts of sodium, will cause you to retain water. The body only needs between 2000-2500mg of sodium a day to complete its metabolic functions, so if you go way over that, you are overindulging, which can create many health problems and concerns. Keep your sodium moderate, and replace excess salt with spices such as garlic, ginger, fresh vegetables, black pepper, chives, cilantro, or hot sauce.
Eat More Fiber
Most Americans, and even more surprisingly, most “bodybuilders”, do not consume adequate amounts of fiber. Similar to water, which cleanses the urinary tract and kidneys, fiber cleanses the colon & intestinal tract, keeping things moving smoothly, and mores, aiding in the removal of excess fluid.
During meals, I include fresh vegetables, and eat them raw or steamed with Balsamic Vinegar and/or garlic for plenty of nutrients. I also include fresh fruits such as blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries, all of which have plenty of fiber and many antioxidants that help prevent cancer and other ailments.
Water retention is not simply “water”, but sodium ions trapped underneath the skin, and is why your sweat tastes salty. Sweating is a way the body regulates its temperature, and if you are sweating, it means your metabolism is in high gear. A higher metabolism equals a higher resting body temperature, so a trick you can use is to sit in a sauna, and keep drinking water or coconut water. In the beginning, your sweat will taste salty, telling you that you are retaining sodium, but after a while, your sweat will begin to taste like water. This tells you that you have sweat most of the sodium out that was being retained underneath your skin, and have lost a good portion of that muscle-masking fluid.
Diuretics can be natural or synthetic, and they increase the amount of urine excreted from the body. The kidneys make urine by filtering out water, sodium and potassium from the blood, then the kidneys return an exact amount of sodium and potassium ions and some water to the blood stream so these levels will remain constant. The rest of the water goes into the bladder as urine.
When blood flow to the kidneys declines due to illness, they respond by retaining water, which is why diuretics are prescribed. For this reason, doctors also prescribe diuretics to treat high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and liver disease, all of which cause water retention.
That said, prolonged use or abuse of any diuretics without medical supervision can lead to dehydration, which can cause kidney damage and an imbalance in normal levels of electrolytes (sodium & potassium), which are vital to the heart, kidney and liver function. When electrolytes are out of balance, you’re at high risk for heart failure and sudden death.
Foods With Diuretic Properties
Beverages containing caffeine like Coffee and tea work very well, along with several other foods including celery, onion, eggplant, asparagus and watermelon are also very effective.
In addition, many herbs such as hawthorn, corn silk, and parsley are used as diuretics in natural medicine. Of these, hawthorn, is said to be the most powerful. The natural herb dandelion root is also a good naturally occurring diuretic, and works well when taken in conjunction with the previous methods I have outlined.
One main rule of thumb is that 90% of your diet should consist of whole grains, unprocessed foods, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, non-GMO tofu, soya and oily fish. The other 10 percent can be whatever you want.
You may think restricting your water intake will reduce your bloat, but dehydration will actually make your body hold on to water, just like it does with fat. When it comes to water, DRINK UP! Drink a glass as soon as you wake up and keep sipping all day. Make it even more effective by slipping it with a few slices of lemon, lime, or orange as citrus is high in potassium and can relieve bloating!
Melons, citrus, and other potassium-rich fruits will help reduce water retention because they are high in the mineral potassium that balances sodium levels. Start your day with a fruit salad or a fruit smoothie!
Whole Grains & Nuts
These tasty are sources of vitamin B6, which is a nutrient associated with PMS relief, which makes whole grain products and nuts a good snack when you’re feeling bloated. Make sure the whole grains you choose are low in sodium and avoid the salted nuts. An added bonus is that whole grains are a great source of fiber and nuts are packed with good fats.
These fish are loaded with omega-3s, and salmon is a super food that is not only food for the heart, brain, and joints, it can also fend off PMS. Other rich sources of omega-3s include tuna, mackerel, herring, and flax. Include salmon and other fatty fish in your diet at least twice per week.
Foods to Avoid
Hiding the salt shaker is only one way to avoid water retention. More importantly, limit your intake of processed, packaged foods, which are nearly always loaded with sodium. Instead, comprise your diet of fresh, wholesome foods, which in addition to reducing your risk of bloating, are a benefit to your health.
Source: The Science of Eating