Water retention and its subsequent weight gain is a particularly bothersome issue for women of all ages, let’s learn all about it.
Understanding water retention
Water or fluid retention is also referred to as edema. It occurs in the circulatory system and may cause bloating, and swelling in the extremities, such as the legs, feet, and ankles.
People who lead extremely sedentary lifestyles with little exercise or those who are bedridden are susceptible to this condition.
Edema can also be indicative of kidney disease or heart failure, so if you have a severe case of it or a severe sudden onset, get emergency medical care.
For the non-severe varieties, that cause swelling, bloating and discomfort and there is no underlying medical condition, making changes in your diet and exercise habits can help.
Why does Water Retention Happen?
When the body retains water, it means that there is extra water around in the tissues that lie between the cells in the body. There are several reasons why this could happen, including the following:
- Carbohydrates—carbohydrates increase water retention, this is why bloating often occurs after a carb heavy fast food meal and may wake up with an extra five pounds on the scale, all in water weight. Let’s start with the carbohydrates. Every one gram of carbohydrate requires three to four grams of water in order to store and process it. In order to translate that into a familiar language, say you eat a medium potato. You’ll get 37 grams of carbs, which needs 110-150 grams of water. That’s about 5 ounces, just below a half pound. On a moderately high carbohydrate diet, the average person will eat around one and a half pounds of water weight just from the carbohydrates in the diet. If you stop eating carbohydrates, you’ll lose that pound right away.
- High levels of salt in the diet is also responsible for excess retention of fluids and if salt, is present in every processed meal you eat, you’ll retain even more fluids.
- Sex hormones—this is especially true for women. Water retention gets more complicated for women. Most women will retain water during their menstrual cycle. In general, 92 percent of women will have water retention in the week before their menstrual period starts. Once menstrual bleeding actually begins, the water weight drops off once again. Some women will have persistent water retention, even after their period. During your period, there are notable changes in your hormone levels, which lead to an increased amount of potassium and sodium in your system.
- Cortisol—chronically high levels of the stress hormone cortisol is a problem for many reasons, and water retention is one of them. It is difficult to say how much cortisol will increase water retention. It can also increase body fat so that the weight you gain from cortisol is probably both from fat and water. If you’re stressed out and feeling puffy or bloated, some of that is probably from water.
Your body is able to retain enough water to equal about 5 pounds per day, depending on the kind of foods you take and the amount you consume.
If you add up all those causes of water retention, you can easily get ten pounds of fluctuation from just water. This is especially true for premenstrual women or from anyone who just ate a high carbohydrate dinner.
PMS and water retention
PMS or premenstrual syndrome is a common cause for water retention in many women. There have been no exhaustive studies that link water retention with premenstrual syndrome. However, lack of essential vitamins and minerals and added salt are triggers for the retention of water in some women.
A British researcher suggested that low blood sugar during PMS could lead to water retention. She argues that low blood glucose levels cause the body to retain water by releasing adrenaline. This signals the body to release more blood sugar. Once the glucose leaves the body, the cells are then filled with water leading to weight gain and bloating.
Recognizing water retention
Water retention is marked by an increase in weight of about 2-5 pounds per day. This is a common sign of swelling, which is characterized by having a bloated abdomen.
Sometimes your clothing can be too tight. Many women who have this problem complain of pain in the swollen areas of their bodies, particularly the feet and ankles.
Key Steps In Reducing Water Retention
- A crucial step in dealing with water retention is to eat less salt, and avoid processed and junk foods, which are high in salt. Read food labels and avoiding processed food products. Try putting the salt away so you won’t be tempted to use it. The use of calcium supplements with your meals can lessen the risks of retaining fluid.
- Increase magnesium intake, one study found that women who took 200 mg of magnesium every day, had less retention during PMS and other studies have shown similar results. You can get magnesium naturally from whole grains, nuts, green vegetables, and dark chocolate.
- You might want to consider working out during your menstrual period to avoid water retention and weight gain. Exercise will increase the blood flow to your kidneys for excretion.
- Make sure you remain hydrated throughout the day by drinking a lot of fluid.
- Other ways to reduce water retention include natural diuretics such as lemon water and grapefruit.
It also helps to eat 5 to 8 smaller meals throughout the day, instead of 3big meals.