Water Retention and Weight Gain
It is very common for even healthy adults to experience weight fluctuations due to water retention, which account for many day-to-day fluctuations on the scale. While most people can retain up to five pounds of “hidden” water weight within the natural fluid that surrounds cells, known as extra-cellular fluid, those who are overweight or suffer from obesity people may retain up to eight to ten pounds.
Water Retention and Menopause
As women enter menopause, nearly 90% will gain weight from a shift in hormones. While most women expect to experience hot flashes, many are surprised by weight changes. However, some of this weight is just appearance-based due to water retention and bloating from decreased progesterone levels. While this isn’t fat-related weight gain, many women will notice a change in the way their clothes fit and experience the feeling of being heavier.
However, even the weight unrelated to water retention is not necessarily unhealthy per se, as it helps prepare the body against osteoporosis and other illnesses. Try to focus on health and maintaining an active lifestyle, and water retention and bloating will generally resolve itself within a few months.
Water Retention and Hypertension
High blood pressure and water retention go hand in hand, as hypertension can result from too much fluid in normal blood vessels or from normal fluid in narrow blood vessels. Blood pressure measures the force of blood against the walls of your blood vessels, and if it remains high over time is called hypertension. It is therefore very important to manage fluid levels, which can affect blood pressure.
Water Retention and Diuretics
Many people are interested in using diuretics to treat water retention. Whether natural or synthetic, diuretics increase the amount of urine excreted, and are usually used prescribed for patients with blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and liver disease. Diuretics also have the potential for creating a vicious cycle of water retention, known as rebound edema, as they alter salt- and water-retaining hormones. When the diuretics are stopped, hormone levels are out of balance.
In addition, prolonged use of diuretics can lead to dehydration, which can cause kidney damage and an imbalance in normal levels of electrolytes (e.g., sodium and potassium), which are vital to heart, kidney and liver function. When electrolytes are out of balance, heart failure and sudden death.
Many people also turn to diuretics for weight loss, which only leads to temporary results and potentially other health problems. Since water retention has many causes, it is important not to begin taking water retention medication without proper medical supervision.
Diagnosing Water Retention
The diagnosis of water retention is determined by a physical examination, the symptoms presented as well as medical history. Various tests such as blood tests, urine tests, liver and kidney function tests, chest x-ray or an electrocardiogram (ECG) may also be performed to determine the cause.
If water retention is a symptom of a serious underlying disorder, the disorder must be treated first.
* Feeling of puffiness, especially the feet, ankles and legs
* Appearance of shiny, stretched skin
* Dimples/indentations upon pressing the skin
* Swollen, stiff and painful joints
* A bloated or enlarged abdomen
* Breathing difficulties
* Decreased flexibility of the joints (ankles, wrists and fingers)
* Sudden or rapid weight gain
Shortness of breath, chest pain, redness or heat in the swollen edematous area(s) are rare but serious symptoms that should receive immediate medical care.
What Causes Water Retention?
Causes of body water retention depend on a wide range of factors including a high salt intake, as a reaction to hot weather, gravity, nutritional deficiencies, burns as well as sunburn and as a side effect of certain drugs. Pregnancy, oral contraceptives such as the pill, the menstrual cycle and menopause are also known causes of body water retention.
One of the main causes of weight-related water retention can be attributed to sodium intake, particularly from processed foods. In addition, since sodium is present in all foods, a higher intake of food in general also contributes to weight gain from fat stores and subsequent water retention.
People dieting may experience frustrations in weight fluctuations related to water retention. Many people turn to diuretics or water pills, which create a false sense of weight loss. Reducing calories too quickly also forces the body to use up stores of carbohydrates and breakdown protein in the muscles, which also leads to water weight stored in those cells- sometimes with up to 75% of weight loss related to water weight. However, after calorie ingestion is resumed to a normal level, the water weight is restored as well.
Fluctuating hormone levels, hormonal imbalances, and a loss of progesterone can attribute to water retention in menopausal women. Unless the weight gain is excessive, it should not be a cause of concern and can be self-managed.
While it is not entirely known why high blood pressure occurs, a strong genetic component has been indicated. Other risk factors for high blood pressure include smoking, alcoholism, and high salt intake, being overweight, lack of exercise, and high levels of stress. Conditions known to cause secondary hypertension include Cushing’s syndrome, diabetic nephropathy, kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, obesity, and many more.
Since many of the above conditions are linked to water retention such as salt intake and obesity, it is important to receive a proper diagnosis and take measures to control blood pressure and fluid levels in the body.
This condition may also be symptomatic of other serious diseases such as heart failure, liver disease, arthritis, allergic reactions, thyroid disease such as hypothyroidism, chronic lung diseases, malignant lymphoedema or kidney disease
Treatment involves rectifying the underlying causes of body water retention. A low dose of diuretic (water pill) may be prescribed to reduce swelling. In more severe cases of water retention, where the blood vessels are blocked or damaged, surgery may be required.
Natural Remedies for Water Retention
Natural and holistic treatments provide gentle water retention remedies. Those seeking a natural remedy for water retention may use herbs such as Uva ursi, Horse chestnut and Buchu for their excellent diuretic properties. Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion) and Olea europea help to balance blood pressure, assist liver and gall bladder functioning and improve circulation.
Water retention remedies that use herbal and homeopathic remedies are safe and effective and not as harsh as prescription diuretics.