Dealing with water retention

Have you ever heard the term water retention or excess water? Well, although a major constituent of our body is water, we can still gain weight due to water retention. This condition is the result of imbalance in electrolytes, minerals and water in our bodies.

Water retention can sometimes be an indication of a very serious medical problem, so whenever you have water retention, it is better to consult your healthcare provider.

  • Signs and symptoms of water retention include:
  • Swelling of body parts (ankles, feet and hands).
  • When pressed, the skin may show the indent for a few seconds.
  • Bloated tummy.
  • Feeling stiff or having joints and muscle aches.
  • Weight fluctuation.
  • Increased pulse.
  • Difficulty breathing.

There are different causes for water retention, for example:

1. Dietary habits

Nowadays, our daily diet and the food we consume is very high in salt and sodium. The consumption of sodium, may in turn lead to water retention. Sodium is found in processed foods, pickles, readymade salad dressings, canned food etc. A low protein diet can also cause water retention.

2. Exercise

People with very low activity levels, either due to health problems, lack of exercise or pregnancy for example, tend to develop swollen limbs and have water retention. Exercise is the best defence against this.

3. Medication

Some over-the-counter drugs, such as steroids, contraceptives, antidepressants and hormones, interfere with the process of fluid removal. Whenever you are taking any of these medications, pay attention to any signs of swelling or edema and consult your doctor if you have any doubts.

4. Diseases

Hypertension, congestive heart failure, hypothyroidism, liver disease and some allergic reactions may lead to water retention.

5. Pregnancy

Pregnancy causes a change in the hormones, which may lead to fluid imbalance, causing water retention.

Water retention usually clears up by itself. However, here are some self-help measures that will help you lose the excess fluid:

a. Increase your protein intake as per the recommended 0.8 g/kg of your body weight.

b. Increase your potassium intake - this helps in reducing fluid retention.

c. Consult your doctor on your medication dosage, if you are on any.

d. Add more water-containing fruit and vegetables to your diet, such as cucumber, parsley, salad leaves, watermelon and oranges. These are natural diuretics.

e. Drink more water as water retention results from a lack of water consumption. The water will help your kidneys flush the extra fluids. Aim for eight to 12 glasses per day.

f. Reduce your sodium intake and try consuming homemade food as much as possible. When eating out, look out for options which are low in salt.

g. Eat a healthy, balanced diet that contains a lot of vegetables, grains and other high-fibre foods. This is to prevent any deficiencies and because fibre cleanses the colon/intestinal tract, keeping things moving smoothly. It also aids in the removal of excess fluid.

h. Exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day to keep the blood circulating in your system, thus preventing water retention.

Whenever you suspect you have water retention, try looking out for the signs and symptoms. If you find any, consult your healthcare provider, so they can help you with solving the issue.

With thanks to Reem Abdallah at Health Factory.

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