By Reem Abdallah, Junior Dietician, Health Factory
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.
Some of the signs and symptoms of water retention:
· 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, some of which can be summarized as follows:
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, ready-made salad dressings, canned food etc. Another dietary habit that also causes water retention is a low protein diet.
People with very low activity levels, either due to health problems, lack of exercise, pregnancy etc., tend to develop swollen limbs and have water retention. Exercise is the best defense against this phenomenon. On the other hand, people who don’t exercise often develop swollen limbs, over-burdened organs and gain weight easily. Exercise is, in fact, one of the best defenses against water retention.
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.
Hypertension, congestive heart failure, hypothyroidism, liver disease and some allergic reactions may lead to retention.
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 fruits and vegetables, such as cucumber, parsley, salad leaves, watermelon and oranges etc., which 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 8-12 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-fiber 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 having water retention, try looking out for its signs and symptoms. If you do find any, please consult your healthcare provider, so they can help you with solving this issue.