Your body is composed of about 60 percent water. This is very crucial for your body to function properly as well as to eliminate waste and dissolved nutrients. If your body failed to get rid of excess water, this is called water retention.
It is not usually a big deal as this is merely temporary and can be treated easily. But, there are instances when water retention is an indication of a serious health problem. If this occurs to you more than a week or so, you need to check with your doctor to ascertain the cause of water retention and to know if you are suffering from a certain health condition.
How to Identify Water Weight
Water retention or fluid retention is often referred to as edema (1). It means that the tissues in your body contain excessive water, which causes it to swell, usually manifested in the extremities. Edema is typically due to the rise in blood pressure on the veins, thereby increasing pressure on the capillaries.
So how can you identify if it is water weight? The first thing that you will notice is the swelling of your extremities (2). Despite your utmost effort to lose weight, you cannot because your body actually contains water weight. But as mentioned earlier, water weight is more evident physically.
So if you have swollen ankles or you have gained weight in just a short period of time, then you may have edema. If you used to wear a ring and it does not fit your finger anymore, that is also a sign of water retention. Or maybe your stomach feels swollen.
If you want to find out if you have edema, try to press your ankle, foot, or calf gently, but give pressure to it using your thumb. An indentation will appear on your skin if water retention is present (3). But don’t depend on your own observation. It is best to let an expert evaluate your current situation.
And yes, you can maintain up to 5 pounds of water weight. The fluid surrounding the cells found in your body is where water weight is usually stored. If you are overweight, it will be easier for you to retain water in your body because it is assumed that you consume more calories. The more calories you consume, the higher amounts of sodium you absorb, and this greatly contributes to edema.
Here are some symptoms of water retention (4):
- Swollen ankles, feet, and legs
- Bloating especially felt in the abdomen
- Puffiness of the face, abdomen, and hips
- Stiff joints
- Fluctuations of weight
- Skin indentations
Causes of Water Retention
Before you know how you can lose water weight, it is best to understand what causes it.
Not all people react the same way with the food they eat. It means that some food may cause water to retain in your body. Sometimes, it is related to anemia, protein deficiency, and lack of vitamins and supplements (5). Some people are recommended to follow a certain diet to eliminate the excess fluid from your body.
Water retention is also associated with medical conditions affecting the kidneys, liver, or heart (6). If a certain area of your body does not function properly, fluid tends to retain in that certain area. And your body is incapable of removing fluid properly if you have a certain health condition.
Prolonged sitting or standing can also cause edema. This is because blood is kept in your lower extremities due to gravity (7). That is why it is crucial for you to move around so that your blood will circulate properly. And even if you have a sedentary lifestyle, always see to it that you will give time to get up and keep your body moving.
During hot weather, your body is less efficient in removing fluid; that is why it tends to retain water. Medications, including over the counter pain relievers, chemotherapy treatments, antidepressants, and blood pressure medications, may trigger water retention as a side effect (8).
Fluctuating hormones and menstrual changes can cause water weight. That is why women tend to have more water weight compared to men because the former tend to have varying hormone levels. Premenstrual and menopausal edema is due to the hormones that affect the fluid balance. Before the menstrual period, women experience hormonal changes that can contribute to water weight, and this is usually manifested by tenderness in the breast (9).
During pregnancy, women usually experience edema. This is because pregnant women normally have weight fluctuations. The change in weight when you are pregnant can lead to water retention, most especially if you don’t move a lot regularly (10).
How to Lose Water Weight
There are different ways on how you can lose water weight, naturally and quickly. Here are just a few techniques:
Lessen your sodium intake
If you want to lose water weight, you need to replace foods rich in sodium with low-sodium equivalents. Sodium or salt is responsible for water retention. This is because your body needs to maintain the balance of sodium with water for it to function properly. That means that if you consumed too much sodium, your body needs more water, which makes you gain water weight.
The recommended sodium intake a day is only 2,300 mg. So you need to limit your sodium intake within the prescribed amount. But the sad news is that an average American typically consumes more than 3,400 mg of sodium a day (11).
Do you know that 75 percent of the sodium you consume every day can be taken from processed foods? Take note that the sodium content of table salt is very high (12). Some foods rich in sodium include cold meat, cheese, frozen meals, bread, savory snacks, and soup mixes.
Natural foods such as nuts, seeds, and vegetables have less sodium. Some foods are capable of reducing your sodium levels, such as leafy vegetables, avocados, and bananas.
Drink more water
It may sound ironic, but you can reduce water weight by drinking more water. This is because dehydration, a condition that makes you lose too much fluid, allows you to keep more water so that it can set off the fluid your body needs (13).
Drinking plenty of water is very important to your entire well-being. Water can help improve your kidney function. This is because water allows excess sodium and water itself to be removed from the system.
Adults are required to drink about 2 liters of water every day (14). The best way for you to maintain your body’s daily water needs is to drink pure water instead of sweetened beverages.
Do you know that the more carbs you consume, the more your body stores extra water? Yes, carbs can be converted to energy. But if this energy from carbs is not used right away, it will be kept as glycogen molecules. Every gram of glycogen molecule contains 3 grams of water, so the more glycogen molecules you store, the more water is retained in your body (15).
That only means that if you cut down your carbs, it will be easier for you to use up the stored glycogen molecules. This will also mean that your water weight will most likely be reduced.
But then, the recommended carbs intake a day should be more than 130 grams. This will enable your body to function properly. The sad news is that an average American usually eats more than the suggested carbs intake. Pasta, rice, and bread are considered as common carbs. If you replace carbs with foods rich in proteins such as eggs, soy products, and lean meats, you will less likely gain water weight.
Magnesium oxide and vitamin B6 are just a few natural remedies that can reduce fluid retention. These supplements aid the kidneys in flushing out excess water and sodium from the system.
Several studies have shown that magnesium oxide and vitamin B6 are effective in relieving the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, including water retention (16). They are also effective in reducing swelling in the legs, breast tenderness, and abdominal bloating.
Before you should opt for magnesium oxide and vitamin B6 supplements, it is best to seek help from your doctor first. They may be beneficial for water weight loss, but they may have interactions with your current medication or have side effects on your body.
If you engage in physical activities, you tend to sweat, and that makes you excrete extra water from your body. You already know how exercise can make you lose weight. The good news is that it includes water weight. That is why right after you exercise, you observe a drop in your weight, specifically water weight (17).
Your blood flow is stimulated, and circulation is improved once you workout. This can reduce the build-up of fluid throughout your body, especially in your feet and legs. If you exercise regularly, your water weight is reduced by burning glycogen molecules stored in your body. But it is necessary for you to replace the fluids lost to avoid dehydration.
Your doctor may prescribe you to take water pills. Water pills are known to treat fluid retention. These pills act as diuretics, which means that you will often be urinating (18). If you urinate a lot, your body will get rid of excess water as well as sodium.
But it is worth noting that water pills are not for long-term use. These pills should be taken with the prescription of your doctor. These may have the effect of dehydration or mineral deficits, so you should be very careful in taking these.
Consume water-rich foods
Aside from drinking plenty of water, you also need to consume foods containing a high percentage of water. These foods can help you flush out excess sodium that lingers in your body. Some foods rich in water include watermelon, grapefruit, cucumber, celery, and peaches (19).
And yes, these fruits can also detoxify your body. This will not only make you lose water weight, but also body weight. So if you are thinking of losing weight, try to include water-rich foods in your diet.
Consume foods rich in magnesium
We have mentioned earlier that supplements rich in magnesium oxide can help reduce water weight. Sometimes, it is better to consume natural foods such as leafy greens, nuts, and beans, to reduce water retention (20).
Studies show that taking 200 grams of magnesium a day can help in reducing water retention. This is best consumed before your period comes. Remember that women tend to gain more water weight because of hormone fluctuations, especially before menstruation.
Potassium is usually found in various fresh fruits and vegetables. Oranges, cantaloupe, apricots, bananas, honeydew, grapefruits, spinach, and broccoli are good sources of potassium. Juice from fruits rich in potassium such as from orange, tomato, prune, apricot, and grapefruit are also a good choice (21).
Consuming foods and drinks high in potassium can help reduce water weight. Potassium is an electrolyte that can help increase your urine levels and decrease your sodium levels.
Protein is very important if you want to lose weight and build body muscles. If you skip this nutrient, you will actually gain water weight. That is why your body needs enough protein as well as calories to maintain your muscles.
Don’t worry if you are not a meat-eater. You can obtain proteins from vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, collard greens, mustard greens, Chinese cabbage, alfalfa sprouts, and watercress (22).
Water retention is not really a major concern, but it can be recurring and uncomfortable. Yes, water is essential in your body not only to make it function properly but also to get rid of waste. Some techniques might work to reduce water weight, such as drinking plenty of water, engaging in physical activities, consuming foods rich in protein, potassium, water, and magnesium, reducing carbs, and many more.