Causes of water retention

October 18, 2007 by  
Filed under Blog

The changes within your body which cause water retention are intimately linked to what you eat. They can be set off by any of the following

  • Regularly eating too much salt and/or sugar
  • Not eating enough fresh fruit and vegetables
  • High levels of wastes or toxins in your body
  • Taking certain commonly-prescribed medications
  • Long-term use of very low-calorie diets, which tend to be deficient in protein and other nutrients
  • Food intolerances (similar to allergies) are common causes of water retention
  • Lack of exercise
  • Chronic dehydration

Too much salt and sugar

These are common causes of water retention. Salt affects your kidneys and blood pressure. The sodium in salt makes your kidneys hold on to water instead of excreting it.

Eating too much sugar raises levels of the hormone insulin. High insulin levels make it hard for you to excrete sodium. As sodium accumulates it causes water retention so people who indulge a sweet tooth can be prone to water retention.

A lack of fruit and vegetables

Certain fruits and vegetables contain special ingredients which help to prevent your blood vessels from leaking fluid into your tissue spaces. To treat or prevent water retention, it is vital to include them in your diet. A deficiency of fruit and vegetable nutrients is one of the commonest causes of water retention.

There are also herbal products which help to strengthen blood vessels. These herbs are not the same as the herbal diuretics which make your kidneys work harder.

Wastes and toxins

Cellulite is a form of fat combined with water. Sometimes it holds so much water that it is painful to the touch. Metabolic wastes and toxins such as pesticides which the body cannot easily release tend to be stored in this fat and water retention. The only way to get rid of them is to use foods and herbs which support your body’s detox mechanisms.

Prescribed medicines

If you are on prescription medicines you may not realise that some of the most common medications can be causes of water retention. They make you retain water because they affect your body’s handling of sodium and insulin. The contraceptive pill is one of the commonest causes of water retention and can make you gain a lot of water weight very quickly.

Very low-calorie diets

If you have water retention you are very likely to be overweight. But overweight people tend to go on a low-calorie diet. A low-calorie diet is one of the causes of water retention. And if you already have water retention, it can unfortunately make it worse, especially if you eat less than 1,200 Calories a day for months or years.

One of the most important nutrients to prevent water retention is protein. Protein is in short supply in very low-calorie diets. The most suitable diet for people with water retention is the Waterfall Diet.

Food intolerances

Overloading the stomach, drinking alcohol, taking medications and antibiotics, consuming too much sugar, not getting enough dietary fibre – all these modern-day habits can affect your digestive ability. Undigested particles can get into your blood system and stimulate your immune cells to produce histamine. This histamine is a potentially big cause of water retention.

Lack of exercise

People who spend a lot of time immobile, e.g. those in hospital beds, wheelchairs, or on long-haul flights, even “couch potatoes” can develop water retention because without regular movement to help it, your lymphatic system cannot drain excess fluid out of your tissue spaces.

Chronic dehydration

Consuming too many diuretic drinks (drinks which make you pee more) such as tea, coffee and alcohol, or taking water pills (diuretic medicines or herbs) can lead to chronic, long-term dehydration. This forces your body to hold on to water to prevent damage to your body’s tissues.

For instance, people who regularly take water pills can find that they swell up with water retention whenever the pills wear off. This is known as ‘rebound’ water retention.

It may seem contradictory, but the solution is to drink the recommended two litres of water a day. Water is the only drink which can keep you properly hydrated.

Water retention is a complex condition. You can find detailed information about its causes and how to treat them in Linda Lazarides’ book The Waterfall Diet. The information in this book provides the fastest route to getting rid of water retention quickly and permanently. It is especially useful for showing you to test yourself to find out which foods are safe for you to eat and which are not. Read reviews.

The Waterfall Diet book is available from:

Or download Low-Carb Dieting and the Waterfall Diet, an e-book which also provides full instructions for the diet.

Drinking less fluid will not cure water retention, and could make it worse.

Linda Lazarides is Course Director of the School of Modern Naturopathy and author of eight books on health, nutrition and naturopathy.

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