Feeling a Little Bloated? Water Retention Causes
Most of us have felt like the Good Year blimp from time to time for one reason or another, or, for most of us females, a brief, monthly transformation is expected, but for the most part, the body handles our fluid levels without our second thought. Normally the body uses an intricate system of hormones and prostaglandins (hormone-like substances), to keep our fluid volume at a constant level. For instance, if one day we drink several glasses of water or other beverage, weight does not increase for the long term. The kidneys spring into action sending us to the bathroom to get rid of any extra as urine.
On the contrary, if we do not consume enough fluid, our bodies do the opposite and hold onto the fluids, causing less frequent trips to the bathroom. So basically our body is good at keeping us right where we need to be. Sometimes, however, conditions arise where the body is retaining too much water, and this may be reason for concern.
Frequent Causes of Water Retention
• Consuming too Much Salt: Sodium ingestion and water retention go hand in hand. Consuming too much salt is one of the most common explanations for why people retain fluid.
• Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS): Experts suggest that because of the rise and fall of hormone levels experienced by women, they have an increased risk of retaining water. In addition to hormonal imbalances, some nutritional factors may play a role as well.
• Oral Contraceptives: Birth control pills that contain estrogen can also cause some women to experience body water retention.
• Standing for Long Periods of Time: Gravity can also take its toll on the body causing fluid to “pool” in tissues of the lower legs.
• Heat: High temperatures can cause the body to be less able to remove fluid from its tissues.
• Deficiencies in the Diet: Nutritional deficiencies such as an inadequate consumption of vitamin B1 (thiamine), which can lead to fluid retention and B5 and B6 which help out with fluid distribution. Also, when there are low levels of protein (albumin) in the bloodstream, edema can result as well.
• Pregnancy: During pregnancy, hormones are released that encourage the body to conserve fluid. The placenta and the fetus need some of this fluid. Pregnant women commonly retain a considerable amount of sodium and water leading to swelling in the face, lower legs, feet, and hands.
• Burns: With burns, including sunburns, the skin reacts by retaining water, causing a localized edema (swelling).
• Menopause: Of course, variations in hormone levels and estrogen replacement therapy are to blame here, resulting in bloating and water retention for both perimenopausal and postmenopausal women.
• Side Effects of Medications: Water retention and swelling may result from different types of drugs such as certain forms of steroid medications (corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) as well as medications to treat high blood pressure.
Water retention may also be caused by more serious medical conditions such as kidney disease, heart failure (Congestive Heart Failure), liver disease, cancerous tumors of the lymph system, thyroid disease, arthritis, allergic reactions, Idiopathic Cyclic Edema (occurs in young menstruating women in which tissue swelling occurs in the legs and abdomen after long periods of sitting or standing and swelling of the face and eyelids when lying down), and chronic venous insufficiency, or weak valves in the veins of the legs, preventing the return of blood to the heart as efficiently as it should.
Water Retention Symptoms
1. Swollen or bloated abdomen, legs, feet, ankles, or face.
2. Fluctuating body weight within a short time frame.
3. Exercise and a calorie conscientious diet does not help you lose weight.
4. “Dent” left on shin bone when finger pressed against bone.
5. Skin over affected area may feel stretched and appear shiny.
How to Prevent Water Retention
1. Limit Salt Intake: Avoid adding extra salt at the dinner table or during cooking and reduce consumption of processed foods. Beware of hidden sodium is dressings, sauces, canned vegetables and soups, and deli meats.
2. Physical Activity/Leg Relief: Exercise such as walking, swimming, or bicycling will help get excess fluid out of the legs. Also, taking the time to put your feet up several times a day will also help improve circulation.
3. Eating Healthy: Eating a healthy diet will ensure getting all the right vitamins and minerals necessary for proper body functioning. Bananas and raisins contain high amounts of potassium which can help to reduce fluid retention.
4. Drink More Water: Drinking water is a great way to flush out your system and can reduce bloating, especially premenstrual bloating. Drink around 8-10 glasses a day and more may be needed for those who exercise. Note: some medical conditions may not advise drinking additional water, so it is always best to check with your doctor to discuss individual circumstances.
5. Consume Natural Diuretics When Necessary: Cabbage, parsley, asparagus, celery, and cranberry juice are all natural diuretics that can help to eliminate retained fluid as needed.
6. Avoid Extremes in Temperature: Where possible, avoid extremes of heat such as saunas, hot tubs, and of course being out in the sun for extended periods of time. If it is cold, bundle up.
Experiencing water retention can be very uncomfortable leaving one with that “blimp” feeling and annoying swelling of various areas, especially the abdomen, legs, ankles, feet, and face. Water retention can be caused by several common factors such as salt intake, hormones, deficiencies in the diet, etc., as well as more serious medical conditions. It is always a good idea to check with your physician to discuss possible reasons why you may be retaining water. You can work to prevent water retention by limiting salt intake, eating healthy, exercising to increase blood flow, and choosing foods that have natural diuretic properties, as necessary. By doing your part, you can make those transformations into the Good Year blimp happen as seldom as possible.
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