At least once every day, I get a question on water retention as I work with a lot of women, and this is a condition that is very common in women. Some men experience it, but not nearly as much as women. Hormones are a huge contributor, which is something very difficult to control, but there are many other factors that contribute to water retention as well as some “tools” we can add to our “toolbox” when it does happen.
Factors that contribute to bloating/water retention:
- Not drinking enough water
Dehydration causes the body to hold onto excess water to compensate for the lack of water intake or excretion of too much water (like through sweating)
Dehydration causes excess histamines to be produced in the body. Histamine is a powerful neurotransmitter responsible for many functions inside of the body. When the body is dehydrated, excess histamines are produced which causes an increase in asthma and allergy symptoms.
Lack of water intake also causes excess salt and fluid to be held in the tissues making the body look and feel bloated.
- Eating more salt than you need. Current recommendation is to keep daily salt intake less than 2,300 mg per day. A few items to watch out for are:
- Processed meats (sandwich meats, bacon, sausage, pepperoni, salami, hot dogs)
- Any processed foods
- Restaurant foods
- High carb days. Carbohydrates convert in our body to glycogen which is stored in our muscles. For every gram of glycogen we store, our bodies hold onto about 2.7 grams of water. This water retention happens because our kidneys hold onto excess water due to the carbohydrate consumption. Our bodies react by holding onto water to keep optimum sodium/water balance inside the body.
- Alcohol. Drinking alcohol causes a temporary suppression of the anti diuretic hormone, which leads to excess water excretion and diluted urine. In this excess water loss, the body also loses electrolytes which throws off the sodium/electrolyte balance in the body leading to water retention.
- Toxins. Household chemicals and lotions/shampoos/makeup products contains toxins that not only contribute to hormonal imbalances and disease risk, but they also cause water retention.
Cellulite is a type of fat that especially holds toxins. It is believed that water retention in the fat tissue is an attempt for the body to dilute toxins by holding onto excess water to protect the body from cellular damage.
Those being the main culprits, start to look at them as the source first. The best things to eat/drink for water retention if it does happen are:
Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables! Vegetables contain nature’s perfect mix of potassium and magnesium, both of which are key to maintaining a healthy water balance in the body. Eating 6-10 servings of vegetables per day is the best way to maintain a healthy anti-bloat balance in the body.
- Potassium in general (not just from bananas). Vegetables are high in potassium which balances out sodium and helps the body to release water retention
- Leafy greens
- Lemon juice. Simply adding fresh lemon juice to your water can help get rid of water retention.
In response to the above most likely culprits of water retention, some simple strategies for preventing bloat are:
- Sweat! Water retention is not just water, but sodium ions trapped beneath the skin. Sweating helps the body to purge and maintain a healthier salt/water balance within the body.
- Drink 1/2 of your body weight in ounces every day.
- Watch your consumption of high sodium foods and alcohol. When you do have these foods, follow with a day of lower starch, high veggies, high water consumption.
- Look through your personal care products and search for more natural solutions. The Environmental Working Group (EWG.org) is a great resource and even has an app you can use at the grocery store to assess the safety/toxin level in your products.
STEP(S) FOR THIS WEEK:
- Decrease or eliminate bloating with some of the simple steps above. Bloating has a lot of potential causes, but the solutions are simple. Read through and print the article above to start living a life free from bloating!!