Water retention (edema) can be uncomfortable and in some cases, embarrassing, but it need not be permanent. By increasing your activity level and making basic dietary changes, you will resume your normal weight in no time. Keep in mind that during pregnancy, water retention is normal in order to build up enough fluid to safely surround the fetus.
Eat Less Salt
Sodium does serve a few good functions: it helps carry nutrients into cells and helps regulate fluid and blood levels in the body. However, the daily recommended intake for salt is 500 mg with a cap of 2,400 mg, whereas the average American eats at least 5,000 mg. Salt (comprised of sodium) raises the pH level of your blood, causing your body to retain water to reverse this effect. You may avoid the salt shaker but still eat too much, even if you eat organic or low-fat foods. Read nutrition levels, particularly with respect to serving sizes, very carefully. If at all possible, choose fresh whole food sources over processed, frozen, preserved, or convenience foods.
Eat Less Sugar
Refined sugars create a dangerous cycle; they abruptly increase blood sugar, then raise the body’s insulin level (insulin converts the sugar into energy), leading to an equally abrupt drop in blood sugar. One abruptly feels tired, then reaches for the sugar again. High insulin levels make it difficult for the body to excrete sodium, leading to the bloating problems mentioned above. On a related note, crash dieting can induce water retention, as the body mistakenly holds on to water for lack of proper energy sources.
Exercise Regularly, in Moderation
Exercise improves venous circulation and stimulates digestion, leading to increased elimination and reduced water weight. However, over exercising can increase your cortisol level, which can lead to water retention. While regular exercise is crucial for reducing stress, exerting calories, and improving circulation, try to limit the cardio portion of your workouts to 45 minutes per day.
Drink More Water
Reduce calories and flush toxins by replacing artificially-sweetened drinks (even fruit juice beverages) with plain water. Dehydration can lead to false feelings of hunger. Moreover, without adequate water, the body holds on to lipids (fats), to trap existing water sources. This water may be stored in unflattering places! So drink more water, to give your body an ample reservoir. Drinking more water also improves constipation, a common cause for water retention.
Try to sleep 7 to 8 hours per night. During sleep, you breathe deeply (exhaling some moisture) and sweat varying degrees, which also reduces water weight. By contrast, sleep deprivation can lead to artificially high levels of cortisol and insulin in your body, leading to water retention.
Try adding calcium supplements on a daily basis to reduce the symptom of water retention, and as a bonus, support bone and joint formation. The Mayo Clinic recommends adding 1,200 mg of calcium per day to counter the symptom of edema. Avoid diuretics (even in herbal form) as they present additional health risks. Instead, consider eating more asparagus and celery, or drinking pure cranberry juice or lemon water, as a means of limiting water retention.
Many medications can have water retention as a side effect, including antidepressants, antibiotics, hormonal replacement therapies and birth control pills, blood pressure medications, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Medication interactions can also cause weight retention. Please consult with your primary care physician prior to stopping any medicine.
Abrupt weight gain, one-sided weight gain, or rapid weight gain focused in one part of the body (i.e., abdomen, feet, arms) may the sign of a serious health care problem and should be referred to a primary care physician.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.