Water is essential in every facet of life. It is 71 percent of the earth’s surface and 60 percent of the average human body. In turn, this water accounts for 60 percent of the body’s weight. Water is a vital nutrient to every cell in our bodies, and aids in a number of essential functions that keep our bodies healthy and in optimal working condition.
Some of these functions include regulating body temperature, flushing toxins through urine, lubricating the joints, and carrying nutrients throughout the body via the bloodstream. However, from time to time, some individuals will retain more water in their bodies than normal. This unexpected water retention, or water-weight gain, can be the result of several factors, ranging from medical complications to lifestyle choices.
The clinical term for water retention is edema. Edema is the swelling of body parts due to an excess accumulation of water in the tissues and cavities of the body. Edema can be a sign of a serious medical condition, such as kidney failure, heart disease, or hypertension. But there are many other less serious and easily treatable conditions that result in water retention. Some individuals are more susceptible to water-weight gain than others. Just why does the body retain excess water and what can be done to alleviate it?
Sodium is the number one culprit causing water retention. Sodium binds to water and functions to balance the percentage of water inside and outside of the cells in our bodies. However, when too much sodium is consumed, more water is collected and stored in the body. This stored water causes bloating and a decrease in urination, resulting in water-weight gain. One of the quickest ways to combat this situation is to exercise and drink only plain water to rehydrate; salt is released in our perspiration, and drinking plain water replenishes our system.
As mentioned above, water retention can be a sign of a serious medical condition. Complications from systemic diseases of the heart, liver, and kidney are the most common. A systemic disease affects more than one organ system at a time. So someone with heart disease who eats too much salt will experience some water retention.
Hormones also have an impact on water-weight gain, specifically for women. Some women can gain up to five pounds during their period! The hormone estrogen peaks just before a woman starts her period, which can inadvertently cause weight gain. The same occurs with progesterone, which peaks mid-way through a woman’s menstrual cycle. Progesterone pulls water into various tissues of the body, like a woman’s breasts, to prepare for a potential pregnancy. This added water causes swelling, discomfort, and added weight gain. Once a woman begins menstruation, the body realizes it no longer needs the stored water, and body weight returns to normal.
Water retention can also be a sign of various vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Potassium is essential for salt absorption and urination cycles, and it helps to keep the water in your body balanced. Consuming enough potassium daily, in the form of bananas, avocados, or coconut water, can help alleviate water-weight gain. Magnesium is another essential mineral for the reduction of water-weight gain. Studies have shown that women who take a magnesium supplement of 200 mg during menstruation help reduce bloating and water retention. Lastly, vitamin B6 aids in red blood cell production and helps reduce water retention.
Is water retention always a bad thing? Some experts would like you to know a few things before you begin a detox plan or eliminate all carbs in an effort to have cut six-pack abs. Exercise is an important factor in eliminating excess salt through perspiration; and as we have discussed, salt is the number one factor in water-weight gain. However, exercise can also result in temporary water retention. When we are feeling sore after a good workout, our muscles are a bit inflamed. This inflammation is due to water retention, and it can affect what you see on the scale for up to 48 hours. So when you begin a new exercise plan, it’s best to avoid the scale so as not to get discouraged.
Getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet low in processed foods and salt, drinking more water, exercising, and taking vitamin and mineral supplements are all easy habits to use not only for a healthy lifestyle, but also to alleviate the dreaded water-weight gain. It’s best to keep open communication with your doctor if any water-weight situation persists.