Water Retention | Causes, Symptoms, Remedies

Written by Chloe Thurston

Water Retention

Everyone has heard people say, “oh it’s just water weight” but do any of us actually understand what this ‘water weight’ is? Lots of athletes that are going for a competition can get extremely lean. This is due to not only a low body fat percentage but also to the fluid and excess sodium ions being deposited in the lower stomach area, thereby making you look very sculpted and lean. So, what is water? How is it regulated? What causes water retention and how do I get rid of it?

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Water Regulation


Water is essential for all life and cellular homeostasis. Within an adult 75% of body weight is water and 55% for a child. Maintaining water balances requires sensitive detectors within the body to be in co-ordination with each other. They are sensitive to hormonal factors that are produced during changes in within the body e.g. blood pressure. Signals are sent to the kidneys, sweat glands and salivary glands to correct these changes within the body e.g. drinking, urinating Most of the components of fluid balance are controlled by the homeostasis of the body.


The body is very smart at being sensitive to these changes to ensure it is corrected quickly to prevent damage. The two main methods of regulating are drinking and urinating. The brains decision to drink or not and even what to drink is made before ingestion. When you are sweating an access amount seem to prefer drinks that are rick in Na+ salts rather than just plain water. It is important to have drinks that are rich in nutrients and electrolytes to replace those that you are loosing.


The brains decision to start/stop and what drink you want has been made before the fluid can be absorbed fully and made use of. The taste buds in your mouth send messages to the brain about the nature and the salt content in the fluid so that neurological responses can be triggered (even though the fluid hasn’t reached the blood stream).

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Causes Of Water Retention



Oxygen, nutrients and vitamins all flow through your capillaries into the surrounding tissues. Water retention can occur if the pressure inside the capillaries changes. Water retention can also occur if the capillary walls become leaky. Once something goes wrong with the capillary pressure or the permeability, excess fluid will be released into the tissue spaces between the cells. If there is too much fluid being released then more will remain in the tissue spaces rather than returning into the capillaries.

Lymphatic System


This consists of vessels throughout the body. It drains the lymph from the tissues and empties it back into the blood stream. If there is too much released then the lymph can be overwhelmed and isn’t able to return the fluid quick enough and results in water retention in the tissues. When the lymph becomes congested then there could be something wrong with the rate at which the fluid is returned back into the bloodstream. This will result I fluid being kept in the tissues and results in a swelling in various parts of the body.


The Heart


The pumping force of the heart controls the heart – The pressure in the blood vessels. If the heart fails then there is change in the pressure with can result in serious water retention

The Kidneys


This is the filter of our body where all the excess waste and fluid is taken from the blood and excreted out. The renal arteries are what supply our kidneys with the oxygen and the blood they need to function. Once the blood and oxygen enters the kidneys the blood enters the smaller vessels (glomeruli) where they are filtered.


What ever the body cannot reuse is then excreted as urine. For the majority of the time out kidneys can easily filter out our blood however, when the blood supply is restricted or the outflow of urine is obstructed then problems can occur. Once the waster and fluids cannot be excreted this can cause further water retention.

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The weight and the pressure of the uterus on the veins within the pelvis can result in a build up of water in the body. It is most of the time nothing to worry about and the issue is resolved once the baby is born.



Is needed to enable the lymphatic systematic function and regular overflow (bring fluids back into the blood so that water levels are regulate). If you are inactive for a very long time it can increase the risk of water intention.



To maintain an effective water balance a certain amount of protein is needed. When there is severe deficiency in protein it is harder for the water to get back to the tissues and into the capillaries. The enlarged abdomens of seriously malnourished and/or starving people are mainly caused by a lack of protein in their diet.




The drugs that can play a role in this include HRT (hormone replacement therapy), NSAIDs(such as aspirin and ibuprofen) and beta-blockers (used to treat abnormal heart rhythms). All of these medication will have the symptoms on their leaflet however, it is important that you take you health over the want to loose some water weight.



When it is your time of the month ladies you don’t gain half a stone of fat. This is in fact water weight due to the hormone imbalances and some nutritional impact. This occurs around the second half of your menstrual cycle (a week before your period begins).



Those of us that are allergic to some foods may find that you might start swelling. Don’t panic this is just a thing called an oedema, which is just a medical term for water weight in a particular part of the body.

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 How To Get Rid Of Water Retention?

Drink more water. It will not only flush out the kidneys and digestive system but also will hydrate your body and allow metabolism to happen more effectively. Drinking more water can allow you to release more water though excretion


Sweat it out! When you are too hot, your body sweats in order to regulate your body temperature. When you are sweating it is a sign that your metabolism is working since the higher the metabolism, the higher the resting body temperature. Water retention is not just “water”, but is the amount of sodium ions that is beneath the skin – hence why sweat taste so salty.

Don’t eat loads of salt. If you are eating foods that contain silly amounts of sodium like chips and crisps then you are going to retain water. If you keep your sodium at a moderate levels and replace your salt with spices like garlic, gingers or add some vegetables for flavor this is going to help


Dandelion Tea – Dandelion leaves act as a natural diuretic so that your body is able to drain away more water. It is also a good source of potassium



Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

Andy Griffiths

Andy Griffiths

Writer and expert

Andy's journey in fitness started during his studies at Leeds Becket University in 2003, working in the university campus gym, he got a taste for a life in fitness. In the past 17 years, he has developed through various roles and has built a detailed experience in developing one-to-one clients, fellow team members and group fitness programmes in mainstream and boutique facilities. Training endurance athletes, martial arts athletes and simply those wanting to build a healthier life, he has built some great experiences and is now in a fantastic position to share what he has learnt with you. Being able to engage beginners into exercise regimes he feels is essential but has the ability and experience to adapt training techniques for those more experienced so everyone learns something new. He strongly feels that if you believe you are capable, you commit to achieving your goals that you will be successful!

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