How to get rid of water weight: causes and 10 remedies
What comes to your mind when you think of water retention? Are you thinking about bloating or just feeling unwell? Whether it happens to you all the time or just occasionally, water weight is perfectly normal and not at all dangerous. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t valid reasons to seek how to shed water weight if you notice extra puffiness.
ICYDK, Water weight is something the body holds onto to balance hydration, so it’s important to lose it as safely as possible. That means avoiding dangerous methods like diuretics (a type of drug that causes you to pee frequently to expel excess fluid), which can dry out the kidneys and cause damage, says Ana Maria Kausel, MD, a Florida resident Endocrinologist and co-founder of Anzara Health.
Curious to know how the process works? Read on to learn what our experts know about the causes behind water weight and how to deal with it.
Meet the experts: Ana Maria Kausel is an endocrinologist and co-founder of Anzara Health.
Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, is a Brooklyn-based nutritionist and co-author of The CarbLovers Diet cookbook.
How long does it take to reduce water weight?
The time it takes to lose water weight mainly depends on why you are retaining water to begin with. If you’ve had a late night and been drinking heavily, it should take about a day for the swelling to go away, says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, a Brooklyn-based nutritionist.
However, if your water weight is due to other reasons, it may take longer before you start making changes to your lifestyle and daily habits. The heart, vessels, hormones and kidneys also work non-stop to balance your water and salt levels, adds Dr. clause added.
However, trying to lose water quickly can be dangerous and even life-threatening. “Our body is designed for a certain amount of water, everything else endangers vital organs,” explains Dr. causal. “If you lose water quickly, you become very weak and dizzy.”
Causes of water weight
Water retention is usually caused by too much sodium in the body. Your body is always trying to maintain a certain balance. Eating too much sodium (also known as salt) causes the body to hold on to water to help keep you hydrated.
“Eating too much sodium pushes water out of the blood vessels and into the tissues. The intravascular volume (the blood in the vessels) decreases and the kidneys feel dehydrated and therefore retain more,” explains Dr. causal. “The brain senses that the salt levels in the body are high and releases the antidiuretic hormone, which sends a signal to the kidneys to retain water until the water-sodium balance is established.”
Pretty fascinating, right? There are also some specific reasons you might have water weight, including:
- Medication. Water retention from medications is fairly common and is typically a side effect of medications for high blood pressure, chemotherapy, and antidepressants. Largeman-Roth suggests talking to your doctor to see if you can switch to something similar that doesn’t cause fluid buildup.
- PMS. Ah, PMS (or Premenstrual Syndrome). You may hear the word and wince at its association with cramps, bloating, acne, etc. The bloating before your period is due to changes in estrogen and progesterone levels, but once your period starts, it should slowly go away.
- Pregnancy. “Since blood volume increases by 50 percent during pregnancy, you’ll also experience slight swelling all over your body, face, hands and feet,” explains Largeman-Roth. While this is completely normal, extreme swelling of the face and hands could be a sign of preeclampsia, high blood pressure that can occur after the 20th week of pregnancy, she notes.
- birth control. The hormones in birth control can also contribute to water retention.
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This is how you safely reduce water retention
If you are looking to lose water weight, safety should be your number one priority. Here are 10 tricks from Largeman-Roth to shed excess liquid.
1st exercise. Even a short session of cardio will help you sweat out some of the excess sodium in your body and improve your mood, which will help you feel better.
2. Drink water. It might seem counterintuitive to drink water, but drinking more water helps carry extra sodium out of your body.
3. Use natural forms of diuretics. Cucumber is a natural diuretic. It contains caffeic acid that fights swelling. Other natural diuretics include watercress, artichoke, and asparagus. Add more of these to your diet when trying to reduce bloating
4. Get more potassium. This electrolyte helps rebalance sodium levels. Potassium stars include bananas, oranges, celery, spinach, potatoes, peaches, and winter squash.
5. Go low in sodium. Avoid high-sodium foods like frozen foods and fast foods. The recommended daily sodium level is less than 2,300 mg. That sounds like a lot, but it can add up quickly. For example, two slices of bread can contain over 400mg of sodium, and that’s without any toppings!
6. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol causes you to retain water and creates a puffy appearance all over the body, especially the face. If you’re trying to reduce water retention, give up alcohol for a while. If you still want to go out at night, make sure you alternate alcohol with a glass of water. The recommended intake for women is no more than two drinks per day.
7. Avoid processed and packaged foods. Avoid chips, soups, packaged and processed foods, which are typically high in sodium.
8. Meal Preparation. It’s a time investment, but cooking your own food — at least some of your meals — is a great way to moderate your sodium intake. Many restaurants and fast-casual meals contain more than 1,200 mg of sodium, which is more than half the recommended daily allowance. It’s okay to enjoy them occasionally, but you’ll deal with a lot less water weight gain if you’re eating fresh foods.
9. Rinse your beans. Beans are a fantastic plant-based food high in protein and fiber, but canned beans can be high in sodium. You can significantly reduce the amount by rinsing before cooking.
10. Add a walking break to your day. If you already exercise daily and still feel puffy, try adding a 10-20 minute daily walk to your routine. Sitting at a desk all day can cause blood to pool in your legs. Walking helps increase blood flow and is also a great mental break from stress and your computer screen.
This is how you prevent water retention on a daily basis
Water retention is a normal function of the body, but if it makes you constantly physically unwell, here are five lifestyle changes you can make to keep it at manageable levels.
- Eat a low-sodium diet.
- Eat plenty of fresh produce and avoid packaged foods.
- Exercise regularly to reduce swelling.
- Prioritize sleep to reduce inflammation in the body.
- Drink about eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water daily.
And remember, depending on the reasons you’re retaining water, it may take longer than you expect to get rid of it. So patience is key!
Sabrina is an editorial assistant for Women’s Health. When she’s not writing, she can be found jogging, training in mixed martial arts, or reading.