Water retention----- a sign of bigger health issues

Don't dismiss that puffiness. Water retention can be a sign of bigger health issues

When you wake up with a puffy face, inflated tummy and swollen feet, don't dismiss it as water retention, and go back to your routine. That bloated feeling can signal underlying issues that need your attention. If you suffer from water retention often, there could be a problem with your heart, liver or kidney. So dig in and figure out what's going on.

What's causing it?
Nephrologist Dr Bharat Shah, explaining water retention, says, "It is the opposite of dehydration. Whenever your intake of water is more than what you expel, it leads to an abnormal build-up of fluid. When the urine output is less, it can cause swelling in the body."

If your weight is fluctuating a lot and you can't lose those kilos even with regular exercise and a diet, don't ignore the issue. Anyone who suffers from water retention frequently should test their organs. "When water retention is due to a heart problem, it usually shows on the legs. This is called edema. When it is because of a liver issue, it manifests itself in the abdomen - a condition called ascites. When a kidney problem causes it, it shows up around the eyes. When there is a lot of water retention, there is generalised swelling," says Shah.

Once these major hazards are ruled out, you could consider other reasons. People who have a digestion problem can also suffer from water retention. Some women may have it before their menstrual cycle because there are hormonal changes in the body. Menopausal women gain weight due to it. Medication such as birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants, a few blood pressure lowering drugs, and steroids also causes accumulation of fluids in the body.

The cause for water retention could also be as simple as too much salt in your food. The body dilutes the excess sodium with more water. Salt makes you thirsty, and your body holds on to water because of this.

Treat it
Shah says, "To treat water retention find out the underlying cause and treat that first. Supportive treatment includes restricting salt and water intake and taking medicines (diuretics) which increase their removal in the urine."

However, in most cases, changes in the diet can help release excess sodium. Dietician Sukhada Bhatte has a plan. But, as always, do consult a physician before you try a new diet.

- When water retention is because of renal failure, liver disease and heart problems, monitor your protein consumption. By-products such as urea, BUN, and creatinine accumulate in these conditions. You must opt for high biological value protein in moderate amounts such as eggs, milk, soya bean, rice and fish.

- Don't add extra salt to your meals. You could opt for other seasonings such as herbs, spices or lime instead. Avoid high sodium fast foods, processed meals and frozen or canned foods that tend to be higher in salt content."

- A portion of water in your body comes from the food you eat. Try and include a good quantity of fruit and vegetables in your diet as they stimulate the kidney. This in turn releases excess water which helps reduce edema.

- Barley water, coffee, brewed green tea and cranberry juice act as mild diuretics. Having them will help you go the restroom more often and remove all the excess fluid from your body.

- Tomatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, gourd vegetables, celery, cantaloupes, pomegranates and cranberries can act as a natural diuretic and help get rid of excess water from the body. Green beans, grapes and leeks also help resolve water retention.

- So does apple juice as it is rich in potassium, which promotes better fluid loss. However, if the water retention is because of a renal condition you might be asked to eat certain high potassium fruits and vegetables with caution.

- B-group vitamins especially Vitamin B5 and B6 found in brown rice, milk and dairy products such as yogurt, cheese and fresh fruit also help remove excess water from your body.

Some myths
- It is not true that sitting or standing for a long time can cause swelling.

- Sour things do not lead to water retention. The salt you take along with that sour food does.

- Alcohol does not cause water retention. On the contrary, it causes dehydration. If you do feel
bloated, it could be a sign of trouble with your liver or kidne

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