What Are The Causes of Fluid Retention?

Fluid retention can be the result of diet or hormones. Today, we'll explain how your diet can have an effect and what you can do to manage fluid retention.
What Are The Causes of Fluid Retention?

Last update: 15 December, 2020

Many people suddenly notice a slight increase in weight or a feeling of bloatedness and don’t know why this happens. If this has happened to you, this could be due to an increase in fluid retention in the body, and this can be quite inconvenient. Today, we’ll look at some of the causes of fluid retention and what you can do to avoid it.

Before going any further, it’s important to point out that fluid retention symptoms are often confused with other problems related to inflammation. However, in both cases, making sure that you’re sticking to the right diet will be a fundamental part of addressing the problem.

Causes of fluid retention

Below, we’ve numbered some of the potential causes of fluid retention.

1. Increased sodium intake

Sodium is a mineral that the body acquires through your diet and is capable of changing your osmotic balance. This means that it can cause an increase in fluid retention in order to compensate for an increase in mineral salts.

Furthermore, this situation can have an impact on kidney function and blood pressure, as you can see in this study published by the Journal of Clinical Hypertension.

Three wooden spoons containing mineral salts, which are one of the causes of fluid retention.

To alleviate this problem, you could opt to increase your potassium intake as this mineral has the opposite effect to sodium. This way, you’ll be able to lower your blood pressure and reduce fluid retention.

2. Poor diet

Fluid retention can also be caused by a diet based on simple sugars and ultra-processed foods. Both glucose and food additives can both have this effect and have a negative impact on your overall health.

Furthermore, these types of food products tend to contain trans fats, which can increase inflammation in the body. As a result, you might experience a feeling of discomfort or bloatedness. Apart from this, you’ll be putting your health at risk in the medium-term because of the effect they can have on various bodily functions.

3. Diet supplements

Some diet supplements that are used to increase sporting performance can also lead to an increase in fluid retention, although in this case, the water is normally retained in the muscles. Creatine is one of the clearest examples, as seen in a study published in Nutrición Hospitalaria.

However, this effect shouldn’t be seen as a problem. Generally, this fluid retention isn’t uncomfortable. It simply increases your body weight and makes your muscles stand out a bit more.

Furthermore, once you stop taking the supplement, this fluid retention disappears. But it can still be significant as you could gain up to 3 lb in weight.

A woman in the kitchen flexing her biceps.

Fluid retention is a common problem

All of these diet factors that we’ve mentioned can lead to fluid retention. Consuming too much salt and junk food are the most common.

However, there are other factors that can cause this condition, and they’re not necessarily related to your diet. For example, hormonal changes or pregnancy can also lead to fluid retention.

If you feel bloated and you don’t know why the best thing to do is to visit a specialist. They’ll be able to look at your habits and check if something isn’t quite working right in your body. If it’s due to some problem with a bodily function, they may well prescribe diuretic medication to improve your kidney function and reduce the retention.

Finally, remember that it’s always a good idea to live a healthy lifestyle in general. A healthy, balanced diet and regular physical exercise every day will help to avoid problems such as fluid retention. If you have any other doubts or want to improve your diet to avoid conditions like this, don’t hesitate to visit a dietitian.

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  • Chmielewski J., Carmody JB., Dietary sodium, dietary potassium, and systolic blood pressure in US adolescents. J Clin Hypertens, 2017. 19 (9): 904-909.
  • Moriones VS., Santos JI., Ayudas ergogénicas en el deporte. Nutrición Hospitalaria, 2017. 34 (1): 204-215.