Water retention: nine common causes
Your period isn't always to blame for water retention. I share common culprits and how you can cope with Women's Health Australia.
I've only recently migrated to Melbourne from London, so it was lovely to see my
tips on reducing water retention and bloating published in the Australian edition of Women's Health - a magazine I worked frequently with in the UK (and who I trust to maintain the integrity of my nutrition advice). Whether you're reading this blog post in Australia or Britain, get the skinny below or read the full article here.
1. Your 'healthy' lifestyle is a little off
When was the last time you made every meal in the week from scratch? It can be tough to find the time, and convenience foods are a godsend. But the salt they contain can make your body hang onto water to maintain a balance in your cells: hence that bloated face in the mirror. And you all know that white refined carbs make your blood sugar levels spike, which causes a speedy release of insulin. But too much insulin can also trigger your kidneys to re-absorb salt, causing your body to hold onto even more fluid.
A high-salt diet can increase your chances of high blood pressure and chronic water retention, which, over time could lead to kidney and heart disease. Swap in complex carbs and eat small meals across the day to keep blood sugar levels stable. And go easy on the salt. Boost flavour with herbs, spices and citrus.
2. It's almost your time of the month
Water retention in your period is normal. Many women will notice water retention in the two weeks leading up to their period. You've got the sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone to thank for that. Their changing levels, around the time of ovulation, control how much water your body retains. Everyone's hormone levels are different and this is why some women retain water each month like clockwork, whereas others might experience mild bloating, now and then.
Period-related fluid retention should gradually disperse once your hormone levels change again and you start your period. I suggest reducing your salt intake and trying a magnesium supplement or powder in the run-up to your period to alleviate symptoms, and, when your period starts, drinking plenty of water to support your kidneys.
3. You use a hormonal contraception
It may help keep your period regular, but chances are that the contraceptive pill is also contributing to your monthly bloat.
Fill up on foods containing vitamin B6, which is thought to help reduce water retention – a bowl of porridge topped with banana for example. Then when your period arrives, switch to a low-bloat bowl of oats-based Bircher muesli instead.
4. You're pregnant
Who hasn’t heard a pregnant friend complain about swelling in their legs and ankles during pregnancy? Water retention during pregnancy is normal. It helps your body to soften and expand as your baby grows.
Take it as a warning sign to elevate your legs when you’re sitting down or sleeping, or to go for a gentle swim or walk. If it persists or makes you feel very uncomfortable, please see your GP.
5. You're showing symptoms of menopause
Hormone levels fluctuate dramatically around the time of the peri-menopause, making fluid retention more likely and more frequent. You’re even more susceptible if you experienced water retention or other PMS symptoms when you were younger.
If you’re showing other peri-menopause or menopausal symptoms, then it’s worth getting checked out by your doctor as there are treatments available that could help.
And for everyone: It's always a good idea to talk to your doctor if you notice a new symptom like bloating. If water retention or stomach swelling continues beyond 2-4 weeks or is accompanied by other symptoms such as pain and redness of the skin, go and see your GP to make sure your health is in order.