Feeling bloated? Here's 9 reasons for water retention - and how you can get rid of it (2023)

Feeling bloated? Here's 9 reasons for water retention - and how you can get rid of it (1)

Bloating–whether it's after a particularly bountiful dinner with pals or around the time of your period–is pretty much par for the course in this life. If, however, you are dealing with the sensation persistently, then you might want to know what's causing it, and how to fix it. One possible explanation is water retention.

How do you get rid of water retention, fast?

Well, it's not that simple. First, scroll on to find out what type of water retention you might have, and then follow the advice for nixing it.

What are the signs of water retention?

Common signs of retaining water are:

  • You're persistently bloated

  • You're experiencing unexplained weight gain over a short period of time

  • Your hands and feet are swollen – do your rings no longer fit for, example?

⚠️ If your water retention hasn't settled down within two weeks, continues beyond three to five weeks, or is accompanied by other symptoms such as pain and redness of the skin, Dr Riccardo Di Cuffa, a GP, advises visiting your doctor.

What causes you to retain water?

Straight up, fluid retention could be a result of a number of things. Keep scrolling for nine possible causes.

9 unknown (yet common) causes of water retention

1. Your 'healthy' lifestyle is a little off

When was the last time you made every meal in the week from scratch? Be honest. If you are regularly hitting that target – kudos to you.

But for most of you, chances are, a sneaky vegan ready made meal or takeaway creeps its way in. ‘Convenience foods are a godsend,’ says registered nutritional therapist Kym Lang.

‘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.’

Should I visit my doctor for this water retention?

Yes. 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. Lang suggests swapping in complex carbs and eating small meals across the day to keep blood sugar levels stable.

And going easy on the salt. ‘Boost flavour with herbs, spices and citrus,’ she says.

2. It's almost your period

Water retention in the time leading up to your period is super normal. ‘Many women will notice water retention in the two weeks leading up to their period,’ says registered nutritional therapist Kym Lang. You’ve those pesky hormones oestrogen and progesterone to thank for that.

‘Their changing levels, around the time of ovulation, control how much water your body retains,’ Lang says.

You don’t need an expert to tell you that everyone’s hormone levels are different and this is why some of you puff out each month, like clockwork, whereas others might experience a little bit of mild bloating, now and then.

Should I visit my doctor for this water retention?

No. Period-related fluid retention will gradually disperse once your hormone levels change again and you start your period.

Lang suggests reducing your salt intake and supping your magnesium in the run-up to your period to alleviate symptoms, and, when your period starts, drinking plenty of water to support your kidneys and encourage them to flush out more liquid. You could also try these other tips for preventing period weight gain.

3. You use a hormonal contraception

It may help keep you regular but chances are that pill your on is also responsible for your monthly bloat. According to Dr Di Cuffa, many contraceptives offer water retention as a side effect – how kind of them – and it all comes back down to hormones.

‘Oestrogen and progesterone affect your body’s ability to excrete water meaning you temporarily gain what is essentially a water weight,’ says Dr Di Cuffa. ‘That should normalise when your period starts.’

Should I visit my doctor for this water retention?

No. It’s just a bit of a nuisance. And not something to consider coming off the pill for. Fill up on foods containing vitamin B6, which are thought to help reduce water retention – a bowl of porridge topped with a banana should get you off to a flying start, says Lang.

Then when your period strikes, switch to a low-bloat bowl of Bircher muesli, instead.

4. You're pregnant

Who hasn’t heard a pregnant friend complain about swelling in their legs and ankles during pregnancy? It’s part of the course, right? ‘Water retention during pregnancy – and water retention in your legs – is perfectly normal, says Lang. ‘It helps your body to soften and expand as your baby grows.’

It’s also the result of the baby itself. According to Dr Di Cuffa, the unborn child places additional pressure on the abdominal area, obstructing the blood flow around the body and leading to pooling in the ankles and legs.

Should I visit my doctor for this water retention?

Not really, but take it as a warning sign to elevate those legs when you’re sitting down or sleeping, or to go for a gentle swim.

‘Muscle contractions stimulate your blood and lymph vessel walls to contract rhythmically, boosting lymph flow and the return of blood to the heart,’ says Georgios Tzenichristos, nutritionist and director of the LipoTherapeia clinic.

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,’ says Lang.

‘You’re even more susceptible if you experienced water retention or other PMS symptoms when you were younger.’

Should I visit my doctor for this water retention?

If you’re showing other menopause symptoms, then it’s worth getting yourself checked out as there are treatments available. If it turns out you’re experiencing monster PMS symptoms, this might help.

6. You've been on a long-haul flight

It’s the reason so many of you like to travel in your gym kit – who wants the discomfort of tight jeans after take-off? It’s partly the result of all that sitting down – exercise is essential for lymph function – but it could also be that a change in your routine and diet means your bowels aren’t moving quite as they should.

‘Constipation obstructs blood and lymph flow in the abdominal area leading to swollen ankles and legs,’ Tzenichristos says.

Should I visit my doctor for this water retention?

No. It shouldn’t be but it’s why it’s always best to bag an aisle seat. Ankle rolls, flexing your feet, pointing your toes and regularly walking around the plane will all help to increase circulation and reduce swelling.

And if you can, swerve that glass of Sauvignon Blanc for an orange juice – vitamin C supports your blood vessels and improves their contractions says Tzenichristos.

7. You've got a problem with your kidneys

Kidneys are like little recycling plants. While you’re busy enjoying Happy Hour, they’re filtering your blood, sorting out the bits (think fluids and minerals) in it that can be reused by the body, from those that need to be excreted as waste.

So, if they stop functioning properly, the waste – which will also include water – will build up, leading to water retention.

Should I visit my doctor for this water retention?

Yes, according to Dr Di Cuffa, this could be a warning sign of kidney failure, which is often symptomless until the advanced stages. Watch out for other giveaways such as anaemia, an increased need to pee, difficulty sleeping, muscle cramps, headaches and unexplained weight loss.

8. Your thyroid is out of whack

Your thyroid plays a key role in keeping your energy levels up. So, if it goes a little haywire – something which is typically caused by your immune system accidentally attacking it – you’re going to start feeling tired, headache-y and continuously cold. You also may experience heavy periods and, you guessed it, fluid retention.

Should I visit my doctor for this water retention?

Yes. Best get checked. Left untreated, an under-active thyroid could lead to heart disease, pregnancy problems and, if the gland swells, difficulty breathing.

9. There's been a change in temperature

It’s not your imagination that the body swells during hot weather – it does. And normally on the day when you're about to strip off and already feeling a tad anxious.

Should I visit my doctor for this water retention?

Obviously, no. The solution – drink more and cool down. ‘If you’re dehydrated, your tissues hold on to water due to the water scarcity,’ Tzenichristos says.

It also happens if you have too many iced lattes. ‘Excessive caffeine leads to poor fluid drainage and water retention,’ says Tzenichristos.

‘Switch to a diuretic herbal tea, such as dandelion leaf tea, or simply water. Alternating hot and cold temperatures in the shower will also help to boost circulation.’

How long does water retention last?

Water retention can last from anywhere to a couple of day to a couple of weeks, depending on what's causing it. But, if your water retention hasn't settled down within two weeks, or continues beyond three to five weeks, you should speak to your GP or seek medical advice.

When should you worry about water retention?

Wondering if your water retention is serious? A lot of the time, water retention is linked to an irritating but not-too-serious cause. However, if you identify with any of the reasons to visit your doctor, above, then book in to see your GP or call 111.

Generally speaking, if you ever have trouble breathing or chest pain - which can sometimes be linked to fluid retention - then seek immediate medical care.

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What is the fastest way to get rid of water retention? ›

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What causes water retention and stomach bloating? ›

Salt causes water retention, and fat slows down the digestive process because it takes longer to digest. All of these things can lead to constipation and bloating. Processed foods are also low in nutrition, so they will leave you feeling hungrier even after you've consumed a lot of calories.

How to lose 4 pounds of water weight overnight? ›

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How do I make my bloating go down ASAP? ›

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Does apple cider vinegar help get rid of fluid retention? ›

Apple cider vinegar has natural diuretic properties and can help you reduce excess fluid retention. However, if you are already taking a medication like spironolactone for your resistant hypertension, you should avoid apple cider vinegar, except the goal is to lower potassium levels.

What naturally gets rid of water retention fast? ›

Ways to lose water weight
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Why am I retaining fluid in my stomach? ›

Ascites is the medical term for a buildup of fluid in the abdomen. It can happen when the blood pressure of the portal vein — which runs from the digestive organs to the liver — gets too high. This increased pressure reduces kidney and liver function, causing fluid to accumulate.

Why is my stomach so bloated and puffy? ›

Abdominal swelling, or distention, is more often caused by overeating than by a serious illness. This problem also can be caused by: Air swallowing (a nervous habit) Buildup of fluid in the abdomen (this can be a sign of a serious medical problem)

What is the difference between bloating and water retention? ›

To be clear, we're talking about water weight as "bloating" and not chronic water retention, which indicates a malfunctioning of your kidneys or hormones. Bloating is sporadic, usually triggered by diet or lifestyle, and can be remedied without a trip to the doctor -- though the kidneys do play an important role.

What supplements get rid of water retention? ›

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Why am I retaining so much water? ›

Some of the many common causes of fluid retention include: Gravity – standing up for long periods of time allows fluid to 'pool' in the tissues of the lower leg. Hot weather – the body tends to be less efficient at removing fluid from tissues during the summer months. Burns – including sunburn.

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What causes a big hard stomach? ›

A hard stomach can happen for various reasons, including constipation, gastric cancer, and some chronic digestive conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Why am I always so bloated? ›

The most common reason for bloating is having a lot of gas in your gut. This can be caused by some food and drinks, such as some vegetables and fizzy drinks, or by swallowing air when you eat. It can also be caused by a problem with your digestion, such as: constipation.

Does lemon water help with bloating? ›

Lemon water can help with digestion

To relieve bloating, gas, and constipation, drink a cup of lemon water first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Lemon contains minerals that promote healthy digestion, alleviate heartburn, and stimulate healthy bowel function by reducing bloat and stimulating bowel movements.

Can lemon water help with water retention? ›

Lemons and limes are two of the most effective of these and can dramatically reduce the signs of water retention overnight when a substantial quantity is consumed. Simply adding several slices of lemon or lime to a glass of water is one way to reduce bloating in a minimal amount of time.

What are signs of water retention? ›

Symptoms of water retention
  • bloating, especially in the abdominal area.
  • swollen legs, feet, and ankles.
  • puffiness of the abdomen, face, and hips.
  • stiff joints.
  • weight fluctuations.

How long does it take to flush out water retention? ›

It takes about two days to lose one to three pounds of water weight. But how fast excess water leaves the body can depend on diet and physical activity. The healthier your diet and the more physically active you are, the faster you can get rid of excess water.

How do I get rid of water retention overnight? ›

How To Get Rid Of Water Retention Overnight: Beat Bloat With...
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  2. Cut Back On Refined Carbs.
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What does soaking your feet in apple cider vinegar do? ›

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How to lose 5 pounds of water weight overnight? ›

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Why is the top of my stomach so bloated and hard? ›

Upper abdominal bloating may be related to slow movement of the intestine called gastroparesis, swallowing air while eating, an infection, or overeating. Lower abdominal bloating can be from constipation, IBS, gas caused by food intolerance, or fluid retention.

What diseases cause water retention in the stomach? ›

What is Ascites?
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How do I stop fluid build up in my stomach? ›

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What medicine helps a bloated stomach? ›

There are a handful of products that may help reduce gas levels and ease bloating:
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Some of the best probiotics for bloating include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis, and Saccharomyces boulardii.

How do you know if bloating is serious? ›

If your bloating is accompanied by abdominal pain, cramps, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, then it might be a serious problem. Regularly occurring bloating that doesn't improve with lifestyle changes, such as eating smaller meals or avoiding certain foods, may also point to a more serious issue.

What happens inside your body when you are bloated? ›

Bloating is a feeling that your tummy is over full or stretched. It happens when the organs in your digestive system are stretched. This can be when: liquid, gas or solids build up in part of your gut.

Where does water bloat go? ›

Fluid is heavy, and when there is extra fluid in the body, it collects in the lower areas due to gravity. Elevating swollen arms or legs, especially above your heart level, can help reduce edema. 1 As the extra fluid moves into the blood vessels, your body will eliminate it in the urine.

How do you get rid of water weight and bloating overnight? ›

How To Get Rid Of Water Retention Overnight: Beat Bloat With...
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  2. Cut Back On Refined Carbs.
  3. Drink More Water.
  4. Take Supplements. Chromium Picolinate. Potassium Citrate.
  5. Exercise.
  6. Eat Potassium Rich Foods.
  7. Manage Stress Levels.
  8. Take Electrolytes.
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How long does it take for water bloat to go away? ›

Excess fluid will typically take a couple of days to flush out, but it depends on how much water you're retaining and what you decide to do about it (just let it work itself out or try one of the methods listed in this article).

How long does water retention bloating last? ›

Water retention may clear without treatment in a few days. However, if there is a health problem causing you to hold onto fluid, your swelling may worsen over time. You may find that the body parts retaining water become tight, swollen, and painful. If untreated, heart or kidney problems may get much worse.

What foods get rid of water retention? ›

That's why we recommend eating natural foods with high water and potassium content. Cucumbers, melons, pineapples, strawberries, and asparagus are perfect for reducing water retention. Artichokes, onions, garlic, carrots, avocados, potatoes, and rice can also help.

Why am I suddenly retaining water? ›

Fluid retention may be a symptom of serious underlying conditions, including: kidney disease – such as nephrotic syndrome and acute glomerulonephritis. heart failure – if the heart does not pump effectively, the body compensates in various ways. It starts to retain fluid and increase the volume of blood.

How do I know if I'm retaining water? ›

Symptoms of water retention

bloating, especially in the abdominal area. swollen legs, feet, and ankles. puffiness of the abdomen, face, and hips. stiff joints.

How many pounds is water weight? ›

Any extra water being held in the body is referred to as “water weight.” When water builds up in the body, it can cause bloating and puffiness, especially in the abdomen, legs, and arms. Water levels can make a person's weight fluctuate by as much as 2 to 4 pounds in a single day.

What is a natural diuretic for water retention? ›

Some herbs and dietary supplements may help you excrete water (diuretic) and help with sodium and water retention. Examples include dandelion, ginger, parsley, hawthorn and juniper.

Where is water weight stored in the body? ›

Extra water is typically stored all over your body in the tissue or between blood vessels, and tends to pool in the extremities (fingers, toes and lower legs).

How do you purge water weight? ›

Ways to get rid of water weight include:
  1. Drinking more water.
  2. Avoiding super salty and sugary foods.
  3. Exercising regularly.
  4. Eating hydrating foods.
  5. Reducing carbohydrates.
  6. Trying supplements or water pills.
  7. Improving your sleep.
  8. Decreasing stress.
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What does water retention in stomach feel like? ›

The fluid causes swelling that can make the tummy feel tight and very uncomfortable. It often develops over a few weeks but might happen over a few days. The fluid causes pressure on other organs in the abdominal area and may lead to: clothes feeling tighter or needing a bigger belt size.

What is jet belly? ›

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