Bloating and water retention: Ways to get rid of that bloated feeling

Water is essential for life. In fact, our bodies are approximately 60% water. However, if you're suffering from water retention it may feel like a much higher percentage. The effects of water retention are felt both internally and externally. For example, you may feel as though your clothes have shrunk and you will notice that your fingers and ankles have become swollen.

Moreover, water retention is believed to be associated with back pain and headaches caused by excess fluid between the vertebrae and inside the cranium, which many women experience when premenstrual. Doctors believe that the reduction of progesterone before menstruation causes the body to retain water, which results in these undesirable side effects. However, hormonal alterations are just one possible cause of bloating.

What causes water retention

Usually the amount of water in your body is regulated by the kidneys, hormones and by the levels of sodium and potassium in the body. Therefore problems with the kidneys, and fluctuations in hormones can cause oedema- a build up of excess fluid in the body. However, due to the importance of sodium and potassium, water retention can also be affected by your diet.

A diet that is high in salt increases the level of sodium in the body, causing an imbalance which prevents the body from flushing excess water from the cells. As these cells harbour fluid they will enlarge which causes the body to quite literally bloat.

How to prevent water retention and bloating

One of the most common ways to reduce water retention is with the use of diuretics. There are many over-the-counter options, but firstly I would encourage you to try natural diuretics including ginger, juniper and dandelion, which can all be bought from health stores. Alternatively, drinking cranberry juice, green tea, lemon water or grapefruit juice can be helpful.

Foods that are believed to help rid the body of excess water include:

  • Asparagus
  • Parsley
  • Lettuce
  • Pineapple
  • Ginger
  • Papaya

When altering your diet to prevent water retention, the foods you eat are just as important as those you avoid. In other words, because excessive amounts of sodium cause the cells to store water, it is crucial to reduce your intake of salt. 2300mg of salt is the current suggested daily amount, which equates to approximately 1 teaspoonful. To aid the reduction of salt, it is wise to avoid fried foods, salted meat, soy sauce and gravy. Moreover where possible try to limit the amount of processed food you consume, and always check the amount of sodium in ready meals. A good tip for reducing the salt you add to food is to use a spice or herb instead.

For women who experience premenstrual water retention, it is believed that eating several small meals can be helpful. Try eating small portions of food that are high in starch, such as potatoes, pasta, rice, cereals, wholemeal bread and crackers. Eating every 3 hours will help to maintain a steady blood sugar level, which will ensure that sugar is not taken from the cells, thereby reducing the need for the body to store water.

Of course, these are just some of the natural methods that can be used to reduce water retention. If attempts to alleviate your bloating have failed, then it is advisable to seek the assistance of a doctor.

Written by Dr Naras Lapsys, Nutrition Expert.

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