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Health and Fitness News

Puffy, Swollen, and Bloated

Five reasons why you’re experiencing water retention.

Up to 70 percent of your body is made of water. It’s in your blood, organs, muscles, and bones, and it is essential for every body function. Because you lose water by sweating, breathing, and using the restroom, your water supply needs frequent replenishing. For various reasons, the body can occasionally keeps more water than it needs. This causes you to look puffy and swollen and feel bloated. For someone trying to slim down, water retention is a nuisance.

In some cases water retention is caused by diet or lifestyle choices. Other times it’s a sign of a more serious health condition. Here are a few of the more common causes of water retention and what you can do about them.

Lack of Exercise

Sit or stand most of the day? Then you’re at a greater risk for water retention, especially in the legs and ankles. Physical activity keeps the blood circulating throughout the body, but sitting or standing for prolonged periods causes blood to settle in the legs. When this happens, pressure is placed on the capillaries, causing fluid to be leaked into the body.

Whenever you’re sitting or standing in place for a long time, take breaks to walk around, flex your feet, or rotate your ankles to keep the blood circulating.

Diet

Eat fast food for lunch, chips for snack, and a frozen meal for dinner? Then it’s no wonder you deal with water retention. Sodium in moderate amounts is important for health, but too much will increase your blood pressure and cause the body to hold onto water. Limit your salt intake to fewer than 2,300 milligrams a day. When you do eat a meal high in sodium, offset its effects by drinking plenty of water and eating foods high in potassium (bananas, sweet potatoes, and spinach).

Hormones

As if cramps and a bad mood aren’t enough, women often deal with water retention, weight gain, and bloating in the days leading up their monthly period. Fluctuating hormone levels are to blame. After a few days, things should go back to normal, allowing you to fit into your favorite jeans again.

Medications

Certain medications come with the negative side effect of water retention. These include medications used to treat high blood pressure, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, chemotherapy drugs, antidepressants, beta-blockers, hormone replacement therapy drugs, and birth control pills. If your medication is making your body hold onto water, talk with your physician about potential options.

Health Conditions

There are times water retention is caused by an underlying health condition. For this reason, if you notice bloating and swelling that lasts for weeks at a time and is not related to any reason listed above, see your doctor.

Health conditions that may cause water retention include a weak heart that’s unable to effectively pump blood, faulty heart valves that aren’t able to pump blood through the heart, blood clots, varicose veins, cirrhosis of the liver, kidney failure, chronic inflammation, severe malnutrition, or thyroid disease. Kidney,liver, or ovarian cancers can also be a contributor to water retention.

Get Relief

In most cases, a few simple lifestyle changes can help reduce water retention. For starters, eat a low-sodium diet and get regular exercise five days a week. Swelling in your legs can be relieved by elevating your feet above your heart or by wearing compression stockings that squeeze your legs to keep blood circulating. If necessary, your doctor may prescribe a diuretic, a water pill that increases the amount of urine your body produces and expels.