What Dieters Need to Know About Fluid Retention

dieting and fluid retention

[updated September 2019]

About 4.4 million people in the U.S. suffer from edema or “water retention.” When it comes to weight loss, it’s crucial for dieters to be aware of what it means to retain fluid and how this can affect their progress.

Dieters need to be aware of fluid retention and how it can cause their weight to drastically fluctuate. For instance, it’s not unusual to see a 2lb swing on weight overnight and more often than not this is due to fluid retention.

What is Fluid Retention?

Also known as edema or water retention, fluid retention refers to a buildup of excess fluids within the body. When your body retains water, this usually occurs in the circulatory system and within cavities and tissues. In some cases, fluid retention will be visible due to the swelling it can cause in the ankles, feet, hands, and legs.

If you are trying to lose weight, early results might be due to water loss, and fluctuating weight can be a result of water buildup. It can hapen anywhere in the body even inside your body where it is not easily visible.

You can usually tell you have edema because you see the swollen area and the skin over it may look stretched and shiny. It can make it difficult for you to move your limbs or if it’s in your lungs you may have trouble breathing.

fluid - retention

What Causes Fluid Retention?

While water retention may sound like a straightforward condition, it can have many causes. Sometimes, the body will retain fluid as a medication side effect, and it can also be a symptom of a more serious issue, such as a heart and vein problem. Even your lifestyle can cause you to retain fluid, for instance, if you stand or sit for long periods. Hormonal changes, such as when a woman is pregnant, can also cause the body to hold water. Finally, many cases of fluid retention are a result of consuming too much sodium, an element that is essential to our health, but found in high amounts in many foods.

  • Eating too much salty foods
  • Pregnancy
  • Premenstrual symptoms or hormonal changes
  • Sitting or staying in one position too long
  • Medications
  • Severe medical condition like kidney disease or heart failure
  • Weight training exercises
  • Refined carbohydrates or simple carbs like sugar, bleached flour, and other processed foods

How to Treat Fluid Retention?

The easiest way to cut water retention is to watch your salt intake.

Individuals suffering from edema should see their doctor for an examination. If it turns out that your fluid retention is a result of your diet, then there are several easy solutions. First, start paying attention to the sodium levels in any processed foods that you eat. Also, cut back or eliminate your use of table salt. Lastly, consider participating in a personalized weight loss program that offers a customized diet plan to help you cut back on sodium.

Tips to reduce fluid retention:

  • Eat less salt – check levels in processed foods and cut back on table salt usage
  • Increase magnesium intake
  • Increase vitamin B6 intake
  • Eat more potasium-rich foods
  • Avoid or significantly reduce the amount of refined carbs you eat
  • Move more
  • Drink more water
  • Changing medications (check with your doctor first)
  • Compression stockings, sleeves and gloves can all keep pressure on the limbs to prevent fluid from accumulating
  • Massage

The good news about edema is that it’s often treatable with at-home and lifestyle remedies. Some of the more severe types may be treated with drugs that encourage the draining of fluid, but it’s better to discover what’s causing the edema, and to attack that cause from the source.


About the Author – Suzanne Gil, M.D.
dr suzanne gil mdDr. Suzanne Gil obtained advanced training in bariatrics (weight loss medicine) and opened Calla Slimspa Medical Weight Loss Center located in Orlando, FL in 2008 when the need for weight related assistance became a huge priority. She is a member of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians (ASBP) and dedicates 100% of her professional time to helping as many people as possible achieve their weight loss goals and improve their health. She completed her residency at Orlando Regional Medical Center and is a Board Certified Pediatrician.