The body uses a complex system of hormones and hormone-like substances called prostaglandins to keep its volume of fluid at a constant level. So if one day a person drinks a lot more water or other fluid than usual, they should not end up weighing more in the long term; their kidneys will quickly excrete the excess as urine. Likewise, if they do not get enough to drink, their body will hold on to its fluids and they will urinate less than usual. The term "water retention" (also known as fluid retention) signifies an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the circulatory system or within the tissues or cavities of the body.
Water metabolism is an important homoeostasis mechanism of the body. Approximately 60% of lean body mass is water: two thirds of total body water is located inside cell as intracellular fluid (ICF), and one third is extra cellular fluid (ECF). The ECF is further divided into an intravascular compartment (25%) and an interstitial compartment (75%). This, in a 70 kg man, total body water is 42 liters of which 28 liters is intracellular, and 14 liters are extra cellular: 3.5 liters of the extra cellular fluid is located in the intravascular compartment, while most of the other 10.5 liters is located in the interstitial fluid.
General Causes of Water Retention
- excess of water intake i.e. more than 3 litres
- regular intake of cold or chilled water, chilled drinks or juices
- excess of alkaline foods because their water content is high
- chemical salt is another important factor in water retention
- water intake during meals
- irregular eating pattern
- lack of night sleep
- prolonged stress
- various medicines esp. hormones
- Water retention is part of the premenstrual syndrome. During this time, hormonal fluctuations can cause havoc in a woman’s body. In some women, the monthly rise in estrogen raises the hormone aldosterone. Aldosterone, in turn, causes the kidneys to retain fluids and the woman to suddenly gain a few water-filled pounds. While PMS is the major cause of water retention in women, water retention for both men and women can also be related to kidney problems, both serious (kidney disease) and common causes.
- Heart, liver, or thyroid malfunctions can also play a role in water retention. Thanks to the effects of gravity, retained water tends to accumulate in the feet, ankles, and legs, although no area of the body is immune. Other water prone areas are chin or sub-mental area and eye especially upper lids.
Symptoms of Water Retention
These symptoms vary from person to person depending upon age, presence of other disease, gender, duration of water retention and level of water retention. I have seen two severe cases of water retention; one with sixty glasses of water and another with forty glasses of water. The first patient one died due to heart and kidney failure, fate of the second one is unknown. Water retention leads to various symptoms.
- swollen, bloated or puffy body
- difficulty in losing weight
- disproportionate body especially lower body
- loose and toneless skin
- saggy muscles
- tendency for muscle and joint pains
- mental and physical fatigue especially early morning
- dizziness or loss of balance control
- uncontrolled blood pressure
- tendency for heart enlargement
- hormonal imbalances
- mood swings
- various allergies (flu, asthma, eczema, arthritis etc)
- high level of grief, sadness, feeling of detachment for the worldly life
Bloating is the result of wind and water retention. Certain bodies have a tendency for retaining water and other types retain more wind and few have combination of both.
Treatment of Water Retention
- Be careful about food type and dietary habits.
- Water intake should be carefully regulated about 1.5 litres in winters and 2.5 litres during summers.
- Water should be consumed half an hour before or one and half hour after the meals.
- Temperature of water and drinks should be close to the body temperature.
- Peanuts, raisins, black tea, coffee, dark chocolate, cloves, soups and high proteins can be used for relieving water retention.