Scores of people suffer from water retention issues, however, few know anything about the causes of water retention. What causes water retention in the body? This article dwells on causes of water retention, but before heading into that, let's quickly understand what water retention actually is! Leakage of water from body tissues into the bloodstream, is termed as water retention or edema. In a healthy adult, the lymphatic system performs the crucial function of draining fluids from body tissues, via its tubular network spread throughout the body. However, when the lymphatic system fails to remove the water properly, water pools up in the body tissues, thereby conducing to edema. This collection of water is commonly observed in extremities of the body parts and abdominal regions. There are two kinds of edema: localized edema and generalized edema, wherein the former corresponds to swelling occurring in specific regions of the body, while the latter corresponds to swelling occurring throughout the body.
Causes of Water Retention in the Body
Excessive Salt and Sugar in the Diet
One of the primary water retention causes is consumption of excessive salty food. Salt helps the body to retain water, however, excess salt intake conduces to water retention and swelling. Sugar content in the body naturally increases insulin hormone levels, however, excessive sugar levels cause insulin levels to rise even higher. This high insulin level makes excretion of sodium from the body even more difficult. Thus, we see sugar and salt are essential for the body, however, beyond a certain limit they can be deleterious.
The bean-shaped kidneys in the body, play the important role of filtering the body of all waste substances and maintaining fluid balance in the body. Kidney diseases and kidney infections hamper the normal functioning of the kidneys and prevent removal of excess sodium and fluid from the body, thereby resulting in increased blood pressure in the walls of the blood vessels. The high blood pressure makes the fluid move from the blood vessels out into the body, thereby conducing to water retention in the legs and eye region.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Edema
Changes in hormone levels like progesterone, etc. before menstruation can lead to increased risk of water retention issues. The reason behind this has been debated by people of two schools of thought. One school states that the problem is caused due to abnormal fluctuations in blood sugar, while the other states the reason is related to sodium levels.
Edema During Pregnancy
Edema during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester is quite a common phenomenon. The expecting mom finds her ankles, wrists, fingers and face swelling up during the final trimester of pregnancy. This happens because the growing uterus applies pressure on the inferior vena cava, thereby reducing the amount of blood flowing to the heart, which in turn results in release of water into the tissues of the hands and legs. Although this conduces to a lot of discomfort during pregnancy, it is not known to cause any adverse effects. However, sudden swelling can also be symptom of preeclampsia, which is a dangerous condition and requires immediate medical intervention.
Extreme cases of sunburns can result in blistering and water retention, as it leads to secretion of high levels of toxins that damage the skin. These high levels of toxin lead to overloading of the kidneys, while excreting waste materials. The body tries to reduce the overload and ends up storing water in different parts of the body.
Maintaining One Position for Extended Period
Standing or sitting for long periods of time can cause water to be retained in the ankles. Sedentary lifestyles, job that cause one to sit or stand in one position for long hours prevent adequate circulation of blood. Proper circulation of blood needs movement of body muscles, thus if a job demands sitting throughout the day, one should walk around for a few minutes every now and then. Same is applied to standing for long hours. If the condition is on the extreme side, then one should elevate the leg when at home and should also take circulation supplements, under the guidance of a health care provider.
The right chamber of the heart is responsible for receiving blood from the different parts of the body, via the superior and inferior vena cava and then pump it to the lungs for oxygenation via the pulmonary artery. Moreover, the left chamber receives oxygenated blood from the lungs and via the pulmonary vein pumps it to the different parts of the body. Any malfunction in these chambers, leads to ineffective pumping of blood and the body responds by retaining body fluids to increase blood volume. A right chamber failure conduces to swelling in abdomen and legs, whereas, failure of the left heart leads to shortness of breath and pulmonary edema.
Besides the above mentioned causes of water retention, there are various other causes that also result in water retention. Factors like lack of essential fatty acids, nutritional deficiencies, lack of exercise, liver or thyroid diseases, food allergies, drug side effects, etc. can also conduce to water retention in different parts of the body. Consumption of water-rich fruits and vegetables help keep the water retention condition at bay. After consulting a health care provider, one can even take supplements to prevent water retention.