What Causes Water Retention and How to Avoid It

by DailyHealthPost Editorial

water retention causes

Everybody experiences bloating and swelling of some sort every once in a while, but water retention can be a serious condition. However, water retention causes are well-known and, most of the time, the condition can often be fixed by changing a few lifestyle factors.

Edema is nothing to be embarrassed about, so read on if you’re prone to a little excessive swelling and find out what’s causing it.

What Causes Edema?

According to the Mayo Clinic: “Edema is swelling caused by excess fluid trapped in your body’s tissues. Although edema can affect any part of your body, it’s most commonly noticed in the hands, arms, feet, ankles and legs (1).


Fluid retention if often caused by certain medical conditions and medications (2). In fact, mild water retention causes include (3):

  • Sitting or staying in one position for too long
  • Eating too much salty food
  • Premenstrual signs and symptoms
  • Pregnancy

Edema can also be a side effect of some medications, including:

  • High blood pressure medications
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Steroid drugs
  • Estrogens
  • Certain diabetes medications called thiazolidinediones
  • Pramipexole

More serious causes include congestive heart failure, liver cirrhosis, kidney disease, kidney damage, damaged veins, lymphatic issues, low albumin, allergic reactions, blood clots, burns, life-threatening infections, and more (4).

If you think you might have the condition, look out for these symptoms of edema (5):

  • Swelling or puffiness of the tissue directly under your skin
  • Stretched or shiny skin
  • Skin that retains a dimple after applying pressure for several seconds
  • Increased abdominal size

In serious cases, you may also experience shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, and chest pain. These are serious signs of pulmonary edema, which requires emergency medical treatment.

6 Common Water Retention Causes

These are the main water retention causes you can easily fix.


1. Eating Processed Foods

Processed foods contain way too many processed sugar, salt, and oils. These ingredients can all contribute towards edema (6). That’s because these foods also put excess stress on the kidneys, liver, and other systems that regulate fluid retention.

2. Excessive Sodium Intake

Excess salt in the body causes water retention, which then leaks into the interstitial tissue spaces. This causes abdominal edema. Normally, the kidneys can handle a little increase in salt by increasing sodium output in urine. However, eating too much salt every day can cause permanent kidney damage and chronic edema (7).

To flush out this excess salt, increase your water intake and replace salt with flavorful spices. It’s also a good idea to swap table salt for Himalayan or sea salt.

3. Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when your body doesn’t have enough fluid to maintain normal operations. This can be caused by loss of fluids from vomiting, fever, diarrhea, excessive sweating or excessive urination. It may also occur if you don’t take in enough fluids (through water, juice, tea, etc..) or eat liquid foods, like soups and smoothies (8).

If your body doesn’t get enough fluids daily, it might compensate by redirecting fluids normally lost during urination and sweating towards other tissues for survival. This is only temporary and edema will subside when your fluid intake increases. However, if you aren’t drinking enough water daily, your may experience chronic edema.

4. Vitamin B6 Deficiency

A study from Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Iran found that vitamin B6 improves premenstrual syndrome symptoms, including edema, in just 2 months of daily ingestion (9). Vitamin B6 is found in a wide variety of foods, such as fish, organ meats, potatoes, chickpeas, starchy vegetables, and some fruits (10).


5. Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium is an essential electrolyte, which is in necessary for blood chemistry, muscle action, and more. Sodium, calcium, potassium, chlorine, phosphate and magnesium are all electrolytes (11). Magnesium can be used to treat edema, which is why taking an Epsom salt bath daily is the perfect home remedy (12).

6. Potassium Deficiency

Potassium also has a role in regulating blood pressure and intracellular fluids. When your body has too much potassium, your kidneys filter out the excess and flushes it out through urine (13).

Low potassium levels can be caused by dehydration, diarrhea, excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) and laxative abuse. This can lead to edema and impaired cellular processes.

7 Natural Diuretics

Now that you know the most common water retention causes, here’s how you can fix it naturally.

Diuretics stimulate your kidneys to excrete more sodium and water through urine. This helps your body get rid of excess fluids (14).

While pharmaceutical options do exist, natural herbs and spices are much safer and just as effective (15,16).


1. Dandelion

This common weed has plenty of medicinal and household uses. Within just five hours of drinking dandelion root tea or taking a dandelion extract, the frequency of urination increases significantly (17). It can also increase urine output (18). Some women even use the herb to relieve edema during menstruation and to prevent UTIs (19).