Are you having trouble buttoning your jeans or zipping up your dress? Sometimes women are challenged by water retention, when it seems like every ounce of water and other liquids we consume make us puff up and difficult make it difficult for us to fit into our clothes. Plus water retention can make us feel irritable. What’s going on and how can we manage it?
What is water retention?
Water retention is a condition in which fluids accumulate in various locations throughout the body. One of the places it is most evident is under the eyes (bags under your eyes), but it also can make your entire face puffy.
Other indications you are experiencing water retention include
- Weight fluctuations of one to three pounds daily, or even more
- Swollen legs, feet, and/or ankles
- Tender and/or swollen breasts
- Abdominal discomfort
- Elevated blood pressure
Water retention and bloating may seem to be the same, but they are different, although they can occur concurrently. In addition to the symptoms already mentioned, water retention usually lasts for an extended period of time, while boating usually happens for only a short time after you eat. If your abdomen is extended and changes shape and size during the day, you are likely bloated.
How is water retention associated with menopause?
The rapidly changing levels of estrogen and progesterone that are typical of the perimenopausal and menopausal years affect the ability of body to maintain a normal fluid balance. High levels of stress hormones (e.g., cortisol) also prompt the body to retain fluid. Also, when estrogen levels drop, the adrenal glands, which help control water balance in the body, affect the nervous system.
More specifically, estrogen has an effect on fluid retention and sodium, while progesterone helps to moderate estrogen’s activity. Sometimes the changing hormone levels affect how the body can maintain normal fluid balance. Women who have lived with water retention before menopause often also experience it during these hormonal changes, when it can be more severe.
Progesterone has a role as well. This hormone is a natural diuretic, so if estrogen levels are higher than progesterone, it can result in water retention. High progesterone, on the other hand, causes food to travel more slowly through the intestinal tract, which can lead to bloating.
How can you manage water retention in menopause naturally?
The most important thing—and the easiest–you can do to manage water retention in menopause is to:
- Drink enough water and other fluids daily to maintain good hydration. This may sound like the wrong thing to do, but you need to properly hydrate your body in order to successfully eliminate excess fluids. Generally this means eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily, but individual needs vary.
- Exercise regularly. You should engage in aerobic exercise at least four to five days a week for 30 to 45 minutes daily. Exercise stimulates fluid elimination and proper blood and lymph flow.
- Watch your salt intake. Avoid added salt, but especially look at the labels on processed and refined foods. These often contain high amounts of sodium and should be avoided. A few examples of foods high in salt (including hidden salt) include bacon, cheese, olives, processed meats, salted nuts, soy sauce, bakery products, soups, pizza, breakfast cereals, and condiments.
- Practice stress management. Activities such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques can help with water retention by reducing stress. When stress is controlled, you can achieve a normal level of antidiuretic hormone and cortisol, which is essential for fluid balance. High levels of both of these hormones stimulates water retention.
- Try herbal remedies. Teas or oral supplements of dandelion, parsley, fennel, nettle, hibiscus, caraway, green tea, black tea, corn silk, and horsetail can help eliminate excessive fluids. Take according to package directions or consult a knowledgeable healthcare professional.
- Eat potassium-rich foods. Potassium is a mineral that can help balance sodium levels in the body and increase urine production. Some foods to include are dark green leafy vegetables, bananas, tomatoes, beans, and avocados.
- Avoid carbonated beverages. Both caffeinated and non-caffeinated carbonated beverages can contribute to water retention because of the caffeine or their sodium content.
- Do not chew gum. When you chew gum, you take in excessive amounts of air, which can increase any discomfort associated with water retention.
- Include probiotics in your daily schedule. Beneficial bacteria from supplements or foods (e.g., kefir, sour pickles, yogurt, kimchee, sauerkraut) can help relieve discomfort associated with water retention and boost gut health.
when to contact your doctor
If you experience pain, headache, or discomfort associated with water retention, especially in your arms or legs, contact your physician. Any concerns you have about retaining fluids should be discussed with your doctor. If you are taking any type of medication, you should review these with your doctor, as they may have a role in retaining fluids.
Water retention in menopause is common and often mild. There are numerous lifestyle changes you can make to help alleviate and eliminate water retention during times of hormonal changes.