What Are the Causes of Body Water Retention?

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Water retention, also referred to as oedema, is defined by NativeRemedies.com as "a condition that results when water leaks into the body tissues from the blood." Water retention is caused by a number of different conditions and symptoms and can be relieved in various ways.

It is a common condition felt by many women and is a common symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) wherein women feel that their stomach is bloated.

Types of Water Retention

The two types of water retention that exist include generalised oedema and localised oedema. Generalised oedema, also referred to as massive oedema, refers to swelling that is felt throughout the body. This is more common in people who are severely ill. Localised oedema refers to the swelling that is felt in specific parts of the body such as the hands, feet, ankles, face and stomach.

Causes of Water Retention

Body water retention is caused by a number of situations including high salt intake, a reaction to hot weather especially if standing or walking for long periods of time, nutritional deficiencies, burns, chronic kidney disease, heart failure, thyroid disease, a side effect of drugs, pregnancy, birth control pills, the menstrual cycle and menopause.


Water retention is diagnosed by a physical examination. Sometimes, doctors will administer a blood test, a urinalysis and either a liver or kidney function test. A chest X-ray or an electrocardiogram (ECG) may also be performed to determine the cause. However, water retention can usually be diagnosed based on the questions asked by your doctor to find out about the symptoms you're feeling and the time pattern of the water retention as well as the location of the swelling.

Relieving Symptoms

You can take several steps to relieve the symptoms of water retention. To lower sodium intake, you can avoid eating salty foods such as crisps, fries and tinned soup. Additionally, avoiding caffeine and alcohol can also aid in avoiding water retention. Eating a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains is important. Exercise such as walking, biking or playing sports can help release fluids and aid in relieving water retention. Other things you can do include elevating your legs for a few minutes each day if you feel that your legs are swollen or exam some of the medications that you're taking and ask your doctor if these medications are possible causes of water retention. If so, your doctor may be able to prescribe alternative medications.


Medications may be able to help in relieving the symptoms of water retention if lifestyle changes do not. Some medications that your doctor may suggest to help to reduce water retention include over-the-counter pain relievers, over-the-counter PMS treatments or birth control pills.