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Causes of  Water Retention : Excess Salt(Sodium) Intake

One of the main causes of water retention is eating too much salty food. The main component of salt is sodium, which the body dilutes with water if too much of it is present. Salt(sodium)  makes you thirsty, and your body will hold on to this water. Reducing the amount of salt in your diet will help you to release a little water retention but not usually more than about 2 lbs in weight. Even a relatively salty diet, although it can be harmful in many ways, will not normally cause gross water retention(such as swollen ankles, feet or hands) unless it is combined with another problem below, such as vein problems in the legs.

water rention from excess salt intake

Important Salt-Water-Weight Gain Relationships

  • Normal daily salt intake:  2300 mg or less  = is 1 teaspoon of table salt.
  • 1/5 tablespoon of salt(same as 1 gram salt)  = 400 milligrams of sodium
  • Consuming  1/5 tablspoon of salt –400 mg  causes retention of 4 cups of water
  • 4 Cups Water= weight gain of 2 lbs.
  •  A simple formula using a food label, an extra 400 mg of sodium = 2 pounds water retention.


 How to Recognize High Salt in Food

  • Food labels are easy ways to recognize high sodium(salt):
  • Normal US Diet: 2300 mg of sodium or less
  • Low Salt US Diet: 1200 mg of sodium of less

food label showing high sodium
In the food label above, 870 mg of sodium will result in 4 lb of water retention!

Further Causes of Water Retention In Addition to High Salt Ingestion.

The majority of people with water retention may not even show any swelling (edema) of feet or ankles. It takes a 2nd problem to see the water retention physically. Some of these problems are included below.

Poor circulation in the leg veins

This is probably one of the most common causes of water retention in legs and ankles. This occurs in pregnancy and causes swellings. Varicose veins and diseases of the veins of the legs cause swelling and water retention.

Premenstrual water retention

This also common, and is caused by the hormonal changes of the menstrual cycle. Nutritional deficiencies caused by consuming too many of the wrong foods and drinks will make this problem worse

Dieting by eating less than 1,200 calories per day

When we restrict calories, especially carbohydrates, the body begins to break down its protein and carbohydrates stores that hold water. When eating returns to normal and the body starts to store protein and carbohydrates again instead of breaking them down, water weight increases.


Medications Also Cause Sodium Retention and Water Retention

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) can cause or worsen edema.
  • Diabetes drugs pioglitazone (Actos) and rosiglitazone (Avandia)
  • Blood pressure medications can also have this effect:
    calcium-channel blockers such as amlodipine (Norvasc) and nifedipine (Procardia),
    ACE inhibitors such as enalapril (Vasotec) and lisinopril (Prinivil)
  • Hormones such as estrogen and testosterone
  • Antidepressants such as phenelzine (Nardil), and such tricyclics as amitriptyline and nortriptyline.

Blockage or congestion of the lymphatic system —Sitting Long Periods of Time

This can cause a type of water retention known as lymphoedema (lymphedema), which is common in these conditions:

  • Post Surgery surgery,
  • immobile, e.g. those in hospital beds, wheelchairs,
  • Long-haul air plane flights,
  • “Couch potatoes’ can develop water retention because without regular movement,
  • It is difficult for your lymphatic system to drain excess fluid out of your tissues.

Hormones and Medicines

High levels of certain hormones can also make your body hold on to water. These include insulin, which is needed to process sugar; cortisone, which is produced when you are under stress; and the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Serious Heart and Kidney Disease

The most significant causes of water retention are related to heart and kidney disease.

How to Recognize High Salt in Food


  • Food label is an easy way to recognize high sodium(salt):
  • Normal US Diet: 2300 mg of sodium or less
  • Low Salt US Diet: 1200 mg of sodium of less
  • Salt Retention: 400 mg of salt on a label adds 2 lbs weight gain

Foods with High Sodium:

Image result for foods with high sodium

How to Reduce Salt in Our foods

reducing salt in food


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