Water Retention: Excess Salt (Sodium) Intake and Hormones

Water retention due to excess salt intake can make the weight loss process very frustrating.  Many women(due to hormonal changes) can retain large amounts of water, often made worse with too much sodium, and experience real weight gain of several pounds over a day. Nothing can destroy a weight loss plan as watching the scale go up while carefully watching food intake and exercise. One of the main causes of water retention is eating too much salty food. The main component of table 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 retained water, 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 , such as vein problems in the legs.

Water Retention from Excess Salt (Sodium) Intake




Important Salt-Water-Weight Gain Relationships

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

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 Intake

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 effects 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 swelling. 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 carbohydrate 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 for 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 airplane flights
  • Couch potatoes can retain water 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; cortisol, 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 Reduce Salt in Our foods

Salt and Food