The four most common causes of fluid retention

Feet that resist entering shoes, legs that bulge as if they were those of a michelin doll, the implacable cellulite, bags under the eyes that add years to the face, a bulging belly that we refuse to recognize as our own. They are the areas of our body that look for the liquid to stay. What appears surely is familiar to us: fluid retention .

The process is known as edema, which is the accumulation of fluid in the space between tissue cells and in certain body cavities. “It manifests with a sensation of swelling or inflammation of the tissues that are under the skin and is usually seen especially in the legs, arms and abdomen, observing an increase in its usual size,” explains Noelia Bonfanti , nutritionist and doctor of science of Physical Activity and Sport. The skin can be seen stretched or shiny, and pressing it for a few seconds leaves a kind of dimple on it. These are the most common reasons why it happens.

Because you spend with the salt

It gives food flavor, but passing it hurts the heart: when this organ stops pumping effectively, blood pressure is altered causing retention and, in more severe cases, it produces heart failure and leads to respiratory problems. Limiting the amount of salt can help prevent these symptoms. According to the Spanish Heart Foundation (FEC), you should not put it on any plate. Instead, he recommends using herbs, spices, lemon, vinegar and oils flavored with garlic, oregano or chili if we want to enhance the flavor of the food.

The main source of salt is table salt, but Bonfanti specifies that “we should not only look at what we add at home to our menus, but also what forms part of food, especially industrially made ones .” We must put special attention to the labels of soft drinks, breads, crackers, cold cuts, cheeses, smoked and canned. “A healthy, varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, legumes and natural dairy is always a factor in preventing fluid retention,” he clarifies.

Because you need more water

“Sufficient intake during the day is very important,” says the expert. Above all, “if we do physical exercise and even more if it is done in hot and humid conditions,” he adds. Physical activity is not only necessary to avoid health problems such as obesity, being overweight, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, but also fluid retention. “It has a lot to do with both development and prevention and treatment,” says Bonfanti. The FEC reminds that to avoid this, you need to exercise regularly, keep your legs elevated and avoid sitting for very long periods of time .

For your hormones

Retention is much more common in women; female hormones play an important role in their development. During the months of gestation the body retains more water than normal , mainly due to hormonal changes and being overweight, but it is something that resolves on its own after delivery. Attention: if the inflammation is sudden and appears accompanied by headache, vomiting or vision problems, it could be a sign of preeclampsia, a specific disorder of pregnancy in which hypertension appears, and that requires immediate medical attention. And the feeding during pregnancy can influence the later months. Eating late, for example, triples the chance of fluid retention for up to 18 months after delivery, according to research. from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Singapore.

In female retention it is also one of the more than 150 possible symptoms associated with PMS . Bonfanti highlights mastalgia (pain in the breasts), abdominal distension, transient weight gain and decrease in the amount of urine produced as very characteristic. “Estrogens promote fluid retention and breast tension in the second phase of the cycle, when there is not enough progesterone to counteract this estrogenic effect,” says Bonfanti.

For health problems

When you retain fluids, you may also be failing some of the pathways that help keep fluids at healthy levels . “It may be a consequence of the presence of certain serious pre-existing pathologies such as congestive heart failure, kidney disease or liver cirrhosis,” clarifies the expert.

Another reason is a malfunction of the lymphatic system , which defends the body against infection. This is, in fact, one of the most frequent causes. The kidneys constitute a powerful filter that allows access to the bloodstream of everything that can be reused and eliminating waste through urine. If there are problems, this process fails and the fluid remains in the body.

Inflammation can also be part of an infection or an allergy . The immune system detects an invader (bacteria or allergen) and attacks by releasing histamine, which causes the spaces between the cells of the capillary walls to widen to allow passage of the white blood cells that fight the infection. Sometimes the fluid seeps from the capillaries to the surrounding tissues causing temporary swelling. Joints affected by some types of arthritis also tend to swell.

To avoid it: fruits, vegetables and movement

Whatever the cause, studies agree on diet and physical activity as preventive factors. Bonfanti indicates that, although the vast majority of fruits and vegetables can be considered useful, he especially advises “those that are richer in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances such as red fruits, citrus, pineapple, dark green leafy vegetables, asparagus , beets or tomato. ” And he adds: “We must avoid the consumption of red meat and opt for the low-fat white ones such as chicken breast or turkey without skin, and scant ones, both white and blue.” They are very concrete, but effective recommendations to re-identify the image of the belly that the mirror returns as our own.


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