Causes of Water Retention
And What to Do About Them
by Nancy Hearn, CNC

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There are many different causes of water retention, most of which are related to diet and lifestyle.

Other reasons may involve allergies, hormonal changes, specific disease conditions, side effects of medications, or even a hot climate.

What most people do not realize, however, is that one of the least recognized but most prevalent causes of water retention is dehydration.

Thus, contrary to what one may think, drinking more water will often help to alleviate the symptoms of water retention.

Too Much Salt

Excess salt intake is the most commonly known reason for water retention. I find that most people with water retention know that salt is the main culprit and thus stop using table salt.

However, even if you are not adding salt to your food or cooking, if you are eating processed foods, especially snack foods such as chips, crackers, cookies, pretzels, you are most likely eating large amounts of salt. Canned foods and packaged foods are also suspect to high sodium content.

The solution is to drink enough filtered water daily and eat more whole, fresh foods, so that you know how much salt you are actually getting.

To correct a water retention problem, avoid all refined salt and processed, packaged and canned foods until the issue is resolved.

Put very small amounts of a natural, unrefined salt, such as Celtic sea salt, on your food or in your drinking water.

Natural sea salt contains other minerals and helps to balance water and electrolytes in the body.


According to Dr. Batmanghelidj in Water for Health, for Healing, for Life,water retention is one of the body’s adaptive measures “to correct dehydration inside the vital cells of the body, such as the brain cells, the liver cells, the kidney cells, the lungs, and other important organs and glands.”

When the body is dehydrated, salt is retained in the body, and extra salt will retain extra fluid in the tissues.

Drinking water will increase urine production, and the excess salt retained in the tissues will gradually be removed through the urine.

Thus, increasing your intake of clean drinking water is a high priority for eliminating water retention.

Wastes and Toxins

Metabolic wastes and toxins, including heavy metals, pesticides, chemicals from personal care and household cleaning products, and various other environmental pollutants are often stored in fat cells.

For example, cellulite is a type of fat that retains water.

The causes of water retention in cellulite are believed to be caused by the body’s attempt to dilute the toxins and protect the body from cellular damage.

Keeping the body fully hydrated and eating eight to ten daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables will help the body remove toxins and allow the tissues to release excess fluids.

Note: You can find out if you have toxic levels of metals in your body with a Heavy Metals Test Kit!


Histamine is an important neurotransmitter that is involved in many key functions in the body. When the body is dehydrated, excess histamine is produced, which starts a chain reaction of events that can cause asthma and allergy symptoms, as well as water retention in various parts of the body.

One of the primary causes of excess histamine production is dehydration. In fact, water itself is a most effective natural antihistamine. Thus, keeping the body fully hydrated is one of the most effective and long-lasting ways to normalize histamine production.


Fluctuating levels of hormones is one of the common causes of water retention, especially for women. This vulnerability is due to the rise and fall of hormones before, during and after menstruation, pregnancy and menopause.

Many experts believe excess levels of hormones are primarily due to imbalances in blood sugar levels and high intake of animal-based proteins, especially commercialized beef and poultry, which usually contain growth hormones.

Thus, limiting sugar intake and eating more high-quality plant-based protein (in place of animal protein) is a good place to start to balance hormones if the levels are high.

Medical Conditions

The more serious causes of water retention may be due to a medical condition, such as heart, kidney or liver disease, as well as malignant lymphoedema, thyroid disease, arthritis or chronic venous insufficiency.

Be sure to consult your doctor if water retention does not respond to a disciplined increase in water intake, a decrease in refined salt and processed food, regular exercise (to flush lymph), and a higher intake of whole, fresh foods, preferably organic.

Other Causes

Other less common causes of water retention include hot weather, burns and sunburns, and occupations that require prolonged standing, which can cause fluid to collect in the tissues of the ankles and lower leg.

During hot weather, the body is less efficient at removing fluid from tissues, which is another reason why it is important to drink more water if you live in a hot climate. When skin is burned, it retains fluid and causes swelling.


One of the possible side effects of certain medications is water retention. The types of medication most commonly associated with water retention include oral contraceptives, high-blood-pressure medications, steroids, and some nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

Reference; Everything You Need to Know About Water Retention; 2017.

Return from Causes of Water Retention to Benefits of Drinking Water 

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