Kaitlyn has a background in psychology and writes articles that teach you how to lean on your body, mind, heart, and on those around you.
What’s the Difference Between Bloating and Water Retention?
Ever wondered why you just can’t shift those last 10 pounds no matter how much exercise or dieting you do? Want to look ripped, but just can’t get rid of the puffiness? And even though you do hundreds of sit-ups every day, why won't that belly pooch go away?
You could be experiencing water retention and bloating.
Bloating is when gas gets trapped in the abdomen, and is usually caused by some indigestion or swallowed air. When you’re bloated, your stomach may look more rounded and can “pooch” out.
Water retention, on the other hand, is when your body holds onto fluid and can be caused by food intolerance, bad diet, disease, and chronic inflammation. Some women may also experience water retention as a symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
But, with a few lifestyle changes, you could get rid of bloat and puffiness for good.
6 Ways to Reduce Water Retention and Bloating
1. Consume less salt
Researchers have found that sodium plays a major role in balancing your hydration levels. If you eat too much sodium, your body will want to retain more water to balance out high levels of sodium in your blood. Especially when you’re not drinking enough water, your body will hold on to every drop of water you have, leading to water retention.
So, decrease your salt intake by avoiding processed foods, which can contain high levels of sodium even if they don’t taste particularly salty. Don’t eat out so often, and skip the salt shaker when cooking at home.
2. Drop dairy
Most of us find it hard to digest dairy to some degree. Studies on lactose intolerance found that when our bodies struggle to break down milk sugars, we can start to experience bloating. If you’re not sure if dairy is the cause of your bloating, cut out all dairy products for a week and see if you notice a difference. But not all dairy products may cause bloating. It could be straight milk; it could be cheese, it could be yogurt. To find out exactly which kinds of dairy is the cause of your bloating, add dairy foods back one by one so you can identify exactly which dairy product you should stop eating.
3. Avoid refined carbs
Carbohydrates are stored in your body as glycogen. For every gram of glycogen stored in your body, you’re also storing 3-5 grams of water. Studies have also found that carbohydrates can also make insulin levels rise, which will cause your body to store more sodium, which will then cause your body to retain even more water. This is why most of us can lose weight quickly when we’re just starting on a low-carb diet. Most of the initial weight you lose is water weight.
So if you’re experiencing excessive water retention, or would like to look leaner, try cutting back on carbs—especially highly processed, empty carbs, to see how your body responds.
4. Sleep more
Sleep is crucial for facilitating your body’s natural healing abilities and has been shown to help your kidneys regulate your sodium and water levels. Studies have found that your body flushes out toxins from your brain and body when you sleep. So getting enough quality sleep can play a major role in keeping your water retention and bloating under control.
Make sure you’re getting at least 7–8 hours of sleep a night. If that’s a problem for you, taking a nap or two during the day can also help.
5. Cut back on refined or artificial sugars
Studies have found that sugar and sugar alcohols are a major cause of bloating. Sugar alcohols, in particular, are metabolized differently by the body and are often not digestible. Because the body struggles to absorb and utilize sugar alcohols, you can experience symptoms like bloating.
So cut back on the sweet stuff. And if you’re already on a low-sugar diet, it’s best to steer clear of artificial sweeteners and sugar-free products.
6. Drink lots of water
There has been some evidence that you can lose water weight by drinking more water. This point may seem counterintuitive, but the body is all about balance. So if you’re not properly hydrated, your body will want to retain more water to keep functioning at its best. Since the liver and kidneys are responsible for processing and flushing toxins from your body, keeping these organs healthy by drinking water will keep your water retention under control.
But that doesn’t mean you should guzzle as much water as you can. Too much water will increase water weight, so it’s all about balance. Drink when you feel like you need to, and stop when you feel like you’ve had too much water. Remember to drink more when you’ve been sweating or when you’re in a hot environment.
The best way to know where your hydration levels are is to keep an eye on the color of your urine. If your urine is light yellow or clear, you’re well-hydrated. If your urine is a darker yellow, that means it's time to down an extra glass of water or two.
More Tips to Get Rid of Water Retention for Good
To lose water weight even faster, combine a regular exercise regime with the tips above. Any activity that makes you sweat will cause your body to release its storage of water. When exercising, water will also move into your muscles and reduce the water hanging around on the outside of your cells. That’s why most of us tend to look leaner right after a good workout. But, because you’ll be losing water during a workout, make sure you’re drinking enough, so you’re not putting too much stress on your body.
Eat more foods containing magnesium, vitamin B6, potassium
Magnesium and vitamin B6 have been found in studies to reduce water retention in women experiencing PMS. Nuts, whole grains, leafy green vegetables, and dark chocolate are rich in magnesium. Potatoes, walnuts, bananas, and meat are rich in B6.
Further studies have found that potassium decreases sodium levels and increases the production of urine, both resulting in a reduction of water retention. Bananas, tomatoes, and avocados are rich in potassium.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2018 KV Lo
Vatsala on April 28, 2018:
Fantastic advice! Thanks for clarifying one of the biggest confusions I had! Looking forward to reading more.
kirsten on April 27, 2018:
great tips! definitely going to try and implement more of these into my daily life!
Stephanie on April 27, 2018:
Great tips, I think the dairy must be my problem - I love cheese and ice cream a little too much. Saving this for later!
Daisy and Thyme on April 27, 2018:
Very interesting post. I suffer a lot from bloating issues and I've the feeling that are mostly stress related. I do most of the things you recommend. Probably don't sleep enough, drink to much coffee...
KV Lo (author) on March 29, 2018:
@Tahlia. Just want to clarify: TOO MUCH water can make you retain more water, while drinking more water in general will help you LOSE water weight. Everything in moderation! :) Don't stop drinking water, but don't go crazy either.
Irena on March 01, 2018:
I'm lucky to not have these problems, but I will definitely take your advice on drinking more water and sleeping more. I've started exercising daily 3 months ago. Nothing much, just 15-20 minutes workout, but I feel great.
CATALINA NINI on March 01, 2018:
For such a long time I have looked for options that do work for me as I get bloated so easily. I found that drinking more water daily clearly helped. I will start my day with a glass of hot water, sometimes I will add a piece of lemon sometimes I will forget. Before bedtime, another glass of hot water. Cutting cheese and milk did wonders for me.
Tahlia on February 28, 2018:
Thank you for these tips! I honestly didn't know that water made you bloted! a lot of things learnt here, so thank you.. looking for ways to look less bloted.
Nikki on February 27, 2018:
I eat way too much salt and don't drink nearly enough water. I need to be better with both of these things.
Rhian Westbury on February 27, 2018:
I tend to retain quite a lot of water so this is a really useful read, thanks for the tips x
Menaka Bharathi on February 27, 2018:
I was searching for an answer exactly to this problem. This water retention is actually creating a lot of problem to my body. Thanks for the post
Ridima on February 27, 2018:
I love your ideas on avoiding bloating and water retention. It is important to hydrate but everything needs to be taken in moderation. Great tips.
Kristine Nicole Alessandra on February 27, 2018:
I am a diabetic and I try to keep my carbohydrate consumption low. I hate blood sugar spikes. It makes me feel so sluggish. I will follow your tips to eliminate excess water, not so much to look good, but more on feeling more energetic.
Whitney on February 26, 2018:
Yup, I think I'm doing EVERYTHING wrong. Reading this list shows how I need to do so much better in every area but its worth it. Thank you for the useful tips.
KV Lo (author) on February 26, 2018:
@Christina Glad you found the tips useful! I'd love to know what else works for you. :) Thanks for reading.
Christina on February 26, 2018:
I love this. I'm going to try all of these minus the sleep more part! (Hard with young kids, ha!) I've been cutting out dairy and seeing a difference though!
KV Lo (author) on February 21, 2018:
@Lor Glitz Thank you for reading! Glad you liked it.