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What is Water Retention?

Water retention takes place in some physiological situations such as pregnancy, menopause and pre-menstruation, and also in many heart, kidney and liver diseases.

Water retention takes place in some physiological situations such as pregnancy, menopause and pre-menstruation, and also in many heart, kidney and liver diseases. It becomes evident as a swelling of the soft tissues of the body, due to the accumulation of water in those areas.

The human organism is very rich in water. Water represents almost a 72% of the waight of an adult.

This element is distributed in three sections:

* Intracellular: water into the cells.

* Intravascular: water into the blood vessels.

* Interstitial: water into the tissues around the cells.

These three sections are divided by a semipermeable membrane that allows water to get through. Water retention takes place when there is an imbalance between the forces that regulate the crossing of water from one section to the other. There is water retention when water crosses heavily from the intravascular to the interstitial section.

Water retention is one of the hidden factors of weight gain, and becomes apparent in the scales and in the mirror. Some causes of water retention are: sedentary lifestyle, hormonal fluctuations and important diseases such as cirrhosis, cancer, heart disorders, high blood pressure, malnutrition, etc.

All these factors are divided into:

Organic Factors: inflamatory, allergic and circulatory disorders.

Everyday Factors: sedentary lifestyle, stress, the ingestion of medicines (corticoids, oral contraceptives, etc), and climatic factors (high temperatures, low atmospheric pressure, etc).

Now I will answer some frequently asked questions about water retention:

1- Is it possible that slim women suffer from water retention?

The probability of suffering from water retention increases when there is more body weight. When a person is slim, these probabilities decrease (although slim people may suffer from water retention under any of the factors mentioned above).

2- Is water retention less frequent in men?

Healthy women tend to retain more water than healthy men, due to hormonal factors.

3- Which role does menopause play in water retention?

It is a very important factor because water retention is much more frequent during menopause than in any other moment of women's life.

4- How is retention related to hormonal activities?

During menopause there is an important estrogen deficiency that causes water retention (hormonal factor). Other important factor is that elderly people tend to do very little phsysical activity. Furthermore, capillary permeability increases with the age and the formation of edemas (edemata) is more probable.

5- Is water retention a chronic problem?

To healthy people, water retention feels more serious than what it really is. Sometimes they take medicines and follow diets that produce a "negative balance" of water in their bodies (they eliminate more water than the ingested). Each time they suspend that medication or diet they feel "puffy", but in fact they went back to their normal state.

6- Is this related to the famous "quick diets"?

Yes. But these diets are completely useless. It must be taken into account that any decrease in weight produced in 24 or 48 hours is always related to a movement of water in the body. Fat never reduces so fast!

7- Is drinking "pure" water the only way of getting rid of water retention?

No. If you drink a litre of water, you will eliminate a litre of water. That has to do with its diuretic effect. Drinking pure water does not combat water retention, but it is useful, of course.

8- What about drinking coffee or tea?

Infusions have some diuretic elements, but in the end they have the same effect as water.

9- So drinking coffee or water is exactly the same thing...

Of course not. Water is much more healthier.

10- There is a feeling of "swelling" after drinking soda...

People generally think that "swelling" is equivalent to "retention". After drinking soda or any soft drink we feel "puffy" because of the gas they contain; it has nothing to do with water retention.

11- Is the accumulation of water in the hips something typically femenine?

No. There is an important mistake in that question: what people accumulate around the hips is not water but fat. Of course, water retention is more probable in those areas of the body where there is more local adiposity.

12- Which are your recommendations about this problem and how to face it?

There are some useful guidelines for the treatment of water retention:

- Follow a diet containing vegetables and fruits and water.

- Each diet should be balanced and prepared in accordance to every person's age and lifestyle.

- Take regular phsysical exercise, taking into account your age and physical state.

- Be careful with salt or sodium. Try to take the salt shaker off the table and avoid adding extra salt to your meals.

- Remember that these tips are more necessary at 50 than at 20, however it is important to consider them from an early age.

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