How to Lose Water Weight (Safely and Fast)
The human body is mostly water, if you can believe it. Babies are born containing between 70-80% water, and as you grow that number goes down a bit. The average adult contains about 60% water (1).
However, excess water (bloating or edema) is almost entirely due to chronic inflammation in the body. There are certain life circumstances that might naturally produce excess fluid retention, such as pregnancy or extremely hot weather that you aren’t used to. However, if excess water weight is a regular occurrence, consider the following…
What is Inflammation?
The term “inflammation” has become somewhat of a buzzword in the world of integrative and holistic medicine, and for good reason. However, it is seemingly less common to really understand what inflammation is, how it is caused, and what to do about it. Many chronic conditions and diseases are partially (if not fully) rooted in systemic inflammation (2).
Chronic vs. acute inflammation
Inflammation is a natural healing process that is actually necessary to defend and protect the body from infection and disease. What is not natural and is at the root of many chronic condition (water weight/edema definitely being one), is when inflammation becomes generalized and chronic, rather than acute.
[Related: Inflammation 101]
Bottom line: While acute inflammation is normal, chronic inflammation is problematic and leads to water weight, among many other conditions.
Causes of Water Weight Gain
So, what causes this type of chronic inflammation and excess water weight? Diet and lifestyle factors are bombarding our body every day with inflammatory foods and habits, and this is the major underlying cause of chronic inflammation. Let’s take a look at some of the most common dietary reasons for retaining excess water:
1. Excess Sugar in the Diet
Multiple studies have shown and almost all health experts agree that a diet high in processed and refined sugar is a major player in inflammation, and also in water weight. And really, fluid retention is the least of your worries, as excess dietary sugar can also lead to diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity and a host of other serious problems (3).
2. Refined and Processed Carbohydrates
Working similarly as refined sugar, refined carbohydrates are known to contribute to obesity and inflammation in a serious way. If you regularly eat refined foods like pasta, bread, cereals, and baked goods, you might be experiencing fluid retention as a consequence, not to mention the diseases mentioned above. An abundance of fresh veggies and fruits can help to balance this out, but decreasing refined carbs in the diet is key.
3. Rancid Cooking Oils
Oxidized (aka, rancid) oils are regularly used in modern day cooking and also are notorious for causing chronic inflammation in the body. These oils cause free radicals, which are known to contribute to many types of cancers and other diseases. Common oils that are almost always rancid before even leaving the shelf of your grocery store include canals, grapeseed, corn and soy.
Studies have shown that rancid oils cause an excess of omega 6 fatty acids compared to omega 3’s, and this in and of itself can cause inflammation and excess water weight (4).
4. Packaged and Processed foods
For many of the same reasons refined sugar and carbs cause chronic inflammation and excess water weight, so do most processed and packaged foods and food-like items. Processed foods (especially those with long ingredient lists of words you can’t pronounce or recognize), often contain a shocking combination of trans fats, refined sugars and chemical flavorings, preservatives and additives.
5. Too much alcohol
Plain and simple, drinking too much alcohol will almost alway leave you bloated (not to mention can cause other major problems). Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked with higher CRP (C-reactive protein) markers, which signal inflammation in the body (5).
6. Lack of exercise and physical movement
Exercising is one of the best way to reduce water weight in the short term (dietary factors will address water weight if it is an ongoing problem), and a lack of exercise is highly inflammatory. Keep in mind, exercise doesn’t have to be intense gym workouts, simply walking every day will help. Fascinatingly, the average water loss in 1 hour of exercise ranges between 16-64 oz. (depending on the type of activity, temperature, etc), and water is shifted to our muscles (6).
7. Not getting adequate sleep
Not only is sleep deprivation highly inflammatory, but it will almost always leave you bloated the next day. In fact, sleep stimulates the sympathetic renal nerves of the kidneys, which regulate sodium and water balance (7). Some experts believe that the detoxification processes that occur during sleep also help
8. Being really stressed out
While this might be one factor that is the hardest to change, you should definitely be aware that high levels of chronic stress (ongoing), can increase water weight. Stress produces a cortisol response, which is the body’s main stress hormone that also affects water retention and bloating (8).
9. Getting Too Much or Too Little Salt
Sodium is incredibly important for managing water weight, as it is the most common electrolyte in the human body. If levels are either too high or too low, this can lead to fluid imbalances. Adding salt to taste on your home cooked foods is rarely the problem, but eating a diet high in processed foods with added sodium, is.
How to Lose Water Weight
Now that we understand the main causes of water weight, let’s dive into how to prevent and treat it. In terms of diet, it mainly comes down to avoiding inflammatory foods, and including anti-inflammatory foods.
Inflammatory foods to avoid:
- Refined carbohydrates such as white flour, bread, pasta, commercial baked goods and gluten (gluten is the protein in wheat, and is inflammatory for many people).
- Refined sugars found in baked goods, candy, soda and packaged foods. Stick primarily to natural sugar sources such as honey, maple syrup and fruit.
- Processed soy can be highly inflammatory, such as tofu and soy milk. Fermented sources are okay, and include miso, nato, tamari and tempeh.
- Hydrogenated fats such as margarine and crisco, or anything with an ingredient that says hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated.
- Vegetable oils such as canola, soy, corn and grapeseed.
- Vegetables from the nightshade family might be inflammatory for some, especially sufferers of arthritis, This family includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, goji berries and tobacco.
Anti-inflammatory foods to include:
- A wide variety of vegetables and fruit (organic and seasonal whenever possible).
- High quality meat, poultry and seafood.
- Pasture raised or organic eggs.
- Healthy fats such as olive oil, flax oil, coconut oil, organic butter, ghee, nuts and seeds and avocados.
- Whole grains and legumes in moderation (although those with severe gluten sensitivity might also react to grains and legumes).
- Anti-inflammatory superfoods such as garlic, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric.
- Herbal teas, fresh squeezed vegetable and fruit juices and plenty of water.
- Dark chocolate (70% or above).
Other Safe Ways to Lose Water Weight
1. Supplement with Magnesium
Magnesium is also an electrolyte that plays over 600 important functions in the body. Studies have shown that proper magnesium levels are important for fluid balance, and that it can specifically help with PMS related bloating in women (9).
2. Drink Plenty of Water
Perhaps this seems counter-intuitive, but if you are chronically dehydrated, your body will try and make up for this by retaining more water. Adequate water intake is also crucial for most all bodily functions, so make sure to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces, daily.
What are the other benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet, aside from getting rid of water weight?
Aside from the nice side effects of reduced fluid retention, weight loss and increased energy, putting the effort into an anti-inflammatory diet can improve common conditions such as pain from arthritis, symptoms related to autoimmune diseases, and digestive disorders such as IBS and IBD.
Not only that, but you will likely lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Also, your triglyceride, cholesterol and blood sugar levels will likely improve.
Not only is water weight an annoyance because of how it makes you feel in your clothing, but it can be a sign of underlying problems such as chronic inflammation, dehydration or a food sensitivity or allergy. If you suffer from excess water weight and bloating, try the dietary and lifestyle changes suggested here, and you will probably see a big difference.