Weight Gain or Fluid Retention?

Every since I started menopause I have had trouble with my weight.  I always feel a little "chubby".  I eat well and exercise, but the weight doesn't come off.  I started to wonder if it is really weight gain or fluid retention. This is a portion of the definition that I found for "innerstitial fluid retention":

  • Immobility. The leg muscles normally contract and compress blood vessels to promote blood flow with walking or running. When these muscles are not used, blood can collect in the veins, making it difficult for fluid to move from tissues back into the vessels.

I am trying many things to self-treat fluid retention including cutting back on salt which is very hard for me.  I am so addicted!  Also I am using wraps and support garments to see if that will help. I read that lemon water is a natural diuretic and so is cranberry juice.  I bought a bag of lemons and I am adding it to my drinking water.

Here is an article I found that gave me some good direction.

Fluid retention (oedema) occurs when fluid isn't removed from the body tissues, including the skin. Causes include the body's reaction to hot weather, a high salt intake, and the hormones associated with the menstrual cycle. Symptoms include swelling of body parts such as feet, hands and ankles, a feeling of stiffness or aching and weight fluctuations. Drinking plenty of water will actually help your kidneys to flush out excess fluid. Fluid retention may be a sign of disease.

 

Better Health Channel - betterhealth.vic.gov.au -  provides these bullet points:

Symptoms of fluid retention

Symptoms of fluid retention can include:

  • swelling of affected body parts (feet, ankles and hands are commonly affected)
  • aching of affected body parts
  • stiff joints
  • rapid weight gain over a few days or weeks
  • unexplained weight fluctuations
  • when pressed, the skin may hold the indent for a few seconds (pitting oedema)
  • in other cases, the skin may not hold an indent when pressed (non-pitting oedema).

Causes of fluid retention

Some of the many common causes of fluid retention include:

  • gravity – standing up for long periods of time allows fluid to ‘pool’ in the tissues of the lower leg
  • hot weather – the body tends to be less efficient at removing fluid from tissues during the summer months
  • burns – including sunburn. The skin retains fluid and swells in response to burn injuries
  • menstrual cycle – some women experience oedema in the two weeks prior to menstruation
  • pregnancy – hormones encourage the body to hold onto excess fluid
  • the pill – oral contraceptives that include oestrogen can trigger fluid retention
  • dietary deficiency – such as insufficient protein or vitamin B1 (thiamine) in the diet
  • medications – certain drugs, including high blood pressure medication (antihypertensives), corticosteroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are known to cause fluid retention
  • chronic venous insufficiency – weakened valves in the veins of the legs fail to efficiently return blood to the heart. The pooling of blood can result in varicose veins

Medical conditions that may cause fluid retention

Fluid retention may be a symptom of serious underlying conditions, including:

  • kidney disease – such as nephrotic syndrome and acute glomerulonephritis
  • heart failure – if the heart does not pump effectively, the body compensates in various ways. it starts to retain fluid and increase the volume of blood. This results in congestion of the veins, enlargement of the liver, and the accumulation of fluid in body cavities like the abdominal cavity (ascites) and in subcutaneous tissues, causing swelling (oedema) of the legs
  • chronic lung diseases – such as severe emphysema, which put excessive pressure on the heart’s right ventricle, leading to its failure
  • liver disease – such as severe cirrhosis that triggers liver failure
  • malignant lymphoedema – cancerous tumours that block structures of the lymphatic system, such as the lymph nodes
  • thyroid disease – such as hypothyroidism
  • arthritis – joints affected by some types of arthritis tend to swell with fluid
  • allergic reaction – in susceptible people, the body tends to swell in response to particular allergens, such as an insect bite. In some cases, the reaction is severe (anaphylaxis) and requires urgent medical attention. this swelling is short-lived rather than ongoing
  • autoimmune diseases such as lupus.

Diagnosis of fluid retention

The underlying cause of the oedema must be found before treatment can begin. Diagnostic tests may include:

  • physical examination
  • medical history
  • detailed questioning about the fluid retention, such as when it started, any factors that worsen the swelling and whether it is constant or intermittent
  • blood tests
  • urine tests
  • liver function tests
  • kidney function tests
  • chest x-ray
  • heart function tests, such as electrocardiogram (ECG).

Treatment for fluid retention

Depending on the cause, treatment may include:

  • a low-salt diet
  • diuretics (water pills)
  • treatment for the underlying medical condition: for example, hormone replacement (thyroxine) in the case of hypothyroidism
  • lifestyle changes in response to the underlying medical condition: for example, avoidance of alcohol if liver disease is the cause
  • changes to medication or dosage, if drugs are the cause
  • dietary adjustments, if malnutrition is the cause
  • ongoing medical supervision
  • aids such as support stockings.

Self-care options for fluid retention

Mild fluid retention can be helped in the following ways:

  • Reduce the amount of salt in your diet; for instance, don’t add salt during the cooking process and stop salting your meals at the table. Avoid foods like potato chips and salted peanuts. Be wary of processed foods such as manufactured meats, which tend to contain ‘hidden’ salt.
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is thought to help in cases of mild fluid retention. Good sources of vitamin B6 include brown rice and red meat.
  • Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), calcium and vitamin D help the body to excrete excess fluids. Include fresh fruits and low-fat dairy foods in your daily diet.
  • Supplements may help in the case of fluid retention caused by the menstrual cycle: for example calcium, magnesium, manganese, evening primrose oil and chaste tree.
  • Herbal diuretics include dandelion leaf, corn silk and horsetail.
  • Make sure to discuss the use of supplements with your doctor or health care professional, particularly if you are on any type of medication.
  • Drink plenty of water. It may sound contradictory, but a well-hydrated body is less likely to retain fluid.
  • Cut back on dehydrating drinks such as tea, coffee and alcohol.
  • Cranberry juice has a mild diuretic action.
  • Lie down with your legs higher than your head, when possible.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Wear support stockings.

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