Menopause and the time before that is one of the most challenging phases of a woman’s life. Their body isn’t the same as before, and most of them experience a massive physical transformation.
With bodily transformation comes emotional changes as well. No wonder when a woman is nearing her menopause or has already undergone the same will go through mood swings and sleep problems amidst other woes.
Many women have even complained of an overall feeling of heaviness. Their eyes may look puffier than before, rings might not fit comfortably on the finger, or the socks could appear tighter.
You could attribute all of these to water retention, one of the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. Let’s understand fluid retention in menopause further and know what you can do to find relief from the same.
What is Water or Fluid Retention?
Water retention or fluid retention happens when the body isn’t able to maintain fluid levels properly. The lymphatic system acts as a sewerage. It helps to drain the fluid from the body tissues and empty it in the bloodstream. When the fluid isn’t completely removed from the body, then some of it remains, leading to fluid retention.
There are several reasons for fluid retention. These include cardiovascular disease, kidney ailments, problems with the lymph nodes, and so on. Fluid retention also occurs during pregnancy when the body retains more amount of water than normal.
Moreover, people who aren’t engaged in a lot of physical activity, are obese, suffer from malnutrition, or have allergies or infections may also experience fluid retention. The reactions of certain medications like calcium channel blockers, gabapentin, birth control pills, and diabetes medications may also lead to fluid retention.
Now coming to the topic, fluid or water retention is also one of the many symptoms that women may face during the perimenopause and menopause phases. Read on to learn about the association between fluid retention and menopause.
Causes of Fluid Retention in Perimenopause and Menopause?
Menopause doesn’t happen all of a sudden. It’s a gradual process that starts with perimenopause, also known as around menopause or menopause transition. It begins when a woman is 40-44 years of age but can start as early as her 30s or as late as her 50s. The symptoms start coming to prominence in the perimenopause phase. Besides hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep disorders, which are some of the most commonest menopausal symptoms, there are other signs as well. These include vaginal dryness, soreness of breasts, weight gain, and so on.
Low estrogen levels are the main culprit behind all the symptoms women face during menopause.
As the time around menopause, or the perimenopause phase, begins, there’s a decline in the estrogen level. In the final years of perimenopause, just before menopause is about to start, there is a drastic drop in estrogen levels. The ovaries also lessen the supply of eggs. When there aren’t any periods for twelve months consecutively, menopause sets in.
Primary Reasons – Low Estrogen Levels
The adrenal glands play a significant role in maintaining the body’s water balance. In perimenopause and menopause, when there is a low level of estrogen, the adrenal glands and sodium levels are impacted. This is one of the reasons for water or fluid retention.
5 Secondary Reasons
Low estrogen levels are the main reason for fluid retention during menopause. Though there are other secondary factors as well that could trigger water retention if not managed well. Let us discuss them in detail.
- Increased Stress Levels
When you are stressed, there is an increased production of the cortisol hormone by the adrenal glands. Now, the cortisols correlate to the ADH or anti-diuretic hormone levels.
So, it’s quite evident that high cortisol results in a spike in ADH levels, which in turn leads to water retention.
Besides the stress hormones, in menopause, there are other factors as well, like night sweats and hot flashes, that make sleeping difficult, leading to an increase in your anxiety levels.
- Following an Improper Diet
Your diet plays a significant role in determining your overall well-being. If your diet comprises foods that are high in salt, like packaged or processed foods, junk foods, and so on, then there are chances that you could be at risk of fluid retention.
In menopause, your hormones are already all over the place. So, if you don’t take utmost care of your diet, your symptoms will aggravate.
If you are not drinking the amount of water you should each day, then that could make you dehydrated eventually. When your body isn’t receiving sufficient water, it goes on to access the excess water to make up for the shortage.
There will even be a fluid imbalance, with your body having a hard time getting rid of the excess fluids.
- Side Effects of Medication
If you are on blood pressure medications, anti-diuretics, or anti-inflammatory medications such as corticosteroids, then chances are that you could experience fluid retention. For example, corticosteroids make the body retain sodium and do away with potassium.
So, if you are nearing your menopause, or have already gone through it, and are having any of these medications, then you need to speak to your doctor about the same.
- Improper Lifestyle
If you do not exercise that much or your work demands you to spend most of the time of the day sitting in a certain position, then chances of fluid accumulation, mostly in your legs and feet, lead to swelling. That’s why it is necessary to move around for at least some time of the day.
Signs of Fluid or Water Retention in Menopause
If you are experiencing water or fluid retention in menopause, you will experience the same through several symptoms. These include:
- Puffy eyes, also marked with dark circles
- Swollen face
- Swollen or sore breasts
- Swollen feet, ankles, and legs
- Bloating and abdominal discomfort
- Increased blood pressure levels
- Increased weight gain (between 2 and 4 pounds a day)
- Stiffness in joints
9 Useful Solutions to Find Relief From Fluid Retention
Staying healthy and fit since the time you’ve started witnessing symptoms of menopause is indeed a challenge. However, if you eat well, sleep well, and exercise sufficiently, you will be able to lead a healthier life to a greater extent. If you are troubled with fluid retention or want to save yourself from the same, then here are some tips to follow:
- Manage Your Stress
As mentioned above, stress is one of the reasons for water retention. Dealing with stress in the perimenopause and menopause stages is tough indeed. Here are some tips for you to manage stress.
- Maintaining a regular exercise regime in menopause is a mandate to remain healthy. When you engage yourself in rigorous exercise, it triggers the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormone which helps release stress and boosts your mood.
You should try to devote at least two and a half hours to weekly aerobic activity, including cycling, brisk walking, running, and swimming.
- You must also include yoga and breathing relaxation techniques in your schedule. Yoga works wonders for menopause, as it helps relieve stress and even lessen the severity of menopausal symptoms like night sweats and hot flashes.
- If you find it difficult to manage your stress levels, then a therapeutic massage once or twice a week may help. It will not just help to keep your anxiety levels in check but will even release joint and muscle tension and help to minimize fluid retention.
- Try keeping a positive frame of mind. When you do that, you will also send positive vibes to people around you. Also, remember you are not alone.
Talk out your woes to someone close. You may even join online menopause support groups, where you get to interact with women in a similar situation as yours.
- True that with the bouts of hot flashes and night sweats, your sleep mostly goes for a toss. Yet, it would help if you maintain a regular sleep schedule.
Avoid distractions during bedtime, and keep all electronic gadgets away then. Try sleeping at a particular time each day. When you sleep well at night, you will feel better the next morning. It will even help to lessen your anxiety levels.
- Lessen Your Sodium Intake
If you are experiencing a problem with water retention, it is always important to keep the sodium levels in your diet under control. Having foods that are rich in salt elevates the fluid levels in your body. So opt for foods that have a lower salt content.
According to the AHA (American Heart Association), and WHO (World Health Organization), the daily sodium intake should exceed no more than 2300 milligrams. The IOM (Institute of Medicine) suggests keeping the sodium intake to 1500 milligrams each day.
So, to keep water retention in check, you must completely avoid packaged and processed foods. To add flavor to your veggies or meats, spices should be a better option than salt.
Some of the foods that you should try omitting from your diet if you are being troubled with water retention include:
- Potato chips
- Salted nuts and snacks
- Stock cubes
- Soy sauce
- Smoked fish and meat
- Pasta sauces
You can also contact the doctor to seek advice regarding a low-sodium diet, especially if water retention is getting troublesome.
- Eat Potassium-Rich Foods
Potassium plays a significant role in removing the excess salt from one’s body by counteracting sodium’s effect. In this way, it helps to control the excess fluid buildup in your body. If you are wondering about what foods to eat to maintain potassium levels, here are a few of them:
- Swiss chard
- Butternut squash
- Cannellini beans
- Dried apricots and raisins
- Coconut water
- Sweet potatoes
If water retention is the reason why you plan to switch to a potassium-rich diet, do talk to the doctor regarding the same. He or she will fix the daily intake for you so that you do not end up overconsuming the mineral.
- Eat Foods High In Fiber
Fiber-rich foods have a lot of benefits as they help in weight loss and also work toward improving the health of your colon. Another boon of foods high in fiber is that they help in lessening water retention by absorbing the excess water when it travels through the intestines.
- Try Herbal Remedies
Herbal infusions or herbal tea serve as another effective remedy for water or fluid retention. Besides helping you to remain hydrated, herbal teas also help to remove excess waste and fluids from your body because of their diuretic and detoxifying properties.
Some of the appropriate herbal teas to help alleviate the symptoms of water retention include the ones prepared from nettle, peppermint, dandelion, Bermuda grass, cherry, asparagus, horsetail, and birch.
- Keep Yourself Hydrated
You must always keep your body hydrated by drinking sufficient water. You might think that when your body already has a lot of water, drinking more of it could make matters worse. Well, surely you are mistaken in this regard.
When your body isn’t getting the amount of water it should; then it will retain the amount of water that is available. Also, when you drink sufficient amounts of water, the body is capable of removing the excess salt and water. In this way, water plays a pivotal role in lessening swelling.
Regarding water intake, drinking around 8-12 glasses of it each day will help you to deal with water retention, alongside other menopause-related symptoms like bloating and dryness.
To save yourself from dehydration, you should also cut down on or completely quit alcohol. Alcohol has diuretic properties and is quick enough to remove fluids from the renal system. And, if you drink less water with alcohol, the chances of dehydration are higher.
- Exercise Well
Exercising is one of the key parameters to keep in mind in the perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause phase. If you have acquired water weight, engaging in moderate aerobic exercise will help you lose a significant amount of fluids through sweat.
Some of the appropriate exercises include walking, running, swimming, cycling, and strength training exercises. Also, if your work demands you to stand in one position or sit for long hours, then ensure to get up at regular intervals and stretch your hands and legs. Sitting or standing for long hours triggers water retention.
- Check Out For Medicine with Anti-Diuretic Effects
Sometimes water or fluid retention may occur because of certain medications like antidiuretics, medications for blood pressure, corticosteroids, and so on, as mentioned above. So if you are taking any of these medicines or other medicines and have faced water retention as a side effect, then talk to your doctor at once regarding the same.
- Wear Compression Garments
When you have to sit or stand for a prolonged period, wearing compression garments like stockings, sleeves, or stocks will help in improving the blood flow of the hands and legs. In this way, it will prevent blood clots and fluid retention as well.
Bloating is another common symptom of menopause, mostly attributed to fluctuating hormone levels. Just like water retention, in bloating also, one could feel puffy and full. However, both conditions aren’t the same.
In bloating, the abdomen appears swollen, and one could experience other symptoms too, like flatulence, burping, etc. While in water retention, different parts of the body appear swollen. Moreover, there aren’t any digestive-related symptoms as well.
Weight gain is another highlighting symptom of menopause, where the fat mostly accumulates around the waist instead of the thighs and hips.
Whereas in water retention, the weight gain is because of the excess fluid in the body, and not the fat buildup.
If lifestyle changes and home remedies don’t help to lessen inflammation, and swelling, then you should get in touch with a doctor. It might indicate any other underlying medical condition.
If you are experiencing a feeling of fullness, and puffiness, do not stress. Most often, water retention gets corrected when you make changes in your way of living and diet. Menopause seems to be a difficult phase of your life where you would have to struggle hard to cope with the changes. Proper exercising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help you sail through this phase smoothly.