Fluid Retention in Menopause: Causes and Solutions

Last updated 12.11.2023 | by Sabrina Johnson | 14 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


I would often feel heavy at times during my mid-40s. I knew it wasn’t the weight gain. However, I couldn’t figure out the root cause. Moreover, my eyes would also have that puffy look most of the time. It seemed as if I got right out of bed. While discussing it with a colleague, I learned that this feeling of heaviness was her concern, too. 

Additionally, she had swollen legs, which increased her woes. After consulting the doctor, she learned the heaviness was due to fluid retention. The hormonal imbalances were cited as one of the main reasons since my friend was in her mid-40s then. With treatment and dietary changes, things got better. So, this isn’t just my or her problem; many women undergo fluid retention during various phases of their lives. 

Many experience it a fortnight before their menses begin. Its occurrence in pregnancy is the highest, seen in approximately 70% of pregnant women. An increased percentage of women may even retain fluid in the perimenopause and menopause phases. 

Has fluid retention been your problem, too, of late? Are you bloated, or do you find your socks too tight to fit into your legs? Then I suggest you go through my article. I have elaborated on fluid retention, its causes, signs, and ways to manage it during menopause and the transition phase.

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. As mentioned above, 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 even 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?

Causes of Fluid Retention in Perimenopause and Menopause

If you’ve experienced fluid retention in pregnancy since the growing womb impacted the blood passing to your legs, you know what it is all about. If you see a repetition of the fluid retention symptoms in your 40s, a time when you are transitioning into menopause, you perhaps know the reason. Yes, we can blame it on the fluctuating and lessened estrogen levels. They are the root cause of most bodily changes women face in menopause. However, other factors also contribute to fluid retention besides low estrogen levels. Let’s take a look at all of them one after the other.

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. However there are other secondary factors as well that could trigger water retention if not managed well. Let us discuss them in detail.

  1. Increased Stress Levels

You cannot isolate menopause and stress. The two seem to be connected. Maintaining calm when so much is happening on the physical front is difficult. However, increased stress puts you at the risk of several health problems. Let’s take a look at how stress could trigger water retention.

Cortisol, the stress hormone, elevates by around nine times when one is stressed. Cortisol has a relationship with the ADH or antidiuretic hormone, which plays a significant role in maintaining water balance in the blood. During stressful times, there is an increase in the ADH hormones, which triggers water retention.

  1. 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.

  1. Dehydration

If you are not drinking the amount of water you should each day, that could eventually dehydrate you. When your body isn’t receiving sufficient water, it accesses 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. My doctor always advised me to maintain my daily water intake – at least two liters daily – which means close to 12 cups. I maintain this parameter to the tee to date.

  1. 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.

  1. 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. I would take frequent breaks from my prolonged desk work to ease my muscles.

Signs of Fluid or Water Retention in Menopause

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:

  1. 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. Engaging yourself in rigorous exercise triggers the release of endorphins, the feel-good hormone that 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. I devoted 30 minutes to exercise a week. Sometimes I would walk to the park, while on a few occasions, I would even jog along.

  • 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. Anxiety would make my breath fast-paced. Rhythmic breathing helped me immensely to control my breathing and keep my anxiety levels under control.
  • 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, 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. You will feel better the next morning when you sleep well at night. It will even help to lessen your anxiety levels. I struggled with sleep issues for quite some time until yoga and relaxation techniques came to my rescue.

  1. 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, it would help if you stayed away from 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
  • Bacon
  • Olives
  • Pickle
  • Salted nuts and snacks
  • Stock cubes
  • Soy sauce
  • Smoked fish and meat
  • Pizza
  • Pasta sauces
  • Mayonnaise

You can also contact the doctor to seek advice regarding a low-sodium diet, especially if water retention is getting troublesome. I understand that with the stress levels at the peak and sleep issues troubling you quite often, you will be tempted to binge eat. But it would help if you kept your cravings under control to improve your health.

  1. 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: 

  • Bananas
  • Avocados
  • Pomegranate
  • Swiss chard
  • Spinach
  • Watermelon
  • Butternut squash
  • Cannellini beans
  • Beetroot
  • Dried apricots and raisins
  • Yogurt
  • Almond
  • Coconut water
  • Soy
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Cantaloupe

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. 

  1. 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. 

  1. 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 water retention symptoms include those prepared from nettle, peppermint, dandelion, Bermuda grass, cherry, asparagus, horsetail, and birch. When I cut down on coffee, I added herbal teas as my de-stress drink.

  1. 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.

  1. Exercise Well

Exercising is one of the key parameters to keep in mind during menopause and the transition 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.

  1. 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 or other medicines and have faced water retention as a side effect, talk to your doctor immediately regarding the same.

  1. Wear Compression Garments

When you have to sit or stand for a prolonged period, wearing compression garments like stockings, sleeves, or stocks will help improve the blood flow of the hands and legs. In this way, it will prevent blood clots and fluid retention as well.

FAQs

How is abdominal bloating different from water retention?

Bloating is another common symptom of menopause, mostly attributed to fluctuating hormone levels. Just like water retention, in bloating, 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. I hope this will help you identify if you are going through water retention or gas retention.

How is menopause belly fat different from water retention?

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. 

When to see a doctor regarding your fluid 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.

Conclusion

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 could seem challenging to cope with several physical and emotional changes. I, too, have been through it. However, proper exercise and maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help you sail through this phase smoothly.

References:

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/187978
  2. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/Fluid-retention-oedema
  3. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/lymphatic-system
  4. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/23040-endorphins
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3296386/#:~:text=One%20should%20aim%20for%20two,life%20and%20menopause%2Drelated%20symptoms.
  6. https://www.hunimed.eu/news/water-retention-winter-benefits-draining-herbal-teas/#:~:text=Herbal%20infusions%20can%20aid%20individuals,the%20stomach%2C%20buttocks%20and%20legs.

Author

  • Sabrina Johnson

    Meet Sabrina Johnson, a compassionate author and a seasoned expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a driving force behind Simply Menopause, where her extensive medical knowledge and empathetic nature come together to empower women in their menopausal journey. Sabrina offers culturally sensitive guidance and support through her approachable writing, making her a trusted friend on the path to menopause wellness.