Is water retention to blame for your weight gain?

Is water retention to blame for your weight gain?

Your weight loss journey might be on the right track until one day you weigh yourself and discover you gained a few pounds overnight. Before you give up on your diet plan, consider that the growing number on the scale may be water retention.

“Water retention is usually due to extra water being stored in the tissues or between blood vessels,” explains Dr. Kevin Koo, a family medicine physician at Advocate Health Care. “Water weight can sometimes be a fluctuation of two to three pounds in a day and is usually the first pounds to come off when someone chooses to work on weight loss.”

Signs of water retention include abdominal bloating, swollen legs, feet and ankles, and face puffiness.

This uncomfortable, temporary weight gain can be caused by a number of factors:

Lack of physical activity

Being sedentary can increase water retention due to poor circulation. That’s why many travelers experience bloating due to sitting for extended periods of time. To avoid this, make sure to get daily exercise and take stretching breaks on your road trips and plane rides.

Your diet

Foods high in sodium or carbohydrates cause the body to store excess water. Dr. Koo recommends reducing how much of these foods you consume and focusing on hydration. To naturally reduce water retention, eat foods that are high in potassium, such as bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes and spinach.


Fluid retention and swelling can be caused by diabetes, hypertension and hormone management medications. If you experience these symptoms, discuss alternative options with your health care provider.


High estrogen and low progesterone are culprits of water retention. That’s why many people experience bloating during times of hormone fluctuation such as during their menstrual cycle or menopause.

Health conditions

Kidney, heart and liver disease can impact your body’s ability to filter out water. These individuals are often prescribed diuretics to support filtration.

It may be tempting to find a fast solution to get rid of water weight, but Dr. Koo emphasizes trying natural solutions first before looking into supplements.

Supplements like potassium or magnesium may also help but talk to your provider or specialist before starting anything new to see if it’s safe for you,” explains Dr. Koo. “The goal of those supplements would be to shift water from your tissues to your urinary tract where it then would be removed from the body.”

Are you trying to watch your weight? Take a free online quiz to learn more about your healthy weight range.

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About the Author

Anna Kohler
Anna Kohler

Anna Kohler, health enews contributor, is an external communications specialist for Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She received her bachelor's degree in public relations from Illinois State University and has worked in health care public relations and content marketing for over five years. In her free time, she enjoys working out, exploring new places with her friends and family, and keeping up with the latest social media trends.