Question: I am a 30-year-old woman, very active in my home routines. But during my menstrual cycles I have noticed excess weight around my abdomen. I am really confused about it. My friend told me it may be due to water retention.  I really want, to know does water retention cause weight gain and how much?

Response: From the fact that you are often active in your home routines, the notable increases in weight during the menstrual period can be as a result of water retention. Just like it is with your case, the majority of women experience an increase in weight at specific days of every month. The amount of water you take on a daily basis and the amount of sodium you take along with your meals can account for the large amount of fluids your body retains. Contrary to what the majority tends to think, the more water you consume, the less gets retained. Caloric deficit during menstrual periods results in increased levels of the cortisol hormone, which in turn increases fluid retention. 

Understanding water retention

Your body is capable of retaining up to about five pounds of water a day, depending on the amount you consume and the kind of foods you take. The amount of daily workout and hydration levels for a particular day also determine how much fluid is stored. The extra weight during your periods is a clear sign that your body retains more fluids, especially if you take meals consisting of fatty products.  High levels of sodium in meals is responsible for excess fluid retention. However, sodium is present in almost every processed meal as well as some natural foods you eat. During menstruation, there are notable changes in hormones which lead to an increased amount of sodium and potassium available in your system.      

PMS and water retention

Premenstrual symptom (PMS) is a common cause for water retention in some women. There have been no exhaustive studies which link water retention with PMS.  However, scientists attribute hormonal changes to increased water retention a few days ahead of the menstrual period. Heredity is also thought to play an important role. Lack of essential minerals and vitamins plus increased salt intake are considered potential triggers for water retention in some people. 

A British researcher by the name Katharina Dalton suggests that low blood sugar during PMS can lead to water retention. Dalton argues that low blood sugar causes the body to release adrenaline, signaling the body to discharge the stored glucose. Once the glucose leaves, the cells are then filled up with water leading to bloating and weight gain.

Recognizing water retention

It is easy to spot water retention by a weight gain of about 2 to 5 pounds of water in a day. This is a common sign of edema which is characterized by a bloated abdomen. Other signs include swelling in the fingers, hands, ankles, feet and face. Some outfits will become tight. Many women who experience this condition complain of pain in swollen areas of their bodies, especially the ankles and the feet. 

Dealing with fluid retention

An important step in dealing with water retention is reducing your sodium intake to a maximum of 1,000 milligrams per day. You can do this by scrutinizing labels on food and avoiding processed products. Put the salt away to avoid temptation. The use of calcium supplements along with your meals can reduce the risks of fluid retention. Researchers recommend a minimum of 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. 

A study in New York Metropolitan Hospital found out that, calcium supplements reduced water retention from PMS in 75% in women who took it.  Perhaps you should consider adding a workout plan around that period of the month that your flow occurs. An exercise will widen your blood vessels increasing the flow of fluids in to your kidneys for excretion. Ensure you remain hydrated throughout the day as drinking more water reduces the amount retained.

Other beneficial ways to reduce water weights include natural diuretics by use of grapefruit or lemon water and eating smaller amounts of meals during the day.