IBS and Water Retention

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IBS is an abbreviation for Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It is a condition where the digestive system does not function properly. The symptoms of IBS vary from person to person. Some people may experience diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, cramps, nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms.

Water retention is another common symptom of IBS. People who suffer from water retention often experience swelling in their legs, ankles, hands, feet, and sometimes their abdomen.

There are a number of ways to provide temporary relief and reduce water retention. 

What is Water Retention?

We usually say water retention, but it can refer to any fluid. The term “fluid” refers to any liquid that can be moved around inside or outside the body. There are many different types of liquids that fall under this category like milk and juices.

Water retention is when there is more than normal amounts of water stored in our bodies. This excess amount of water causes us to feel bloated and uncomfortable. We also call this feeling as being swollen.

In some cases, people with IBS have no idea that fluids are building up inside their gut, resulting in abdominal bloating. This however can be diagnosed by a medical practitioner.

Women are Primary Targets

Fluid retention also occurs more often with women as a result of their menstrual cycle. The primary reason for this is because the sex hormone progesterone is elevated during the week, leading to the period.

Fluid retention that is caused by the period, would normally affect a woman’s abdomen, breasts, face, ankles and hands.

If you have ever been pregnant, you know what it feels like to swell up with extra water. You will probably remember how much weight you gained during pregnancy. That was because your developing baby needed all those nutrients to grow into a healthy infant.

Ways To Reduce Water Retention

There are a number of ways to reduce water retention: 

1. Exercise More

Exercise helps flush out toxins from the body. Exercise can increase blood flow to the kidneys which helps with excretion of fluid through your urine.  Sweating also contributes to fluid loss.

If you exercise regularly, you will notice less bloating after each workout. Regular exercise is also great for your health overall.

2. Eat More Potassium-Rich Foods

Potassium is known to reduce water retention by increasing urine production and decreasing sodium levels.

Add more bananas, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, watermelon, and avocados to your diet, since these foods have higher amounts of potassium. There are also potassium supplements you can buy online

Potassium-rich foods may negatively affect those with kidney disease. Check with your doctor first before increasing potassium levels. Learn more about Kidney Disease Signs.

3. Drink Caffeine

Caffeine has diuretic properties which cause the kidneys to excrete more sodium through urination. Drinks like coffee and tea can increase urine output. 

Learn more about Decaf Green Tea and IBS.

4. Eat More Magnesium-Rich Foods

Magnesium has been shown to alleviate fluid retention and premenstrual symptoms. You can either get supplements online or eat foods like dark chocolate, nuts, whole grains, and leafy, green vegetables.

Magnesium-rich foods may not be beneficial if you have kidney disease. Check with your doctor first before eating magnesium-rich foods or taking magnesium supplements.

5. Add More Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 has been studied and shown to decrease premenstrual symptoms like water retention. There are higher amounts of vitamin B6 in walnuts, potatoes, meat, and bananas. You can also purchase vitamin B6 supplements online

6. Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol contains carbohydrates which increase insulin levels. Insulin increases the level of glucose in the bloodstream. That leads your body to retain more sodium and higher water retention.

7. Get More Sleep

Sleep deprivation causes an imbalance between hormones such as cortisol and melatonin. When there’s not enough sleep, our bodies will have a harder time managing sodium and water retention. Make sure you get enough sleep to help your body stay well-balanced.

8. Limit Salt Intake

Salt intake should always be limited when trying to lose excess water. Too much salt makes us retain fluids, so we need to limit its consumption. It is best if you avoid processed food products containing high amounts of salt.

Deli meats, canned foods and frozen prepared foods often contain large amounts of sodium. Instead of these, opt for fresh fruits and vegetables.

9. Take Dandelion Supplements

Dandelion is a natural diuretic herb that reduces water retention. The root extract of dandelions contain chemicals that might reduce swelling. Bodybuilders and athletes who are looking to lose excess water weight will often use dandelion supplements to help.

Dandelion supplements can be found online

10. Try Acupuncture

Acupuncture stimulates blood flow throughout the entire body. This improves circulation and flushes away toxins. In addition, acupuncture relieves IBS pain and stress, both of which contribute to water retention.

11. Avoid Eating Gluten

Gluten can lead to water retention and abdominal bloating in many patients. Avoid wheat containing products like bread, pasta, barley and rye.

12. Drink More Water

Drinking eight glasses of water a day will help to clean out your system consistently and also assist your body to perform normal functions. It helps to keep your digestive tract functioning properly.

Drinking enough water can also potentially help keep your bowels moving regularly, which prevents constipation. One study suggested that drinking at least 8 cups of water daily reduces the risk of developing colon cancer. 

Another way to add more water is through drinks like coconut water. Read more about Is Coconut Water Good for IBS?

Know the Myths

Some IBS sufferers believe that starving the body of water will help to reduce the retention of fluids but in fact this will exacerbate the situation even further. Our body is composed of mainly water, and we need sufficient water everyday in order for our bodies to function properly.

IBS and Water Retention Final Thoughts

In conclusion, it’s important to understand water retention and how it affects your IBS symptoms. Watching your intake of foods and water will help you keep a balanced diet to help with your gastrointestinal disorder.

If you’re experiencing any more serious signs or symptoms associated with excessive fluid build up like shortness of breath or rapid weight gain with IBS, then make sure you seek medical advice from your doctor immediately. They’ll be able to advise on what steps you can take to manage your condition effectively.

Learn more about iBS in these other articles:

  • Mayo Clinic: “Water: How much should you drink every day?”
  • TuaSaude: “6 Natural Diuretics for Water Retention”
  • Healthline: “6 Simple Ways to Reduce Water Retention”
  • National Library of Medicine: “The practical management of fluid retention in adults”
  • National Institutes of Health: Potassium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals
  • National Institutes of Health: Magnesium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals
  • National Library of Medicine: “Magnesium supplementation alleviates premenstrual symptoms of fluid retention”

Written and Medically Reviewed By

  • Kelly Chow

    Kelly first experienced IBS symptoms at the age of 24 with major-to-severe symptoms. She underwent all types of tests and experimented with many treatments before finally finding ways to manage her symptoms. Kelly has written and shared ebooks and Gluten-Free diet plans that she has used to live life like she did before IBS.

  • Julie Guider, M.D.

    Dr. Julie Guider earned her medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine. She completed residency in internal medicine at the University of Virginia. She completed her general gastroenterology and advanced endoscopy fellowships at University of Texas-Houston. She is a member of several national GI societies including the AGA, ACG, and ASGE as well as state and local medical societies.

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