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The Impact Of Fluid Retention

When we perform the INBODY composition test on our patients, we are able to show the breakdown of these various components to our weight:

  • Muscle
  • Fat
  • Water

Other components such as bone mass and the organs (liver, kidney, heart etc) also comprise our “total weight” but are not shown on the body composition analysis.

Let’s focus on the body’s water content.  The water component to a man’s weight is usually around 60% of the total weight whereas females are around 55% water (women tend to have more fat than men).  Given such a high contributing component to our weight, it is no surprise that acute changes to water retention will result in abrupt changes to our weight.

I see a number of patients that get on the scale and lament “Wow…I was 5 pounds less yesterday”.  I immediately query them about what foods/meds they may have consumed that resulted in fluid retention.  There is no way that in one or several days, a major weight gain or weight loss can be attributed to a gain/loss of body fat.  Fluid retention is the obvious cause.

From a food/liquid standpoint, the most notable “suspects” for causing an abrupt fluid retention are salty foods (think pretzels, peanuts, ham, bacon, processed/microwavable meals) and alcohol consumption.

From a medicine standpoint, on an acute basis, getting placed on oral steroids such as prednisone or taking lots of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory meds such as ibuprofen (advil, motrin) may cause a sudden weight gain caused by fluid retention.  On the more chronic basis, neuropathy/pain meds such as gabapentin and lyrica, blood pressure meds such as amlodipine anti-depressant meds such as trazadone and male/female hormone replacement meds such as testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.

Medical problems such as kidney or liver dysfunction, thyroid imbalance, low serum albumin and congestive heart failure may cause lots of fluid retention.

If your weight is coming down very slowly despite following an aggressive high protein/low carb/minimal alcohol approach, take a step back and evaluate whether fluid retention may be a potential contributing factor.  Please check with me or your doctor if you need a more “deep dive” into exploring why you may be retaining fluid.

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