Nothing will make you trade in your strappy summer sandals for a pair of comfortable (read: roomy!) sneakers like a little water weight. We've all been there: The dehydrating summer months can cause us to retain a little extra water, leading to puffed-up fingers, toes, and ankles, oh my! But what exactly is water weight, and is there any way to reduce the chance of retaining it? Read on to find out.
What is water weight?
Water weight is any extra water held in the body that's not necessarily beneficial to you and generally causes you to feel puffy or swollen in your fingers, toes, legs, or face. This typically does not refer to water being stored inside the cells (intracellular) but rather in the interstitial space between the cells (i.e., the fluid-filled areas that surround the cells of a given tissue), which is what leads to that swollen feeling and appearance.
There are several reasons someone may retain water weight, from the food they eat to the medications they take and even their hormonal fluctuations. The goal—as with any health-related phenomenon—is to identify the root cause so that you can address it effectively.
Water weight vs. bloat.
Water weight occurs throughout the body, while bloat occurs only in the abdomen. If you're hoping to address the latter, focus on diversifying your gut microbiome by eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and other fiber-rich foods, as well as taking a high-quality daily probiotic supplement.*
As for targeting water weight, these lifestyle changes and exercises may help. If you're not seeing changes, consult with a doctor.
Lifestyle ways to lose water weight:
Limit processed foods and alcohol.
Processed carbohydrates (especially for people with gluten sensitivities), sugars, and alcohol tend to be inflammatory in nature. Many of my patients will report feeling "puffy" after eating processed foods or drinking alcohol, as inflammation can manifest as water weight.
Taking some of these foods and drinks out of your diet can help you determine which of them (if any) may be triggering the water weight. That said, eliminating them altogether can be challenging, so first ask yourself if you can do it alone or if you need the support of a doctor, dietitian, or coach. Then, figure out a way to limit these items incrementally rather than in one fell swoop.
I recommend starting with one meal at a time (i.e., remove processed carbs from breakfast only first, and then slowly begin removing them from your lunch, dinner, snacks, etc.).
Look into your medications.
Look to see if any medications you're taking might be causing you to retain water, then speak with your doctor to see if you can switch to a different one, if appropriate.
Lower your sodium intake.
Sodium (which just so happens to be in a lot of processed foods) can lead to water retention.
Getting rid of salt altogether isn't the solution (in fact, the mineral is incredibly important!); just focus on eating high-quality salt in healthy moderation.
If the thought of drinking water to eliminate water weight seems misguided, I hear you! But, it's actually a good preventive measure. Staying properly hydrated throughout the day—with both adequate water intake and the consumption of hydrating foods—will support the body in removing waste (aka healthy urination), which means your body doesn't need to hold on to extra water.
Exercises to get rid of water weight.
Exercising is another way to help promote circulation and, therefore, rid your body of excess water weight. When you're working the muscles, it massages the tissue, which helps the lymph flow properly, draining fluid into the kidney so it can be urinated out.
Water weight, though frustrating, is not permanent. Working with a doctor can help you identify what may be causing you to retain excess water and then find a solution that works for you.
Wendie Trubow, M.D., MBA is a functional medicine gynecologist. She received her M.D. from Tufts University in 2000 and has been practicing functional medicine since 2009. After all these years, she is still passionate about helping women optimize their health and their lives. There are so many different challenges in a woman’s life: work, home, relationships, spirituality, health, and they all matter! While her credentials allow Trubow a solid medical backdrop to help women achieve vitality, her own health journey has also inspired and supported her methods of care.
Through her struggles with mold and metal toxicity, Celiac disease, and a variety of other health issues, Trubow has developed a deep sense of compassion for what her patients are facing. When she's not helping patients in her practice (5 Journeys) you can find Trubow alongside her husband and their four kids, creating a beautiful ecosystem in our yard that provides nourishment to both our body and soul. She also co-authored the book Dirty Girl: Ditch the Toxins, Look Great, and Feel Freaking Amazing!