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Does Salt Make You Retain Water?

By William McCoy

If you notice that certain parts of your body appear swollen or achy, you might be dealing with water retention. Also known as fluid retention or edema, this medical condition can be caused by a number of issues, including what you eat. If your diet includes a high level of sodium, take steps to cut down on salt to reduce water retention.

Fluid Retention Symptoms

Fluid retention can result in a number of symptoms beyond swelling in parts of your body such as your hands, feet and ankles. You might also experience stiffness in your joints and notice sudden weight fluctuations. Additionally, you might be unable to leave the imprint of your finger when you press it against your skin, or your finger might leave an indent that lasts for several seconds, depending on which type of edema you're experiencing.

One Potential Culprit: Salt

A diet high in salt is a potential cause of fluid retention. In addition to long-term risks of excessive salt consumption, including heart disease, too much salt causes your body to hold onto its fluids, which results in a puffy appearance, according to the American Heart Association. Ninety percent of Americans eat a diet that is too high in sodium, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The heart association recommends consuming less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day, though other nutrition organizations, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recommend that healthy individuals keep their intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day.

Other Causes of Fluid Retention

Excessive consumption of salt isn't the only potential cause for fluid retention. The causes of this medical condition are wide-ranging. You can experience fluid retention after standing for a long period of time, as a result of hot weather and due to burns such as sunburn. Certain medications, such as those that treat high blood pressure, can cause fluid retention, as can pregnancy and your menstrual cycle. If you have cancer, chemotherapy can also cause this condition.

Cutting Down on Swelling

Although your diet and other issues can cause fluid retention, this condition can also be a symptom of a more serious medical problem, including kidney failure, heart disease, liver disease and arthritis. If you notice the symptoms of fluid retention, visit your doctor to get a test to determine the cause. If excess salt in your diet has caused the issue, take immediate steps to limit your salt intake. Strategies include not sprinkling salt on your meals and avoiding high-sodium products such as fast food.

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