Water Retention & Protein Intake

While there are a range of reasons why your body may be retaining water, from weather to medication to hormonal changes, your diet may also play a role. A low-protein, high-carb diet may cause your body to retain water, while a high-protein diet helps you get rid of it. If you're struggling with uncomfortable fluid retention, consult your doctor for help.

Without all the carbs, a high-protein diet limits your body's ability to hold onto water. (Image: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images)

Protein in Your Body

Protein is often equated with muscle building, but the protein in your diet plays a number of important roles in your body. Protein is found in every cell and is the main constituent and structural component of all your organs and tissue. In addition, protein is needed to make the antibodies that fend off viruses and bacteria, the enzymes that help you digest food and the hormones that help regulate various systems in your body, including reproduction and metabolism.

Low Protein and Water Retention

As a structural component of your cells and organs, protein actually helps keep fluids where they need to be. If you don't get enough protein in your diet, these structures may fall apart, allowing the fluids to leak, causing edema or fluid buildup.

Most people in the United States are not at risk of not getting enough protein in their diet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, if you're following a very low-calorie diet that's not adequate in protein, instead of losing weight, you may gain it in the way of fluid.

High Protein and Water Retention

On the other end of the spectrum is a high-protein diet, which may actually help reduce fluid retention. When you eat carbohydrates, your body stores it in your muscles as glycogen, which requires fluid. When you lose weight on a high-protein, low-carb diet, you're initially losing water, not fat. However, as long as you're consuming fewer calories than your body needs on your high-protein diet, you should start to lose fat.

Balancing Your Intake

While other dietary factors, such as eating more carbs or getting too much sodium, may cause your body to retain fluids, balancing your protein intake may help balance your fluids. For overall good health, the CDC says you should get 10 percent to 35 percent of your calories from protein. Protein is found in meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, soy foods, beans, lentils, vegetables and grains, among other foods.

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