Alcohol Water Retention – Booze Gets Your Body Bloated!
When fluid accumulates abnormally throughout the body, it is known as water retention. The human body, as solid as it may seem, is mostly comprised of water in the blood, tissues and even muscles. The balance of water within the body is a delicate one, and this balance can be thrown out of whack by various conditions, diseases and even diet. Alcohol water retention, for instance, occurs when the body’s balance of water is disturbed by alcohol consumption.
Nutrient, oxygen and vitamin filled fluid passes back and forth between the body’s capillaries and surrounding tissues. This back and forth process is what allows cells to be nourished with the goodness found in the fluid. If the pressure inside the capillaries is altered for any reason, they can release too much fluid at one time, and this can lead to swelling (which is also known as edema) and water retention. Heart, kidney and liver problems can also contribute to water retention causes, and so can protein deficiency and inflammation. Interestingly enough however, medications and food can also cause temporary water retention. Alcohol water retention is particularly interesting, because the way in which it affects the body’s fluid balance is not always straight forward.
Excessive alcohol in the blood may contribute to the temporary suppression of the release of the anti diuretic hormone (ADH) within the body. When ADH within the body is reduced, the urine that the kidneys produce becomes increasingly concentrated with the substance, which leads to urine that is incredibly diluted. This dilute urine is lacking in electrolytes like sodium which are reserved in the body, creating a potential imbalance. A sodium imbalance within the body can lead to water retention. But, alcohol water retention can take an even more serious turn. When abundant and excessive alcohol use has lead to cirrhosis of the liver, ascites (severe water and fluid retention) can develop in response to the disease. In fact, water retention can be a sign in itself of liver damage, and alcohol water retention is also found in cases of alcoholic liver disease. Water retention in this condition refers to the liver supplying blood vessels that have become narrowed, which can lead to fluid buildup and high blood pressure. Long term damage to the kidney from alcohol use can also contribute to water retention. When prolonged use damages and inflames kidney nephrons, water retention can occur due to a reduced glomular filtration rate (GFR) which also reduces urine output.
There are often few water retention symptoms evident to sufferers. However, the ones that are present are often quite easy to notice. Swelling is the most identifiable of all water retention symptoms, and it normally occurs in the lower extremities due to the forces of gravity. However, it may be less noticeable in certain areas, such as the abdomen. When water retention is occurring in the belly region, the sensations of stomach bloating such as pressure, fullness or even mild pain may be present. Noticeable but temporary weight gain also often occurs, with a one to two pound gain on the scale due to additional built up fluid not uncommon.
When alcohol water retention persists, it is important to reduce or eliminate consumption. And, if it seems to be a recurring problem during alcohol use, consider the type of alcohol to see if it is worthwhile to make a change to possibly reduce or eliminate the symptom. Beers and other lower alcohol beverages that contain more water may not cause as much of a water retention problem (in fact, some of them act as diuretics!) as stronger alcohol ethers like cognac and vodka.
Treating the temporary symptoms not related to disease or illness can be easily managed with over the counter remedies or natural diuretics. One of the most common is dandelion, which can be eaten or made into a delicious tea. Celery, watermelon and parsley are also considered natural diuretics as well, and can be enjoyed in small amounts to help reduce the water hoarding the body is engaging in. And, while natural diuretics for water retention are helpful to add into a diet, avoiding salt is even more important. Avoiding excess sodium not only contributes to lower blood pressure, but it is very important to a water retention diet because of the delicate water to sodium balance the body needs to consistently maintain.
It is important to understand that alcohol water retention, especially if combined with high salt meals, can lead to bloating, swelling and discomfort on a temporary basis if the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream becomes too high. But, recurrent water retention can also signal incredibly serious health concerns including heart, lung, liver, kidney and even neurological problems. If water retention or bloating becomes severe, persistent or seems unusual, it is always best to seek the prompt advice of a health care provider.