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Menopause Water Retention: Causes and Solutions

It is no secret that menopause can bring about a slew of changes in a woman’s body.

One such change is water retention, which can cause swelling in the hands, feet, and face. In this blog post, we will discuss the causes and solutions for menopause-related water retention.

What is Water Retention?

Water retention, also known as edema, is a condition in which extra fluid accumulates in the tissues of the body. This can cause swelling around the eyes, hands, feet, or face. It is often accompanied by unexplained weight gain or stiffness.

While many things can cause water retention, it is common during menopause due to hormonal changes that occur during this period of life.

Symptoms of Water Retention

You may notice water retention in your face when you look in the mirror. Specifically, the area around your eyes and cheeks will appear puffy.

Menopause water retention

Other physical signs of water retention include:

  • Swollen extremities, such as the ankles and hands
  • Unexplained weight gain or weight fluctuations
  • Stiffness in the joints
  • Swelling or puffiness in areas of the body such as the abdomen

Causes of Water Retention During Menopause

Hormonal Changes

Women experience hormone fluctuations throughout their lives and these fluctuations can cause the body to retain water. The major hormones responsible are estrogen and progesterone.

The hormone estrogen is specifically associated with water retention and less urine output.

In perimenopause, estrogen behaves erratically. When estrogen levels are high, women tend to retain more water in the body. 

Progesterone, the other female hormone, typically functions as a natural diuretic. Like estrogen, progesterone levels are also unpredictable during the transition to menopause, which can lead to less water leaving the body through urine.


Have you ever felt puffy the morning after eating out at a restaurant for dinner? This is likely because the meal you had contained a lot of salt.

Sodium is essential for fluid balance and several other functions in the body. However, consuming too much can cause the body to retain water and lead to fluid buildup.

Food high in sodium

Salt consumption may also increase thirst. One study found that higher salt intake may increase thirst without a change in urine volume. This extra fluid will remain in the body.

Eating a diet that is high in carbohydrates can also cause water retention. When the body stores glucose for energy, water is stored along with it.

Lack of Physical Activity

Sitting for long periods can reduce blood flow in the lower extremities due to the posture of the body. This can cause fluid to accumulate in the legs, ankles, and feet.

One study found that eight hours of uninterrupted sitting can cause water retention in the lower limbs and swelling in the calf and ankle.

It is common among menopausal women to move and exercise less.


Water retention can cause weight gain. However, obese individuals also tend to hold on to more water.

Researchers have found that those with obesity often have elevated levels of vasopressin, which is a hormone that decreases urine output. When excess fluid is not excreted through the urine, it can build up in the tissues, leading to water retention. 

Heart Disease and Kidney Disease

Water retention can be a sign that something more serious is happening in your body, such as heart or kidney disease. A weak heart doesn’t pump blood efficiently to the kidneys. When kidney function is impaired, blood is not filtered as quickly as it should be and fluid accumulates in the body. 

It is important to check with your doctor if you experience water retention that does not improve after several weeks. 

How to Reduce Water Retention

Infographic ways to reduce water retention

Water retention can be uncomfortable and make it difficult to fit into your clothes. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to reduce the amount of fluid your body is holding onto.

A few simple lifestyle changes may help with water retention:

 Reduce Your Salt Intake 

Since eating a sodium-rich diet can lead to water retention, eating less salt can help to expel excess water. 

The American Heart Association recommends adults should have no more than 2,300 mg of salt per day

Tips to Reduce Salt Intake 

  • Eat less pre-packaged foods because they tend to be higher in sodium.
  • Choose low-sodium meats like turkey or ham 
  • Minimize the use of canned foods
  • Eat less frozen meals and vegetables
  • Avoid eating fast food and other convenience foods.

Increase Your Potassium Intake 

Potassium helps expel excess sodium and fluid from the body and can help support healthy blood pressure.

Ideally, you should be eating more potassium than sodium every day. 

The American Heart Association recommends adult women should have 2,600 mg of potassium per day. However, most people do not eat enough potassium.

It is easy to get enough potassium if your diet is rich in vegetables and fruits. These include bananas, potatoes, legumes, dried fruits, avocados and so on. 

Drink Water

Woman drinking water

Drinking plenty of water can improve water retention. Dehydration can cause the body to conserve water instead of excreting it through urine. 

Women should monitor their fluid intake during and after menopause and replenish as needed.

As we age, we lose the sensitivity to detect when we are deprived of water. 

Drinking plenty of water can improve water retention. Dehydration can cause the body to conserve water instead of excreting it through urine. 

Women should monitor their fluid intake during and after menopause and replenish as needed. As we age, we lose the sensitivity to detect when we are deprived of water. 

Additionally, kidney function declines as we get older. This can decrease the body’s ability to regulate the excretion or conservation of fluid. 

Exercise more

Exercise is effective at reducing water retention through perspiration. Sweat glands function to push water out of the body through the skin and do not conserve water like the kidneys.

Any form of exercise that produces sweat will work to reduce water retention, such as cycling, yoga, or dancing. 

Dance class

Water Retention vs. Abdominal Bloating

Bloating is common in the menopause and may be confused with water retention.

Although both bloating and water retention can cause a feeling of puffiness, they are different conditions.

Abdominal bloating is caused by gas in the intestines or digestive system and is often accompanied by burping and flatulence. Water retention due to hormonal changes, however, does not produce any of these symptoms.

The following symptoms can signal digestive issues instead of water retention:

  • Less frequent bowel movements
  • Passing more gas than usual
  • Nausea
  • Decreased appetite

Water Retention vs. Belly Fat

Fat around the midsection is another cause of abdominal distention that can be confused with water retention. 

Water retention can cause weight gain. However, the increase in pounds is due to excess fluid in the tissues rather than fat. 

When to See A Doctor

If you are unable to find relief from your water retention, you should contact your doctor. It could be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as heart failure or kidney disease.

Your doctor can provide advice and treatment options depending on the cause of your symptoms. 

The Bottom Line

By making even small changes to diet and lifestyle habits, menopausal women may be able to reduce water retention quickly and effectively.

However, if the problem persists, it is time to see your doctor.

“Menopause water retention” was written by soon-to-be Registered Dietitian Emily Carney. Edited by Dr. Su-Nui Escobar, RDN.

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