4 pounds gained in 3 days?!? That’s the amount of weight the scale said I gained the last week as I indulging myself in Chinese food…the real deal, family style in Beijing. I don’t think they use MSG or a lot of sodium in those dishes in China, even though those are very common ingredients in Chinese restaurants that are found in the US, so I doubted my diet was the reason. I wondered what else it could be?

Although I don’t have any scientific proof, I suspect that water retention is my problem. In my quest for information on this topic, I discovered that it’s possible to gain as much as 5 pounds in a day from water retention!

Some potential causes for water retention in an otherwise healthy person are:

  • High sodium intake – because your body tries to dilute the excess salt by holding onto more water.
  • Low blood sugar – because your body releases blood glucose to restore balance, leaving room in the cells to fill up with water.
  • Poor digestion and antibiotics – because your body can produce too much histamine in your intestines which in turn causes capillaries to expand and water and protein rushes in to fill the gap. The protein then attracts more water.
  • Low calorie diet – because you might have too little protein in your blood to draw water out of your body tissues.
  • Dehydration – because your body is trying to hold onto the water it has as it adapts to having too little fresh water come into your body.

Curiously, I read that tea can be dehydrating, and I DID drink a lot of tea in China. Overall, I had more tea than bottled water (because you can’t drink the tap water in Beijing). And I think my protein consumption was on the low side, compared to what I would normally eat at home. So it’s conceivable that my dietary habits while I was traveling resulted in water weight gain.

There could be other reasons for water retention that only your doctor can detect for you, such as heart, liver, or kidney disease. Because I recently passed my physical with flying colors, I was comfortable with considering only my diet as a primary cause. It’s usually a sign of having too much or too little of something. In that case, what could I do about it?

I discovered several natural ways that I could combat water retention:

  • More potassium – because it helps maintain water balance.
  • Lower sodium – because your body doesn’t have to compensate for excess sodium in your system. Ideally, you should aim for 1,500 mg per day or less, but even staying below 2,300 mg daily should help.
  • More water – because it helps flush out excess water and sodium.
  • More exercise – because you can sweat out the excess water.

I already know that I need to drink more water. That’s on my list of goals and it’s a challenge for me. Exercise and low sodium are also regular habits of mine, so the only other thing that I needed to consider was how to get more potassium.

It turns out that the recommended daily allowance for potassium is 3.5 grams, and it’s difficult to overdose on it if you consume only natural sources. What does it do for you? It’s a nutrient that your body uses to maintain the proper balance of fluids and electrolytes. Definitely sounds like a good thing to focus on.

Here are 5 fruits for which the amount of potassium is shown for 1 cup of fruit (unless otherwise noted):

  • Dried apricots – 1.5g
  • Prunes (dried plums) – 1.4g
  • Raisins – 1.3g
  • 1 Date – 167mg
  • Dried figs – 1 g

Hmm… those sound like good additions to my breakfast.

And here are 5 vegetables for which the amount of potassium is shown for 1 cup of vegetable:

  • Sun-dried tomatoes – 1.1g (yes, technically a fruit, but…here it is)
  • Raw spinach – 167mg
  • Swiss chard – 961 mg
  • Mushrooms – 416 mg
  • Sweet potato – 542 mg

Interestingly, it seems that it’s easiest to get the bulk of potassium from fruit.

If you’re looking for more high potassium food options, see:

Disclaimer: The information in this post is for information purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always talk to your doctor  or other qualified health provider to get the appropriate advice for your medical condition.