Why You Retain Water and Feel Puffy
Some days, you wake up feeling lean and lithe. Some days, you wake up feeling puffy. Bloated. Like you’re retaining water. Is this feeling in your head?
Nope. It’s in your adrenals.
You might hear that salt makes you retain water. That’s only part of the story. In fact, plenty of really good salt can actually regulate your fluid levels.
Being constantly stressed out can make you retain water. Isn’t that crazy?
The Adrenal Glands and Aldosterone
The adrenal glands are two cone shaped organs that sit on top of your kidneys. I talk about the adrenals a lot in reference to cortisol, our main stress hormone. But the adrenals also secrete another substance called aldosterone.
Aldosterone is produced in the cortex or outer section of the adrenal glands. This hormone helps the body regulate blood pressure by acting on the kidneys and the colon to both increase the amount of salt in the bloodstream and also the amount of potassium we excrete when we pee.
Aldosterone also tells your body to reabsorb water as it pulls salt from the extracellular fluid into the bloodstream. When water is reabsorbed along with the sodium, your blood volume increases. Interestingly enough, so does your blood pressure.
This is how stress increases your blood pressure.
In a normal, healthy, hormone-happy woman, aldosterone keeps enough sodium and potassium in the blood for you to feel energized (sodium and potassium are also part of the “spark plug” system of the body). Normal sodium and potassium levels also help your cells diffuse vitamins and minerals into the cells, and allow waste products to be removed from the cell.
When sodium and potassium are low, you’ll feel exhausted and cranky.
More about potassium
Potassium, especially, is a vitally important mineral. Potassium helps your nerves function appropriately. It keeps your muscles in the correct state of relaxation and contraction. It keeps your heartbeat regular and strong. It moves nutrients into the cell. It moves waste out of the cell. It regulates fluid balance.
And we barely get any potassium in our standard western diets. Even those eating an ancestral, nutrient-rich western diet don’t get enough potassium. Not only has our food supply been progressively stripped of its potassium content (source), most of us don’t eat enough potassium in our diet anyway.
Less than 2% of Americans get enough potassium in their diet (source).
Less than 2%.
Our ancestors ate about 10,000 mg of potassium a day, mostly through plants. We modern woman get about 3000 mg per day. The RDA for potassium is 4700 mg.
With the rise of diets like carnivore and keto, where plant matter takes a backseat, that sad 3000 mg statistic falls to more like 500-1000 mg.
Signs of Low Potassium
If a woman comes to me complaining of the following, I’m looking to low potassium as a culprit:
- Low energy
- Muscle cramps
- Irregular heartbeat
- Fluid retention
- Menstrual cramps
- Feeling “toxic”
It’s hard to measure potassium in the bloodstream. Blood only give us a quick snapshot- a single moment in time.
I like to use the Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis to look at sodium and potassium levels over a three month time frame.
Inevitably, I find that women complaining of the preceding symptoms are really low in potassium.
Low Potassium on the Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis
Check this out:
See how the sodium and potassium levels are so low? This client suffered from an irregular heartbeat (doctors proclaimed this “normal”), menstrual cramps, low energy, and feelings of toxicity.
The HTMA is cool because it shows a deeper picture as to why potassium might be low. When the body is under stress for an extended period of time, it tends to push calcium out from the bones into the soft tissue. The higher the calcium is in the soft tissue, the more the body attempts to use its potassium stores to break down the calcium that is sitting in the wrong place. We want calcium in the bones and teeth, not the arteries or hair.
You can measure aldosterone in a blood test. It’s not a very common test to run, but it can be a helpful marker in the presence of low sodium and potassium on the HTMA.
Usually, low aldosterone is associated with low cortisol, that pesky stress hormone.
How does this happen?
These are lifestyle problems, not physiological problems. Repeatedly subjecting your body to stressors through over-exercise, over-dieting, overworking, under-sleeping, and not enough leisure time will inevitably produce a pattern such as this.
When sodium, potassium, cortisol, and aldosterone are low, you generally feel like this:
And you’ll be all puffy and bloated. That is no fun.
How can you raise aldosterone and potassium?
First, try to do the following things daily:
- Get to bed before 10 pm.
- Sleep 7 hours or more per night.
- Eat plenty of protein and vegetables, 3x/ day.
- Eat foods high in potassium.
- Take a break and sit in the sun for 5 minutes every day at 10 am and 2 pm.
- Stop drinking coffee. It taxes your adrenals and makes this whole issue worse.
- Take an Epsom salt bath every night to raise sodium and magnesium levels.
- Find something that makes you belly laugh every day. My son and I like this video.
If you’re still stuck, you have two options.
Work with Me
- You can grab my HTMA package here. You actually get my Better Periods Month One program included in the package price. You’ll also get 2 (30 minute) 1:1 sessions with me and an HTMA test. In our first session, we will go over your symptoms and health history. In our second session, we’ll go over the results of your HTMA and I’ll give you your recommendations based on your body’s biofeedback. This package is worth $784 and I’m offering three spots only for $497. Grab yours quickly.
- Schedule a complementary 30-minute Discovery Call with me here.
And let me know if you have any questions. I love to answer them!
Thanks for reading.