Best 5 Differences Between Bloating and Water Retention

A quick guide on the top 5 differences between bloating and water retention.

Water retention1 and bloating are the two terms that are often mingled. Although they are related, there are some significant differences if we dig deeper into their cause and effect.

Let us understand water retention and bloating and also clarify the fundamental differences.

1. Water or Fluid Retention

When excess water or fluid retention occurs in the human body, it is called fluid retention or, more commonly, edema. This generally adds extra pounds of weight, leading to increased water weight.

Although it is usually harmless, sometimes it may indicate heart, liver, kidney disease, or any other underlying health problem.

2. Causes of Water Retention

2.1. Consumption of Food with too Much Salt

Taking salty foods can lead to too much sodium in our bodies, leading to weight gain. Increased sodium levels help retain fluid in body tissues and cells, resulting in high blood pressure and creating tension in blood vessels.

Fluid build-up in vital organs like the brain and lungs requires urgent medical attention. Processed foods, potato chips, and salted peanuts contain hidden salt and too much sodium.

2.2. Pregnancy

During pregnancy, hormones like estrogen and progesterone2 reach an optimum level in the blood, making the body tender and soft, allowing the baby and uterus to expand.

2.3. Certain Medications

Drugs, including antihypertensives, corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and oral contraceptives, can lead to fluid retention in our bodies.

2.4. Dietary Deficiency of Certain Nutrients

Insufficient protein or vitamin B1(thiamine) can lead to fluid retention in daily meals.

2.5. Water Retention as Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms

Before starting the period, almost in the middle of the menstrual cycle, one can experience water retention and edema3.

This is due to fluctuations of hormones in the body which leads to excess fluids in tissues and organs, increased water weight, breast tenderness, and other medical conditions.

2.6. Hot Weather

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Photo by Wilson Szeto on Unsplash

The body does not want to lose water during hot weather, leading to water or fluid retention. This contributes to increased water weight in the human body.

2.7. Gravity

Standing for extended periods can lead to leg swelling and swollen ankles. This is mainly due to fluid accumulation due to the gravitational pull while standing.

2.8. Medical Conditions

Kidney diseases such as nephrotic syndrome4, acute glomerulonephritis5, liver disease, thyroid, arthritis, and heart failure occur due to fluid accumulation occurs in the abdominal cavity and other body parts.

3. Diagnosis of Fluid Retention

Initial diagnosis can be made by:

  • Medical history
  • Blood test
  • Urine sample analysis
  • Liver, and kidney functioning diagnostic tests
  • Electrocardiogram((ECG)
  • Physical examination

Now let us have a look at bloating and its causes and symptoms.

4. What is Bloating?

Bloating, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment.

In common words, bloating means gas and air in the gastrointestinal tract, leading to a feeling of fullness. The most common cause of bloating is gas formation in our gut.

It is sometimes accompanied by pain, nausea, frequent burping, and abdominal gurgles. Sometimes bloating can become severe medical conditions like blood in stool, noticeable weight loss, heartburn, and fever.

5. Causes of Bloating

The following are the most common causes of bloating:

5.1. Constipation

The longer the stool remains in the colon, the more chances the bacteria can ferment them, resulting in gas and bloating.

5.2. Gut Sensitivity

People with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) tend to be more sensitive to the gas formation that often leads to bloating.

5.3. Growth of Intestinal Bacteria

Along with some necessary bacteria, some people having undergone intestinal surgery and other medical issues like IBS can have more count of bacteria that causes bloating.

5.4. Intolerance of Certain Foods

Many people have an intolerance to lactose and fructose. Intake of such food by people’s intolerance to that food can lead to bloating.

5.5. Menstrual Cycle Bloating

Certain body parts seem swollen and bloated before the period starts. It appears like one has gained much weight.

Comparing bloating and water retention, it can be said that bloating is a necessary symptom of water retention, but vice-versa is not true.

6. Difference Between Bloating and Water Retention

How Do You Know if it's Water Weight or Fat?

6.1. Bloating is not Just Fluid Retention

While fluid retention refers to the accumulation of water in our various body parts that may lead to swelling and bloating, bloating can occur due to gas formation in the GI tract.

Bloating necessarily does not refer only to water retention. It can also be due to gases.

6.2. Bloating does not Always Add to Water-Weight

Puffiness or bloating due to fluid retention can result in water weight gain. Studies have found that fast weight loss is mainly due to a reduction in water weight.

But the bloating which is caused due to gas generally does not make any significant contribution to water weight. But increased water weight shall surely make one feel bloated.

6.3. Bloating Assists in Weight Loss, While Water Retention Helps Weight Gain

Bloating occurs due to infection or gas formation in the GI tract, loss of appetite, and results in loss of weight.

On the other hand, water retention always adds extra weight to water weight.

Bloating occurs typically due to infection or gas formation in the GI tract. Although bloating may sometimes also happen during the menstrual cycle, it is mainly related to gas formation in the abdominal cavity.

6.5. Water Retention can be the Underlying Cause of Severe Health Conditions

Fluid build-up in the human body can be due to several serious health conditions:

7. Remedy for Water Weight Loss

How To Lose Water Weight, How To Get Rid Of Water Weight

To get rid of water retention in the human body, we have to remove fluid from the body.

To remove fluid and reduce water retention, we must take the following steps:

7.1. Reduce Sodium Intake

The primary source of sodium is salty food and processed foods. Consumption of a low-salt diet and fruit juices helped maintain the body’s water balance. The body needs to maintain a sodium-to-water ratio; thus, to maintain it, the body sometimes tends to retain water.

To lose weight, one must also focus on reducing the water weight. This is also one of the best methods to eliminate chronic water retention.

7.2. Switch to a Healthy Diet

Switching to a diet full of leafy vegetables, dietary fibers, fruits, and fewer salts and processed items reduce water retention in the body. Consuming cranberry juice improves kidney function and also flushes excess water.

Thus, a healthy diet can reduce water weight, improve blood flow, stop retaining water, and improve other body functions.

7.3. Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise helps to reduce water retention. Physical activities like cycling and walking help to pump out water from ankles and legs.

30 minutes of regular exercise helps widen the blood vessels promoting blood flow and helping to burn more calories.

Moreover, exercise keeps the lymphatic system healthy and thus prevents leakage of tissue fluid that may accumulate in certain body parts.

7.4. Drink Plenty of Water

Contrary to the fact that water weight increases when the body retains excess water, drinking more water helps to reduce weight and improve kidney function.

Improved kidney function helps flush sodium and water, causing swelling. Adults should consume nearly 2 liters of water every day.

7.5. Avoid Table-Salt

Avoiding table salt can reduce salt intake, which prevents fluid retention in our body tissues. Excess fluid in the body automatically reduces with reduced salt consumption.

Moreover, avoiding table salt also reduces the risk of hypertension.6

7.6. Diuretics/Water Pills

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Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

One can use water pills prescribed by a doctor to treat mild fluid retention. These pills make an individual urinate more frequently, thus promoting the removal of excess fluid build-up in our body.

But these are not safe for long-term use and can be used for a short period or when necessary.

7.7. Vitamin B6 and Other Supplements

Vitamin B6 and other supplements like magnesium oxide enhance kidney functions and thus flushes out excess sodium ions and water.

These are the best natural remedy for to get rid of water retention. Some of the natural sources of vitamin B6 include pork, poultry, oats, soya bean, peanuts, and certain fish.

7.8. Reducing Carbohydrate Intake

The carbohydrate we eat gets stored as glycogen in our body, and each glycogen has 3gm of water attached to it, which also contributes to our weight.

Cutting down the carbs intake will undoubtedly reduce the water weight as less glycogen. Thus, less water will be stored in our body, alleviating water retention symptoms.

8. Get Rid of Bloating

Bloating, which occurs due to water retention, can be minimized by preventing fluid accumulation in our bodies. After losing water weight, one can quickly eliminate puffiness or bloating due to water retention.

The bloating that occurs due to indigestion or gas formation in the gastrointestinal tract 7can be minimized in the following ways:

Bloating | How To Get Rid Of Bloating | Reduce Bloating

  • One should practice regular bowel habits to get rid of bloating and constipation.
  • Probiotic supplements are also helpful at certain times.
  • One should consume smaller portions and avoid unhealthy and fatty foods. Limiting particular carbohydrate food also prevents bloating.
  • One should also exercise regularly to get rid of bloating.
  • Sometimes rapid weight gain also results in bloating.
  • Avoiding fizzy drinks and fermented food products also cuts down bloating.

9. Conclusion

Thus, the common feature of water retention and bloating is puffiness and swelling. Water retention, in most cases, is associated with bloating but bloating seldom comes with water retention. The best way to prevent bloating and water retention is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and drinking water help prevent water retention and bloating. Water retention is much an area of concern compared to bloating when medically reviewed, but sometimes their symptoms overlap.

Getting a medical diagnostic review seems the best option to verify them. Both health issues can be an outcome of our current ever-rushing lifestyle.

Late-night parties, processed food, irregular sleep patterns, excessive medications, and drugs adversely affect our health and immune system. If not changed or rectified, the current lifestyle pattern will surely lead to new health issues.


1. How can I reduce bloating?

A: There are several strategies you can try to reduce bloating:

  1. Avoid or limit foods that commonly cause bloating, such as beans, lentils, broccoli, cabbage, onions, carbonated drinks, and certain artificial sweeteners.
  2. Eat smaller, more frequent meals to aid digestion.

2. What can I do to alleviate water retention?

A: To alleviate water retention, you can try the following:

  1. Reduce your salt intake, as excessive salt can contribute to fluid retention.
  2. Stay adequately hydrated to help flush out excess fluids.

3. Are there any over-the-counter medications for bloating and water retention?

A: Yes, there are over-the-counter medications that can help with bloating and water retention. Diuretics, also known as water pills, are commonly used to reduce fluid retention. However, it is important to use these medications under the guidance of a healthcare professional, as they can have side effects and may not address the underlying cause of bloating or water retention.


Read more from us here.

  1. Shalaby, Waleed SW, William E. Blevins, and Kinam Park. “Gastric retention of enzyme-digestible hydrogels in the canine stomach under fasted and fed conditions.” ACS symposium series. No. 469. 1991. ↩︎
  2. Taraborrelli, Stefania. “Physiology, production and action of progesterone.” Acta obstetricia et gynecologica Scandinavica 94 (2015): 8-16. ↩︎
  3. Trayes, Kathryn P., et al. “Edema: diagnosis and management.” American family physician 88.2 (2013): 102-110. ↩︎
  4. Wang, Chia-shi, and Larry A. Greenbaum. “Nephrotic syndrome.” Pediatric Clinics 66.1 (2019): 73-85. ↩︎
  5. Sethi, Sanjeev, An S. De Vriese, and Fernando C. Fervenza. “Acute glomerulonephritis.” The Lancet 399.10335 (2022): 1646-1663. ↩︎
  6. Huang, Zhiping, et al. “Body weight, weight change, and risk for hypertension in women.” Annals of internal medicine 128.2 (1998): 81-88. ↩︎
  7. Bhatia, Vikram, and Rakesh K. Tandon. “Stress and the gastrointestinal tract.” Journal of gastroenterology and hepatology 20.3 (2005): 332-339. ↩︎

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