Best 5 Difference Between Bloating and Water Retention

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

Water retention 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.

What is 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.

difference between bloating and water rentention

What are the causes of water retention?

Although there exist several causes for water or fluid retention, some of the most worth mentioning are-

Consumption of food with too much salt

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

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

Salted foods


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

Certain Medications

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

Dietary deficiency of certain nutrients

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

Water retention as premenstrual syndrome symptoms

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

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

Hot weather

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.


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.

Medical conditions

Kidney diseases such as nephrotic syndrome, acute glomerulonephritis, liver disease, thyroid, arthritis, heart failure their fluid accumulation occur in the abdominal cavity and other body parts.

Diagnosis of fluid retention and other underlying medical conditions

Initial diagnosis can be made by:

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

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

What is bloating?

In common words, bloating means up of 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 turn into severe medical conditions like blood in stool, noticeable weight loss, heartburn, fever.

What are the causes of bloating?

Following are the most common causes of bloating:


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

Gut sensitivity

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

Growth of intestinal bacteria

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

Intolerance to certain foods

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

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 the vice-versa is not true.

Difference between bloating and water retention-

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 also 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.

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.

3. Bloating assists weight loss while water retention helps weight gain

Bloating, which occurs due to infection or gas formation in the GI tract, loses appetite, losing weight. On the other hand, water retention always adds extra weight to water weight.

4. Bloating is generally related to GI tract problems

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.

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 like kidney failure, heart failure, chronic lung disease, allergic reaction, heart disease, and auto-immune disease such as lupus.

How to differentiate between bloating and water retention?

Edema is the primary symptom of both water retention and bloating. Both include puffiness and swelling, but they’re also exist specific differences:

  • When there is water retention in the body, there appears puffiness in the extremities of our body, but the same rule does not apply for bloating. Edema for bloating is not necessarily in the extremities.
  • Water retention can cause unexplained weight gain while bloating does not significantly impact weight gain.
  • Pitted edema, areas of skin that remain intended when pressed slightly, is a common symptom of water retention, while bloating does not exhibit pitted edema.
  • Sometimes water retention is also associated with the change of skin color while there is no such symptom in the case of bloating.
  • Thus, water retention is more severe than bloating when medically reviewed. Water retention can be a hidden symptom of many serious health issues.

Remedy for water weight loss

To get rid of water retention in the human body, we have to remove fluid from the body. For removing fluid and to reduce water retention, we must take the following steps:

Reduce Sodium intake

The primary source of sodium is salty food and processed foods. Consumption of a low salt diet, 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 get rid of chronic water retention.

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.

healthy diet

Exercise regularly

Regular exercise helps to reduce water retention. Physical activities like cycling, walking help to pump out water from ankles and legs. 30mins 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.

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, improve kidney function.

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

Avoid table-salt

By avoiding table salt, one can reduce the 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.

Diuretics/Water pills

To treat mild fluid retention, one can use water pills prescribed by a doctor. 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 they can be used for a short period or when necessary.

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, certain fish.

Reducing Carbohydrate intake

The carbohydrate that 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 and alleviate water retention symptoms.

Bloating, which occurs due to water retention, can be minimized by preventing fluid accumulation in our bodies. Following losing water weight, one can quickly get rid of the puffiness or bloating due to water retention.

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

How to get rid of 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.

Thus, the common feature of both water retention and bloating is puffiness and swelling. Water retention in most cases is associated with bloating but bloating seldom comes with water retention. To prevent bloating and water retention, the best way 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 the 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 shall surely lead to more new health issues.

The sooner we realize, the better for us. We are born to live a life on this beautiful planet. The healthier we live, the more we can enjoy its every moment.

I hope you have well understood the difference between bloating and water retention. If there are any more doubts, feel free to connect with us.


While at times contributed by guest authors, our content is medically reviewed periodically by professionals for accuracy and relevance. We pride ourselves on our high-quality content and strive towards offering expertise while being authoritative. Our reviewers include doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and even medical students. 

Do note that any information found on the site does not constitute legal or medical advice. Should you face health issues, please visit your doctor to get yourself diagnosed. Icy Health offers expert opinions and advice for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for professional medical advice.


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