Edema - Water retention

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Water retention is particularly feared among those who want to lose weight. They can increase body weight by several kilos within a few hours if they form at short notice.

Such water retention is also called oedema. They occur particularly often in the feet and legs, where they cause strong feelings of tension and swelling. But the abdomen can also swell due to edema.

Abdominal edema due to estrogen dominance

Women in particular often have water retention in their stomachs. These water retention in the abdomen is usually caused by hormones in the affected women. They are mainly caused by hormonal imbalance in favour of oestrogens. If the female hormone progesterone is too low, oestrogen dominates, which leads to numerous health problems, including edemas in the abdominal cavity.

This hormonal imbalance very often occurs in the days before the period. Shortly before the period bleeds, the women affected gain weight and their belly becomes noticeably thicker.

The usual trousers no longer fit and the tape measure clearly shows that the belly is swollen.

However, the woman has not gained any fat, but it is only tissue water that is stored in the abdomen.

After the period, the thick belly and temporary weight gain usually disappear by themselves.

In some women, however, the imbalance in favour of oestrogens is permanent and not just before the period. This is especially the case for women in the early menopause, i.e. from about 40.

However, some women also suffer from this hormonal imbalance in younger years. These women usually also have problems with premenstrual syndrome and other health problems. The abdomen is often swollen more or less throughout the month due to edema.

Hormonal imbalance in favour of oestrogen is also referred to as oestrogen dominance.

But not only estrogen dominance can lead to water retention in the abdominal cavity.

Abdominal edema caused by salty food

Salt-rich food generally promotes water retention in the tissues. These water deposits can be clearly felt in the legs, but they can also be recognised by the slightly swollen belly.

If you normally eat a low-salt diet and then eat a single salty meal, such as soup or a meal in a restaurant, you will notice an increase in weight of up to one kilo. If you eat several salty meals, the weight gain can be even greater.

This weight is not fat (unless the food was extremely high in calories), but water retention.

Although a large part of this water retention takes place in the legs, a certain amount of water also settles in the abdomen. It is therefore possible to measure a small increase in the abdominal girth.

The salt binds the body water to itself, so to speak, and prevents enough water from being excreted.

If you drink plenty of water, these edemas usually disappear quickly. Water has a diluting effect on the increased salt in the body and helps to excrete the salt and water again.

In addition, salt intake should be kept to normal levels so that new salt does not lead to renewed edema.

However, these explanations are not intended to be a plea for a low-salt diet.

People with normal blood pressure and also most people with moderate hypertension may normally consume a lot of salt.

A particularly low-salt diet generally does not improve health and does not help to lower blood pressure in the majority of hypertensive patients.

In hot weather or extreme physical exertion you even need significant amounts of salt in addition to an abundant supply of water.

On the other hand, however, it is not healthy to consume too much salt.

Modern ready meals and meals in restaurants are usually too salty in comparison to actual demand. Many people's tastes are trimmed too salty.

Therefore, in some respects, salt consumption should be moderate. One to three grams of salt per day is a sensible amount of salt for adults.

However, extremely heavy sweating can require up to 20 grams of salt a day, in addition to up to ten liters of water.

Abdominal edema caused by cirrhosis of the liver

Water retention in the abdomen can also be caused by cirrhosis of the liver.

One speaks then also of an ascites, that is a water belly or a stomach dropsy. In this form, the water is free in the abdominal cavity.

When the liver is no longer able to do its job properly, the blood that comes from the intestines accumulates. The congestion leads to increased pressure in the so-called portal vein system, which leads to the liver. Part of the fluid in the blood escapes through the walls of the vessels and ends up in the abdomen. There it gradually accumulates more and more.

Such a situation can be caused by cirrhosis, liver cancer or other liver diseases.

The abdomen swells more and more as a result of the ascite. It can take on enormous proportions.

A typical phenomenon of ascites is the fact that the stomach sloshes, so to speak. If you bump the belly on one side, you can still feel the wave on the other side. However, only specialists, especially doctors, have an exact feeling for this phenomenon. As a layman you can hardly judge a

belly safely, because every belly moves something with it when you give it a push.

Whether an ascites exists due to liver disease can be seen on one side by an abdominal examination and on the other by the blood of the liver. The so-called liver values are clearly altered in liver diseases.

If ascites are suspected, the doctor should, among other things, have the liver values examined.

The treatment then consists on the one hand in the treatment of the underlying disease and on the other hand in draining the abdominal fluid.


On photos of starving children we have almost all already seen the so-called hunger belly. It is a typical feature of starving children.

Arms and legs are thin like sticks and the belly bulges forward.

The bulging belly is a form of ascite, so it is a water belly.

It is not caused by a general lack of calories, but by too few proteins.

The body needs proteins (albumins) to keep the water in the blood vessels. If the body has far too few proteins, the water travels from the blood vessels into the abdomen and accumulates there. It comes to a thick pot belly. The feet also swell up considerably and further symptoms occur.

The hunger belly due to protein deficiency in hunger situations is also called kwashiorkor.

The hunger belly often occurs even when sufficient carbohydrates and fats are available. The problem that leads to the hunger belly is the lack of proteins in food.

People suffering from a hunger belly are not necessarily extremely thin on arms and legs. Depending on the situation, they can also have a relatively normal effect, apart from swollen stomach and swollen feet. The face is also often exaggerated.

A hunger belly could also occur if a person in the industrialized countries eats particularly low-protein food. This would be conceivable with strict vegan, which do not pay enough attention to sufficiently vegetable proteins. A particularly careless diet or one-sided diets could also theoretically lead to a hunger belly.

If the abdomen is extremely distended in relation to the rest of the body, it should be examined for water retention. This is especially true if you eat a very low protein diet.

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