Water retention. It happens to us all. You may just get that bloated feeling, see it in your ankles, or have a little pouch of thick skin in your belly that’s keeping you from looking like The Situation. If you follow the right procedure, you can use a sauna to sweat out that water weight and feel and look slimmer.
However, just throwing on a sauna suit or spending a marathon session in a sauna could cause you to retain more water. We’re going to look at why you retain water and how to safely eliminate that extra water from your body.
Why am I retaining water?
The simple answer is, because your body thinks it needs it. Your body is a finely tuned machine. It has a number of processes that are constantly regulating and adjusting themselves to deal with all the inputs to your body.
The simplest cause for water retention is dehydration. If your body believes it is going to need more water than it is getting, it will lay in supplies that it can draw upon in times of need. This is most common in pre-menstrual women as your body prepares for the blood it will lose during your period.
Another common cause is ion storage. Your body needs a certain amount of sodium and potassium ions to survive. However, if you consume more than your body needs, it will store those for later. So if you have a diet high in salt, your body takes those extra sodium ions, dissolves them in water and tucks them away in the cells of your legs, arms or belly until it needs them. If you’re serious about dropping some water weight, start by cutting down on the salt in your diet.
While we’re talking about your diet, there are a number of other corrections you can make to your diet that will help cut down on the amount of water you retain. Eating more fiber is a big one. This helps keep your digestive tract working in the best order. Improper digestion can be a trigger for your body to retain water. A protein or vitamin B deficiency can trigger your body to retain water. Eating healthier can fix this. Another big one is artificial sweeteners. Yes, your diet soda may actually making you fat. Finally, some food allergies will trigger water retention. These are harder to figure out and you may need to enlist your doctor’s help in finding them.
Lack of exercise can be a contributing factor to swelling. While it’s not actually water retention, excess fluid can pool in low areas like your ankles at the end of a long day at work or cause puffy eyes when you wake up in the morning. Working your leg muscles to strengthen them will help, as will getting up to move around several times throughout your workday.
There are a few more serious medical causes that can cause water retention. If your body is burned, you will retain water as your body prepares for extra fluids it need to heal the burn. Certain medications will cause water retention, especially estrogen-containing hormones, blood pressure medications and NSAID pain relievers. Some people have “leaky” capillaries that can cause you to retain water. Increased water weight can also be a symptom of a very serious disease like heart disease, lung disease, cancer, or liver or kidney failure. If you’ve tried some of the techniques and nothing seems to work, consult your doctor. This may be an early warning sign of something very serious.
Getting rid of that excess water
Okay, we’ve figured out where your water is coming from, and this is a sauna blog, so it’s time to jump into the sauna and sweat out that water, right? Wrong. If you want to get rid of that water weight, there are other changes to make first.
1. Drink more water.
Really. If you want to stop retaining water, you need to show your body that it’s going to get plenty of it. It’s also going to help your body flush out some of the excess sodium in your system. Drink up, you’ll actually slim down.
2. Cut out the salt.
In general, we eat way too much salt. According to new research, we should consume less than 1500 mg of sodium daily. A single can of soup or noodle bowl can contain over 1000 mg of sodium! If you’re not cutting the salt from your diet, none of the other techniques will help you. Your body will need to retain water to deal with all the salt ions you’re throwing at it.
3. Eat more fiber.
Everyone says it, but it really will help. Adding fiber to your diet will help your body get rid of those excess ions and water you’re carrying around.
Sweating out the last of it
Now that you’ve made those changes to your diet, you can work on sweating away the stubborn water that won’t come out any other way. This is not an everyday routine, but a once in a while tune-up. If you try this and the water is coming right back, you’ve got a different issue. Take another look at your diet or talk to your doctor to see if there is a medical problem that is holding you back.
Find yourself a comfortable sauna and get a nice large bottle of water. You can use a traditional sauna, an infrared sauna or a Steam Room for this part. Even a ganbanyoku bed will work. You just need something hot that will get you sweating and mobilize those stored ions under your skin. For this technique, a cooler sauna is better than a really hot one.
Since you’ll be really sweating, make sure you sit on a towel. You’ll also want to make sure you’ve showered and dried yourself off before going in the sauna. For this technique to work best, your problem areas should not be covered with any clothing.
Sit inside the sauna until sweat starts pouring out of your body. Drink water at the same rate that you feel like you’re losing it to replenish the fluids you’re sweating out. If you get dehydrated in the sauna, your body is going to start retaining water and you’ll be worse off than when you started.
Now taste your sweat. Yes, taste it. If it tastes salty, then the sauna is working. You’re sweating out the ions that are causing you to retain water. You want to keep sweating and drinking until you can no longer taste salt in your sweat.
If you feel uncomfortable, make sure you take a break and cool down for a while. It’s especially helpful if you occasionally rinse yourself off with cold water periodically. This will flush away all the stuff that’s come out of your pores and clean your skin off. A cold rinse also helps keep your skin from burning in the sauna. Remember, burns will also cause you to retain water.
What about a sauna suit?
Sauna suits are completely worthless for losing retained water. They are worthless for a lot of other reasons too.
Sauna suits have one purpose: They temporarily dehydrate you. Athletes use them to cut weight before a weigh-in so they can gain an advantage over a lighter opponent.
Of course, if you remember above, when your body is dehydrated, it is going to retain more water as a defense. So while you might lose a little water weight today from your workout in a sauna suit, you’re going to end up retaining a lot more water tomorrow since you’ve just put your body into survival mode.
Yes, your body does retain water and if you’ve got a really low body mass index and you need to get rid of a stubborn pocket of bloat, a sauna can help you. However, if you’ve got an average amount (or more) of body fat, a sauna isn’t going to help you. You are better off changing your diet first.