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Home / Ketogenic Diet / Fluid Retention on Ketogenic Diet

Fluid Retention on Ketogenic Diet

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg October 13, 2018

You’ve gone on the low-carb keto diet, you’re getting into ketosis, and you feel great. You’ve got more energy, enthusiasm, and excitement for life that you’ve felt in years. You eagerly step on the scale, anticipating big weight loss, and...your weight’s gone up!

Not only that, but you’re feeling puffy and your ankles are swollen.

What on earth?

Aren’t you supposed to have excellent weight loss on the keto diet? And eliminate the puffiness and swelling you were told came from a high-carb diet?

Take heart.

It’s pretty common to get water retention weight gain on keto, and there are several possible reasons why it's happening even when you're eating low-carb.

Let’s take a look at what might be going on to prevent your weight loss.

In this Article:

  1. 4 Causes of Water Retention Weight Gain on the Ketogenic Diet (And Their Remedies)
  2. Are You Ready To Get Rid Of Water Retention Weight Gain?

a doctor’s hands assessing a patient’s swollen ankles

4 Causes of Water Retention Weight Gain on the Ketogenic Diet (And Their Remedies)

Fortunately, you can easily zero in on what’s causing the fluid retention on your keto diet, along with what you can do to eliminate it. It just takes a bit of trial and error to get you firmly on the path of losing water weight along with body fat.

Take a look:

#1 You’re low on vitamin B1 (thiamine)

A vitamin B1 deficiency can create edema (swelling) in your ankles, and it’s one of the most common vitamin deficiencies.

The remedy is to consume more nutritional yeast, which is rich in B1. Typically, nutritional yeast comes in two forms: flakes or tablets. Many people enjoy the flavor of the flakes, which is pleasantly cheese-like. You can sprinkle it over steamed vegetables, add it to smoothies, or use it as a replacement for Parmesan cheese.

#2 Your potassium levels are low

A potassium deficiency is most often caused by not consuming enough vegetables. Ideally, you’re having at least 7 cups per day. However, if you’re consuming enough vegetables and still retaining water, it’s possible your body simply can’t digest all the fiber from the vegetables. The microorganisms in your gut aren’t yet able to handle the amount, especially if you're new to my Healthy Keto diet.

Let me explain.

senior woman with a basket of leafy green vegetables

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Both types retain fluid. This is why you may have experienced the somewhat peculiar phenomenon of getting thirsty when you eat a salad. So much fluid is locked up in the fiber that the rest of your body sends out thirst signals to encourage you to up your fluid intake in order to form easily expelled bowel movements.

Otherwise, you can get constipated. When you are, this can also reflect as a gain of several pounds on the scale. But it’s just water weight, not body fat.

Here’s the remedy:

  • If you get bloated or constipated after sharply increasing your vegetable intake, cut back to a small amount. Eat that amount for awhile, then slowly increase it. Test out the vegetable amount to discover what works for your body.
  • You really want to work up to a sufficient amount of vegetables in order to get the potassium from the leafy greens. Potassium pushes out the fluid from your body.
  • In the meantime, you can always take either a potassium supplement or an electrolyte high in potassium.

#3 You’re consuming too much salt in proportion to potassium

If you’re consuming a lot of salt but insufficient or no potassium, that’s another potential cause of your fluid retention. The normal ratio of potassium to sodium should be 4:1. And an excess of sodium always means a deficiency of potassium.

With the exception of calcium and phosphorus, potassium is the most abundant mineral in the body. Most of the potassium in your body is inside your cells, as compared to sodium, which is outside the cells. When these two minerals go out of balance, edema, or fluid retention, occurs in your ankles, fingers, and around your eyes.

Here’s the remedy:

  • Since the normal ratio of potassium to sodium is 4:1, wouldn’t it make sense to find a food that has this exact ratio?
  • Well, nature has already provided us with food in perfect balance. It is the vegetable family. Kale, broccoli, cabbage, spinach, avocados, peppers, lettuce, sprouts, and celery, all have excellent amounts of potassium and very low quantities of sodium.
  • For example, one night consume four sticks of celery one hour before bed. Celery is one of the highest potassium foods. You’ll wake up with less fluid retention.
  • As a bonus, you’ll feel calmer and your blood pressure will be down.

So, let’s get your sodium: potassium ratio under control.

#4 You’re accidentally consuming too many hidden carbs

Even though you’re keto, there are some sneaky ways carbs get into what you’re eating that you need to be aware of. Carbs cause you to retain fluid like you’re a sponge.

Surprising sources of carbohydrates when you’re on the ketogenic diet that you may not be aware of are:

  • Low-fat salad dressing
  • Low-fat peanut butter
  • Liquid eggs
  • Sauces like gravy
  • Condiments like ketchup and mustard
  • Flavored yogurt
  • Coleslaw
  • No-sugar-added foods
  • Vitamins
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Protein bars
  • Root vegetables like beets, sweet potatoes, and carrots

The remedy?

  • Read the labels of anything packaged or processed, including vitamins, so you become aware of excess carbs you’re consuming.
  • Skip gravy, sauces, condiments, and dressings unless you know they’re keto friendly.
  • Strictly limit (or eliminate) root vegetables.

See how straightforward it is to figure out why you’re retaining fluid and thus gaining water weight on a keto diet? Simply take some time to assess your diet, tighten up what you’re consuming, and eliminate sources of hidden carbs.


Are You Ready To Get Rid Of Water Retention Weight Gain?

Experiencing water retention weight gain on the ketogenic diet is frustrating.

Even though you can experience stunning weight loss and other health successes on keto, you may need to take some time to dial in a routine that works specifically for you.

There can be so many learning curves: healthy fats vs. unhealthy fats, the correct amount of carbohydrates that gets you into ketosis, how much of which of the three macros - carbs, fat, protein - you should eat for the best results.

When you throw in unwanted fluid retention and its accompanying weight gain, it can be really frustrating. If you need more inspiration take a look at these amazing keto before and after transformations.

The good news is, now you have the information you need to eliminate water retention weight gain.

So give these remedies a try.

Your body’s counting on you to do everything you can to get it to its optimal weight and health.

picture of women’s feet on a scale where the indicator reads OMG!

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