Retaining Fluid But Still Dehydrated?

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 05/20/2024

It is a common misconception that all you need to do to stay hydrated is drink plenty of liquids and retain fluid. But what happens when you are doing this and still find you are suffering from dehydration?

Learn about dehydration, how it relates to fluid retention, and what are the best steps you can take to to stay hydrated.

Understanding Fluid Retention and Dehydration

For every gram of glycogen in your system, approximately two grams of water are attached.

This means that the more sugar and carbohydrates you consume, the higher your water retention rate will be.

But let’s say you've cut down on sugars; cells might start to feel dehydrated even though there’s still plenty of fluid outside the cell walls. It seems counterintuitive that our bodies can bloat with extra fluid while our cells are in need of hydration.

Sodium clings onto water, causing us to puff up and bloat according to research on electrolyte balance. But all that excess fluid doesn’t mean your cells aren’t begging for water.

Blood cells and sugar cubes

The Effects of Sugar and Insulin on Fluid Balance

We delve into the intricate relationship between sugar, insulin, and fluid balance. Unraveling the effects of sugar and insulin on fluid balance provides valuable insights into how dietary choices can impact the body's equilibrium.

Sodium Retention and Potassium Loss

Have you ever noticed how a bag of salty chips can make your fingers swell up like sausages? That's sodium retention in action. When sugar is added into this, the body can begin to struggle.

Elevated insulin and sugar levels don't just crave more glucose; they tell your kidneys to hold onto sodium. This causes an imbalance as potassium depletes, leading to fluid staying outside your cells instead of hydrating you

The Role of Insulin in Fluid Regulation

Insulin isn’t just about keeping those blood sugars in check, because when it spikes a carb-heavy meal, it may not be able to keep low blood sugar levels.

The kidneys are influenced by thisoverload of sugar and insulin, often opting to keep electrolytes such as sodium within our vascular system instead of excreting them out. This leads to water retention without actually hydrating the body.

So, while we might want our bodies running smoother than downtown gridlock during peak hours, managing insulin through diet could help ease off the pedal from this liquid lockdown.

The Ketogenic Diet, Intermittent Fasting, and Hydration

Shifting your body's energy source from carbs to fats can feel like a wild roller coaster for your hydration levels. Think of glycogen—sugar fuel—as a thirsty sponge in your muscles, hoarding water at every chance.

Transitioning from Sugar Fuel to Fat Fuel

Moving over to fat as fuel means your body will stop with the excess insulin production and water retention. This leads to an initial drop in weight primarily due to water loss, not fat.

This change could cause dehydration if not appropriately managed.

Why? Because running on ketones requires less water storage than glucose does.

Keto foods

Ketogenic Diet as a Solution for Edema

If swelling is cramping your style, cutting carbs could help remove edema by reducing glycogen stores.

Adopting a ketogenic diet often has this neat side effect because it nudges the body from sugar and towards using fat more efficiently for energy—which doesn't cling onto fluids quite so desperately.

Diabetic Symptoms Related to Hydration Issues

Understanding how diabetes can impact fluid balance is crucial for recognizing and managing associated symptoms.

This brief examination offers insights into the relationship between diabetes and hydration, providing a foundation for addressing potential challenges and fostering optimal well-being for those navigating this health condition.

Frequent Urination and Increased Thirst

When blood sugar levels soar, the body pulls water from tissues to dilute the glucose and flush it out faster. This leads to increased urination breaks

If you're living with diabetes, you've likely been schooled on monitoring blood sugar. But are you giving hydration the attention it deserves? It's not just about quenching thirst—it's crucial for keeping everything running smoothly.

Dry Eyes as an Indicator of Dehydration

Dry eyes could signal that your body is dehydrated. In conjunction with the eyes, the mouth will also begin to dry out, which can cause bad breath and even tooth decay.

Being sure to stay hydrated is the best way to keep your eyes and mouth healthy.

Addressing Blood Sugar Issues to Resolve Dry Eyes

Dry eyes may also indicate that your blood sugar levels are at an unhealthy high.

When sugars in the bloodstream cause more insulin production, it’s not just your energy that crashes—it can take down the hydration of your eyes.

High blood sugar thickens bodily fluids—tears included—which means they're less likely to spread across and soothe the eye surface efficiently.

You can often bring back balance and bid farewell to dry-eye symptoms by tackling these blood sugar through diet or medication adjustments under medical guidance.

Importance of Electrolyte Balance

Maintaining an electrolyte balance is crucial for keeping fluid levels healthy. Consider sodium and potassium as sides of a scale; if they're off balance, so is your hydration.

Hydration Tips for Those on Low-Carb Diets

If you’re running on fat fuel from keto or intermittent fasting, be aware this shift impacts how your body deals with water storage and usage. Staying hydrated means more than drinking water—you must also replace those lost electrolytes.

Alcohol and Dehydration

Conquering fluid retention and understanding dehydration causes involves unveiling effective strategies and scrutinizing the question, does alcohol dehydrate you?

Yes, alcohol has a dehydrating effect on the body. When you consume alcohol, it acts as a diuretic, promoting increased urine production. This diuretic effect can lead to fluid loss and dehydration.

Additionally, alcohol suppresses the release of an antidiuretic hormone, further contributing to increased urine output. Dehydration can result in symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and fatigue.

It's essential to balance alcohol consumption with adequate water intake to help mitigate its dehydrating effects and maintain proper hydration levels.


Dehydration isn't always about lacking fluids; it can also be due to imbalances caused by sugar, insulin, and electrolytes.

Understanding these factors is crucial for maintaining hydration levels effectively. Diets like keto or intermittent fasting can impact hydration, requiring attention to electrolyte balance.

Moreover, alcohol's diuretic effect underscores the importance of balancing its consumption with adequate water intake. Overall, staying hydrated involves more than just drinking water—it requires mindful management of various factors affecting fluid balance.

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