Water retention in men is often more straightforward than it is in women since men do not have a monthly menstrual cycle.
In men, the causes of water retention can still be hormonal, but the hormone in question is more likely to be insulin. As we age our insulin can lose its effectiveness, so the body tries to compensate by producing more insulin. This happens in both men and women. High insulin levels interfere with the body’s sodium control, resulting in water retention.
This water retention is not always visible. It can just look like you’ve put on a bit of weight, but this weight is water as well as fat.
Men and oestrogen (estrogen)
High levels of the hormone oestrogen can also cause water retention. Just as testosterone is found in both men and women, so is oestrogen, although it plays a more important role in women’s bodies.
Oestrogen can be produced by body fat, so overweight men are more likely to have higher oestrogen levels. Many of today’s pollutants such as PCBs also have an oestrogenic effect, and men can be affected by this too.
Other causes of water retention in men
It may surprise you to know this, but you can suffer from both dehydration and water retention at the same time.
Dehydration is a common cause of water retention. When it is dehydrated the body learns to hold on to water in order to prevent damage to its vital tissues. Men are more at risk of dehydration than women because they are more likely to do manual work which increases sweating, or very active sports such as football. Men also tend to drink more alcohol, which has an extremely dehydrating effect.
Other drinks which cause dehydration are tea and coffee. Like alcohol all these drinks stimulate the kidneys to remove more water from the blood.
Most people need to drink much more water than is their custom. The minimum for men is two litres a day – more if you are physically active.
We also recommend reading causes of water retention.