What causes water retention in the stomach?

Water retention does not occur in the stomach itself, which is a sac high up just under your ribs, where food collects and is mixed with acid to begin digestion. However water retention can occur lower down, in the abdomen or belly, where it is sometimes described as ‘bloating’. Mild bloating is very common and usually due to digestive problems or premenstrual syndrome. Severe bloating may be due to water retention or to inflammation in your digestive system. Occasionally it can be caused by liver disease, heart disease, or severe protein deficiency.

1. Liver disease

Liver damage such as caused by alcohol abuse can lead to blood pressure problems in your abdomen, which forces water out of your blood vessels and into your abdominal cavity – the space around your abdominal organs.

2. Heart disease

Heart failure (a chronic condition where the heart gradually loses its pumping force) can also cause abdominal water retention. Because the kidneys are not stimulated to work properly, people with heart failure tend to collect severe water retention all over their body, especially in the legs and ankles.

3. Severe protein deficiency

Children in developing countries who do not get enough to eat often suffer from severe water retention in the abdomen. This is caused by not getting enough protein and is visible as a large swelling – as big as pregnancy. People in the west who eat very low calorie diets for a long time and do not pay proper attention to getting enough protein may suffer from a mild version of this problem.

These three conditions can cause large amounts of water to collect in your abdomen and in severe cases you can actually feel it swishing around. If this is your problem you must get medical treatment immediately. If you have liver damage due to alcohol abuse it is essential that you stop drinking straight away.

If your doctor has given you the all-clear and does not know what is causing the bloating or water retention in your tummy area, then the cause is probably

  1. Hormonal if you are a woman and if the swelling only occurs before your monthly period, or
  2. Digestive if the swelling is accompanied by gas. Poor digestion or a bacterial imbalance can make your digestive system swollen and inflamed. Some people get this problem after eating certain foods.

The Waterfall Diet book can be very useful to help you find out why you have this type of problem. If you think it may be water retention you can read more here.

I'm a 15 y/o female and ever since I started on the Ginet 84 birth control pill (for my periods) my stomach started to get very bloated. At first my mother and i suspected it might be that I'm lactose intolerant since every morning after having a big bowl of icecream the day before my stomach would bloat up to the extreme! I would look pregnant! It's not so bad now but it's still visible and I feel fat down there :( Please help. The internet doesn't help since it comes up with diseases and cancers and my doctor says I should not worry.Question

I’m a 15 y/o female and ever since I started on the Ginet 84 birth control pill (for my periods) my stomach started to get very bloated. At first my mother and i suspected it might be that I’m lactose intolerant since every morning after having a big bowl of icecream the day before my stomach would bloat up to the extreme! I would look pregnant! It’s not so bad now but it’s still visible and I feel fat down there 🙁 Please help. The internet doesn’t help since it comes up with diseases and cancers and my doctor says I should not worry.


Your doctor says you should not worry because s/he knows that the bloating is not caused by a disease. The biggest clue to the cause of a health problem is when the problem started. If it began soon after beginning the contraceptive pill, what does that tell you? Coincidence? Not very likely. The pill is notorious for causing hormonal upsets that can lead to bloating, water retention, weight gain and skin blemishes among other things.





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About Linda Lazarides

Linda Lazarides is an international expert on water retention, author of eight books and founder of the British Association for Nutritional Therapy. She has successfully treated hundreds of people referred to her by doctors. See success stories or download E-guide.


  1. marianne says:

    i have a severely swollen and uncomfortable stomach, i find it very difficult to pass urine, its not painful but i seem to have to go every 5 mins and always feel like i need to go again as soon as ive been, any ideas what may be causing this, i want to go to my doctor but feel too embarrased

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      If you are having difficulty passing urine it is essential that you consult your doctor immediately.

  2. This water retention is recent MY stomach is very bloated and now my ankles and fingers. I’m 49 and my body Is starting to skip my pdriods

  3. In the past six months I have gained 8 – 10 pounds. I am very bloated in my stomach and face. When I wear my eyeglasses I can feel the pressure on my nose and when I take them off I have marks where my glasses sat. My abdomen area is so bloated also. Not so much my fingers and legs, but I am taking a drug to help my very sore knee which needs replacement. I went from 150 to 158 and holding for about five months, then have lost 5 pounds by eating healthier in the past 5 weeks but I am still so bloated. Please, what gives? What tests should I ask my doctor to do?

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Diane, if there was a useful test your doctor would have already done it. You should ask your doctor whether this condition is ‘idiopathic edema’. If he agrees that it is, then the only answer is finding out more and using the self help and self testing as described in my books. Please see the links at the top of this page.

  4. Hi linda
    I was very lean a few months ago I was training very hard and looking very good, all of a sudden after a few months I started putting on weight. I lost my abs completely after being nice and lean, I changed nothing in my diet, I always eat healthy and clean. I started noticing a smooth bloated appearance and I got worried, I changed diet I lowered training and nothing seemed to help. It got worse, I then went to see and endocrinologist and said my estrogen was very high with my cortisol extremely high, and dhea and testosterone very low, he then gave me 75mg dhea daily with orvitrelle one a week with 1/2 an arimidex every second day, I still haven’t noticed any difference. I wake up feeling bloated and puffy every single morning.

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Andrea, I can confirm that doctors have a very poor record with the treatment of idiopathic oedema (water retention of unknown cause). You need to check out the rest of this site, and the publications will help you too.

  5. Katie M. says:

    I am desperate for help! I have been retaining water for over a year. For nine months, a prescription diuretic was working. Then it stopped being effective. I had a hormone test that revealed my estrogen levels were high. After switching to a low estrogen oral contraceptive, it got worse. Then I was put on a stronger prescription diuretic with no result. I quit taking birth control pills altogether 6 weeks ago and am still retaining. I am on a 1500 calorie diet, eat whole/clean foods, watch my sodium intake, drink plenty of water and exercise 4-6 hours a week. The weight is mostly around the abdominal area, but it is all over my body to a lesser extent. I’ve seen three doctors; each with a different theory as to why this is going on, but it hasn’t been resolved.

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Katie, there is a post here about the dangers of diuretics and how they can make type 2 water retention worse. Sadly, doctors have such limited knowledge about this type of water retention, so much so that they call it ‘idiopathic’ which means ‘of unknown cause’. Obviously your problem can’t be solved in a word or two, but I do hope you will find the answer in my book.

  6. A year and a half ago, I started swelling severely in my abdomen. Going on a yeast-free diet improved my condition, but as soon as I went off it, I got much worse. The edema spread to my arms and legs and I’m not 25 pounds heavier, but I cannot eat. I barely make 500 calories a day. When I eat, my cornea also swells and my vision blurs, deterring me from eating. I had yeast in my esophagus and was treated with strong anti-fungals which seemed to help. I went on a liquid only diet, which helped quite a bit. But, I need to eat and am feeling desperate. Any thoughts? Every test comes back normal, except my eosinophil (white blood cell) count is 2 to 4 times normal.

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Jennifer, I hate to have to keep pointing people to my book, but sadly I get few questions about the contents of this site, mostly requests for help with personal health issues. My books are where all my thoughts on water retention are. You have a very complex condition, and I would only be guessing if I tried to make any comments based on such a small amount of information. It is far better for you to read the information and pick out those parts that you think are relevant to you. Wishing you well.

  7. hi there,
    i easily fit in 28 or 30 waist jeans but i have this water retention problem around my stomach. in morning my stomach looks completely ok but at the end of the day it looks just double….i think it is due to water retention coz i was on aldactone(i took it for my hair loss for some time)which is a diuretic for few months n during that period it was fine.but now its again like before, it feels embarrassing, as it looks a lot bigger than its original size.i try yoga n exercises but it does not work. should i lower salt intake??????
    are there any harmless medications…what can i do to avoid water retention around abdomen.i am 30, weight 54 kgs, height 5 feet 5 inches.

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Amy, there is only one harmless medication for your condition, and that is eating right. Try to follow the advice on this website.

  8. Hello..
    My normal weight is about 125 to 130.. Last year I put on about 70 pounds In a matter of a few Months So right now I’m Weighing in in about 200 pounds. My stomach looks like I’m pregnant Very very bloated Lol I measured it yesterday and it’s measuring 13 inches From top to bottom. The last few months I’ve actually been very sick. I’ve been too doctor to doctor to Gastro to pediatrician Gotcha ruled out that I had gallbladder issues I don’t think so. I have been to test Even though the hay to scan was normal The doctor said that it was my gallbladder.I still don’t think so. Because I watched the radioactive dye passed through my body and when it started to cause pain and it was already in my small intestines. I have a lump underneath my left breast Like swelling on top of my rib cage. I’ve even had my spleen checked that’s okay. I’m starting to feel like a hopeless case Because when I look in the mirror yesterday I look back from like 25 years ago when I was pregnant with my first daughter I look exactly like I do now and I’m not even pregnant. I have sent got a juice machine But either drinking or eating causes a great pain Within a matter of a few minutes heading my stomach I just feel like a hopeless case do you have any ideas on the bloating I’m starting to wonder if whatever’s happening with me is causing all kinds of problems

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Stacie, I would have to sit down with you and ask you an awful lot of questions before I could even try to answer your question. This website is about my book the Waterfall Diet. If you think you may have water retention, it is always good to read this book as it may hold clues to your complex condition. If conventional doctors cannot help perhaps a naturopathic doctor might be able to offer a second opinion.

  9. Hi, recently my stomach pretty much expanded. And it isnt soft and flabby like, but instead its hard and round. I didnt use to have such cases before as my stomach used to be quite lean and slim but recently it started getting hard and round. Also, I gained 4kg in just a few weeks and im suspecting the cause lies with my stomach. Is this because of water retention or weight gain..?
    Would appreciate if you look thru my question and get back to me asap as its very worrying. Thank you xx

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Alexis, I can understand how worrying this is for you. This problem is known as bloating, and it can be due to water retention in your abdominal cavity, or to inflammation in your intestines. Hopefully by now you have read my book the Waterfall Diet which explains the many causes of water retention and how to fix them. The reason for suggesting you read the book, is that I have not had the opportunity to assess you myself by sitting down with you and asking you a lot of questions about your health and diet history. Instead the book gives you guidance to make your own assessment and hopefully find the answers that will work for you.

  10. Krushna Papinwar says:

    Hi Linda,
    My friend is suffering from water retention in stomach area. we didnt think her stomach is expanding due to this problem as there is no health problem to her. Medication is on going but Dr is saying need a operation to remove the sack in which water is accumulating. My question is operation is requiered ?? also what is the chance to have a cancer??

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Krushna, if your friend is concerned about her doctor’s diagnosis she should certainly get a second opinion, as doctors sometimes disagree.

  11. Fluoride poisoning can do this I am talking about a cumulative build-up over a period of time. It reaches a climax with a dramatic increase in water weight that is distributed throughout the body, but is centered in the abdomen. This is due to thyroid blockade at the tissue level. The TSH and T4 levels can come in as normal or low normal. The EU does not poison the water with industrial fluorides like we do in the US. Beware of fruit like grapes that are sprayed with cryolite (sodium aluminum fluoride) to ward off insects. Cryolite is sticky and does not come off easily. You can be drinking concentrated cryolite in your wine if it is not organic. Beware of halogens (bromide, fluoride) in your tea. It can be the death of you.

  12. Jennifer says:

    I can’t say for certain that correlation=causation in my case, but I, too, suffered from water retention. It started about 3 years ago and was sporadic at first but always in the abdomen and legs and ankles. Mine was never severe, but it was enough to make me look like I was 5-6 months pregnant and the skin on my legs felt like it would rip if it were stretched any farther. It was so uncomfortable. Early on, I had a full blood panel when I retained 12 pounds (the most extreme I’d dealt with) in a weekend, but all the tests came back normal. Then it sort of went away and came back from time to time. But last year, it started becoming more common than not, and recently, as in the last few months, it was an every day occurrence. Within minutes of waking up, everything would start to swell. I cut my salt intake, stopped eating processed foods and at healthier than I’d ever eaten before. I have one cup of coffee in the morning, but the rest of the day I only drink water (I’ve always been this way), and even with drinking more water than I really needed, I was still retaining water every single day. I was actually about to go back to the doctor and see if I could get my kidney’s checked, thinking there has to be something wrong with them. But then, about a week and a half ago, I went meat-free because I read many benefits of it and have a nutritionist friend who strongly encouraged it. Well, today, I just realized that I haven’t retained water in a few days, as in, about a week, maybe more. Nothing else in my diet has changed other than replacing the meat with larger portions of beans, lentils, flaxseed, whole grains, etc to sustain my protein intake. That’s it. As soon as that realization hit me, I immediately got on Google and tried to find a correlation between eating meat and retaining water. I’m convinced there must be one. Thoughts?

    Oh, I’m a 30 year old female, by the way.

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Jennifer, when symptoms arise from eating a particular food, this is known as a food intolerance. You were lucky to accidentally discover the foods that were causing your problem. It is not always so easy, and an intolerance to meat is not very common. Among other things, the waterfall diet book teaches people how to test themselves to discover whether they have food intolerances which may be causing their water retention.

  13. Lyn Mathaga says:

    I am 22 and a female. I suffer from water retention for two months now . My stomach is always full. I am sometimes hungry but when i place my food on the table, just few bites and fill so full.
    Not only water retention in my stomach, my throat is always having liquid like water aways stagnant.what be the cause and how can it be treated? Thank you

    • Linda Lazarides says:

      Lyn, I think this needs to be diagnosed by a doctor. I can give information about water retention but I am not a doctor and anything I might say would only be a guess without having the opportunity to examine you in person. If you can get a diagnosis by a doctor I would be in a better position to comment but the most important thing you can do is read the rest of this website, especially the parts about healthy eating.

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