The Truth About Water Pills For Weight Loss

Water pills are usually prescribed for diseases such as heart failure and hypertension. However, they are also commonly used off-label by people wanting to quickly lose a few pounds.

At first glance, water pills might seem like the answer to your weight-loss woes, but they don’t lead to sustained weight loss and can be dangerous. Read on to find out all you need to know about water pills and weight loss.

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What are water pills?

Water pills, or diuretics, are usually used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure, heart failure, or kidney disease.

Diuretics act on different parts of the kidney, causing salt (sodium) and water to be drawn from the blood and excreted into the urine. Some diuretics also cause potassium or sugar to be excreted into the urine.

Urine volume increases as fluid moves from your body and into your urine. The result is a decrease in edema (excess body water weight) and lowered blood pressure. 

Water pills for weight loss

Diuretics can cause the figures on your scale to drop rapidly, but do not be fooled into thinking that you’re losing healthy weight. The drop in the numbers on your scale is due to water weight loss, and you will likely regain it as soon as you start drinking again.

Various athletes have historically taken diuretics to drop weight quickly. This is especially true in the case of athletes who compete in specified weight categories, such as boxers. Because of their abuse by athletes, diuretics have been included on the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) list of prohibited substances¹.

Diuretics are also sometimes abused by people suffering from eating disorders, such as Bulimia Nervosa, as a way to purge and lose weight rapidly. Long-standing inappropriate use of diuretics can lead to chronic electrolyte imbalances and kidney disease². 

The dangers of taking water pills for weight loss

Diuretics are meant to be taken only under certain conditions to treat specific illnesses. There are four main classes of diuretics, with the common types listed below along with possible side effects:³

Taking diuretics for weight loss can lead to dehydration, fatigue, dizziness, low blood pressure, muscle cramps, and potentially serious electrolyte imbalances. 

Natural diuretics

Instead of heading for water pills if you’re retaining a bit of water, choose a more natural, safer way of getting rid of excess water weight.

Try any of the following strategies instead of potentially dangerous diuretics:

1. Reduce your salt intake

High dietary salt intake causes your body to retain water. Eating a very salty meal causes an increase in your fluid intake without an accompanying increase in your urine output. The result is an increase in your body water weight⁴. Reducing salt in your diet can ensure that you don’t retain unnecessary water.

2. Drink some tea or coffee

Tea and coffee are mildly diuretic, and the caffeine in them may also help you shed a few pounds of extra weight.⁵

3. Drink a cup of hibiscus tea

Some evidence shows that hibiscus extract (Hibiscus sabdariffa L) has diuretic properties and preliminary studies have shown it to be safe with low toxicity⁶. 

4. Snack on watermelon, pineapple, asparagus, watercress, or hawthorn berries

Watermelon, pineapple, asparagus, watercress, and hawthorn berries are thought to have mildly diuretic properties. Besides that, they are also loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.⁷

5. Work up a sweat

Exercising improves circulation and causes sweating, both of which can alleviate symptoms of fluid retention.

The lowdown

Water pills should not be used for weight loss. Although diuretics do cause rapid weight loss, this loss is caused by water weight, not fat loss, and you will regain it as soon as you rehydrate.

Inappropriate use of water pills can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, fatigue, muscle cramps, and long-term kidney damage. Instead of counting on water pills for weight loss, stick to a healthy diet and exercise program, and if you are retaining some extra water, opt for a natural option to lose it.

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