Diuretics for Weight Loss

Diuretics are substances which cause your body to expel water.  About 50-60% of the body’s mass is comprised of water.  Since water is such an abundant part of the human body, diuretics can be very effective in producing rapid weight loss. There are several different types of diuretics, including many herbal diuretics, and they work in different ways.  Generally speaking though, diuretics work by triggering your kidneys to secret more sodium into your urine.  The sodium in the urine will then attract water which is taken from blood.  Prescription diuretics, also called water pills, are pharmaceutically available for treating various conditions, especially high blood pressure.  By removing water from the bloodstream, diuretics reduce blood volume and thus lower blood pressure.

Herbal diuretics are popular with people who want to lose weight.  While diuretic supplements can help create the appearance of fast weight loss, it must be clarified that diuretics do not cause actual weight loss, which should occur from loss of fat mass.  Diuretics may still be beneficial for weight loss in some situations but should be used with caution.

All Diuretic Weight Loss is Temporary

Diuretics can be very effective in causing quick, easy weight loss.  However, all of the weight loss will just be water.  Your body needs water in order to function well and you will quickly regain these fluids. While diuretics may not have any long-term benefits, they can help people who are struggling to lose weight for a special event, like trying to fit into a dress for a class reunion.  Some women use diuretics to counteract weight gain which occurs during menstruation from water retention.

Risks of Using Diuretic Weight Loss Supplements

Prescription diuretics, such as those used for hypertension, should not be used for weight loss and only used as directed by a physician.  These prescription diuretics can side effects like muscle cramps, dizzy spells, fainting, headaches, unusual heart beat, exhaustion, electrolyte imbalances, or fevers, amongst many other possible effects.  Since water is so important for bodily functioning, there are obviously limits to how much water weight one can lose.  If a person loses about 20-30% of their total water (about 10-15% of body mass), then death is almost inevitable.

Most herbal diuretic weight loss supplements, such as dandelion, are generally safe to use regularly.  There are some potential side effects with non-prescription, herbal diuretics as well though these tend to be mild if present at all. With any diuretic, there is a risk of dehydration because the supplement will take water from your body.  Signs of dehydration include feeling very thirsty, dizziness, dry mouth, darker urine, and urinating less frequently.  When you are dehydrated, you will not be able to optimally function and will experience lower cognitive performance, lower energy levels, and a slowed metabolism.

Aside from the direct risks of diuretic weight loss supplements, there are indirect risks with their use.  Water retention or bloating may be a symptom of a health problem. By taking diuretics instead of seeking diagnosis and treatment for the cause of water retention, you could be ignoring the underlying problem.  Conditions like vitamin deficiencies are known to cause water retention.  These conditions can also indirectly lead to weight gain. Instead of treating the water retention, you could have weight gain benefits by a simple solution such as taking a daily multivitamin for weight loss.

How Diuretics May Counteract Long-Term Weight Loss

Adequate hydration is important for all parts of the body to function well.  When the body becomes even mildly dehydrated, it responds by slowing down function.  In one animal study, dehydration caused metabolism to slow by 30%.  In human studies where subjects were mildly dehydrated, the subject experienced a decline in metabolic rate by 2%.  Since dehydration will affect your focus, endurance and performance, diuretics can inhibit your ability to exercise and burn fat.

Another problem with diuretics is that they can cause thirstiness as a side effect.  Often, people mistake thirst for hunger and thus overeat.  If you are taking diuretic supplements regularly, this could lead to weight gain.

Herbal Diuretics which Support Healthy Weight Loss

If you want to get rid of some extra water weight, it is important to choose diuretic supplements which will not cause adverse effects which may ultimately hinder your weight loss goals. Some natural diuretics have properties beneficial to weight loss, such as green tea which is hydrating and also increases metabolism. Dandelion, one of the most popular herbal diuretic supplements, may help regulate blood sugar levels, which is important for suppressing appetite and maintaining weight.  Other natural diuretics for weight loss include:

  • Caffeine
  • Parsley
  • Onion
  • Asparagus
  • Celery
  • Hawthorn
  • Juniper
  • Ginger
  • Uva ursi

Lifestyle changes, particularly avoiding sodium, are also effective ways of naturally reducing water weight.


Reese, James B and Howard Haines. “Effects of Dehydration on Metabolic Rate and Fluid Distribution in the Jackrabbit, Lepus Californicus.” Physiological Zoology, 51;2 (1978): 155-165.

“Research Confirms: Proper Hydration Increases Resting Metabolism Rate.” Healthessentials.info. Health Essentials. 23 Aug 2006. Web.

Maughan, RJ. “Impact of mild dehydration on wellness and on exercise performance.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 57;2 Suppl (2003): S19-S23.


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