Diuretics are used to rid the body of extra fluid or salt. People with high blood pressure, heart failure, swollen tissues, and kidney disease often use diuretics to treat these conditions.
Extra fluid in the body makes it hard for the heart to work properly and can make breathing difficult.
Prescription diuretics are commonly called water pills, and their first effect is to increase urination.
Diuretics should not be used to achieve weight loss.
Fast facts on diuretics
Here are some key points about diuretics. More detail is in the main article.
- Diuretics can affect the levels of certain minerals in the body.
- Diuretics can be drugs, but some foods and drinks act as natural diuretics.
- Doctors can prescribe diuretic medication.
- There are also many foods and drinks that work as diuretics.
Many people use diuretic medications that are prescribed by a doctor. However, some foods and drinks are also considered natural diuretics.
Types of diuretic medications include:
- thiazide diuretics
- loop diuretics
- potassium sparing diuretics
Potassium-sparing diuretics do not reduce blood pressure, but they also prevent a loss of potassium. Amiloride is an example. They are considered weak diuretics, and they may be used with thiazides or loop diuretics. They must not be used with potassium supplements.
Some foods, drinks, and spices can act as natural diuretics.
Nigella sativa, black cumin, black seed, or black caraway, is a natural diuretic that may be as effective as a popular prescription diuretic.
Nigella sativa increases urine output and in turn reduces sodium and potassium levels.
The seed has a strong peppery flavor and is used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine.
Nigella sativa is being studied as a possible treatment for high blood pressure. High doses of Nigella sativa may cause liver damage.
The Hibiscus sabdariffa plant works as a natural diuretic and also prevents the body from getting rid of potassium.
Hibiscus sabdariffa is also known as roselle or red sorrel. It is often used as a medicinal supplement or made into a tea. Hibiscus tea is made by steeping the dried petals of the hibiscus flower in hot water.
Alcohol is a well-known diuretic that works by increasing urine output. However, alcohol has many adverse health effects and should always be consumed in moderation.
A common wildflower found in many parts of the Northern hemisphere.
Both dandelion and ginger are popularly used in drinks and teas claiming to be detoxifying because of their diuretic qualities. No sound human studies have proven their effects, however.
Parsley is a popular herb in cooking. Used either fresh or dried, it pairs well with Italian cuisine, chicken, or fish.
Caffeine may have a mild, short-term diuretic effect. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks. People who regularly have drinks with caffeine can develop a tolerance to caffeine and will not see any difference.
Theophylline, a compound found in tea, enhances the diuretic effect of caffeine.
Swelling caused by excess fluid in the body's tissues is known as edema. Mild edema often goes away on its own, but some cases need to be treated with diuretics.
Fluid retention can stem from many different medical conditions and some drugs. Anyone who is thinking of using diuretics to get rid of extra fluid should discuss the possible causes of fluid retention with a doctor first.
Diuretics can be helpful for people with kidney disease whose kidneys cannot filter potassium. This can cause a buildup that leads to serious health issues.
Diuretics can also alter the body's levels of other important minerals such as magnesium.
Sodium, potassium, and magnesium levels must be checked frequently when using diuretics. Kidney function and blood pressure also need regular testing regularly.
Adverse effects of prescription diuretics can include:
People should only use diuretics if they have a condition that causes their body to retain water, and they should only use drugs that are prescribed by their doctor.
The use of diuretic medications can lead to complications such as:
- kidney and liver problems
- worsening of gout symptoms
- risk of fetal or neonatal toxicity and preterm birth if used in pregnancy
Using natural foods like ginger or parsley as a spice or tea in food is considered safe. However, supplements are not regulated and may or may not contain what they claim.
It is important to consult a physician before increasing an intake of natural diuretic, especially if a prescribed diuretic or other medication is already in use.
Long-term use of diuretics can cause mineral deficiencies. As a result, mineral levels should be closely monitored while taking diuretics.
Some diuretics can lead to low levels of potassium in the blood. Symptoms of low potassium levels include:
- muscle cramping
- heart rhythm problems
Diuretics are not helpful for losing weight. Anyone who wishes to lose weight should follow a healthy, balanced diet and exercise regularly. Any weight lost will return as the body rehydrates.
Natural diuretics may not be effective in lowering high blood pressure or resolving other problems that diuretic drugs may be used for. Other medications may be needed for this.
A doctor may prescribe:
- angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- angiotensin II receptor blockers
- beta blockers
- calcium channel blockers
Before using any type of diuretic, first speak to a health professional.
The natural diuretics listed in this article are available for purchase online.