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What are Diuretics?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Substances that augment "diuresis," or the removal of fluids from the body through urination, are considered diuretics. More commonly known as "water pills," diuretics may be prescription or over the counter drugs. They may also be homeopathic remedies or foods that help to prevent or treat fluid retention. It is best to consult with a health care professional before using any form of these drugs.

Diuretics are used for many reasons. They may be indicated for people who suffer from edema, an intense accumulation of fluids in the body's tissues, and those who suffer from high blood pressure or other heart related diseases. Increasing the production of urine not only releases fluid, but also helps rid the body of excess salts and may reduce blood volume.

Some people use water pills as a weight loss aid, usually when a large amount of weight needs to be lost in a short amount of time. The fact is that diuretics are not proven to promote the loss of fat; they simply remove retained fluid. While the scale may show the loss of a few pounds, it is a temporary loss. This is not a healthy way to lose weight. Abusing water pills can lead to dehydration and sometimes severe potassium deficiencies, which can be dangerous.

For those who only require minimal fluid reduction, and have no real health concerns, foods with natural diuretic properties may be a better alternative than water pills. Some foods that contain natural diuretics are cranberries and cranberry juice, coffee and other beverages that contain caffeine, and apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar also contains potassium, so it may help avoid potassium deficiency. Still, it should be used sparingly. Adding fruits and vegetables such as cucumbers, watermelon and others that contain a lot of water will also help increase urination.

Natural diuretics should also be used in moderation, and even though they may be healthier than taking water pills, you shouldn't overdo it. It is always a good idea to check with your doctor before beginning any new regimen, and that includes taking natural remedies, taking over the counter medications, and even using foods to treat medical problems.

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Discussion Comments
By anon359367 — On Dec 17, 2013

So by definition, water is a diuretic. It "increases the production of urine". The latest thing is that coffee has more benefits as a dehydrator than as a diuretic, as does tea. My son tells me I need to drink about 1 gallon of water per day, but he says coffee does not count. I say it does.

By turquoise — On Jan 19, 2013

@simrin-- Coffee is definitely diuretic. Anything with caffeine is-- so coffee, black tea, even cocoa and chocolate are included in this category.

I don't have any experience with OTC medications but I think natural options and herbal diuretics are always better, as long as you don't overdo it.

I was listening to a doctor on TV talking about diuretics the other day. He said that diuretics remove the water in our cells and throw it out of the body. This means that after diuretics are taken, we have to follow up with lots of water to replace the water back in our cells. Otherwise we'll get dehydrated. This is why coffee and tea makes us thirsty.

The other issue is that all of this liquid is filtered through our kidneys, it tires the kidneys out. So with people who have kidney disease, diuretics can be dangerous.

By SteamLouis — On Jan 19, 2013

Is coffee very diuretic? Can I use coffee instead of OTC diuretics?

By literally45 — On Jan 18, 2013

@anon87889-- I'm not a medical professional but the hospital should be able to see what medications someone is taking by doing a urine test.

I'm sure the color and volume of urine would also give them an idea of whether diuretics are being used or not.

Since diuretics lead to frequent urination, there will be an increase in urine volume and the color of urine will also be lighter.

By healthy4life — On Oct 18, 2012

One super diuretic is tea. I figured this out after I drank several glasses of mango tea.

I had to go to the bathroom every half hour, and this was awful, because I was on a road trip! Needless to say, we didn't get very far that day!

By giddion — On Oct 17, 2012

@anon154956 – Asparagus might be a bit much on top of two diuretic pills. If you decide to eat asparagus, maybe skip the pills for that day.

Alternatively, you could eat asparagus at one meal every day and eliminate the need to buy diuretics! I eat asparagus a few times a week, and it's a great natural diuretic.

It will give your urine a distinct smell for awhile, though. Only some people can detect it, and I'm one of them. It smells strongly of cabbage, oddly enough!

By Perdido — On Oct 17, 2012

Diuretics that are natural can help flush toxins and bacteria out of your body. I drink cranberry juice to prevent urinary tract infections, and so far, it's working.

I've heard that cranberry juice is acidic, so it keeps the bacteria from being able to cling to your urinary tract. Just one 8 ounce glass a day is enough to keep the bacteria away.

Also, I drink plenty of water. I only drink soda and tea occasionally, because water is the best thing to keep your body flushed out. I do urinate once every hour, but I've gotten used to that, and it's a small price to pay for a clean body.

By shell4life — On Oct 16, 2012

I participated in a clinical trial for a new drug to treat polycystic kidney disease, and the treatment was diuretic pills. They were designed to dehydrate my kidney cysts and hopefully shrink the kidneys and improve their function.

However, I was warned that I would have to urinate an excessive amount very frequently. I was also told that I would be so thirsty that I would likely carry around cases of water in my car.

Even though they had warned me, I wasn't ready for it. I had to urinate as though I hadn't gone all night every thirty minutes of the day, and I drank twenty 11 ounce bottles of water the first day I was on the drug. I could not satiate my thirst.

That alone was too much to bear, but then, my blood pressure spiked. I had to stop taking the diuretic pills. I don't know how anyone could stand to be on this medication for the rest of their life!

By anon280384 — On Jul 17, 2012

Eat fresh and walk as much as possible. Your body will do the rest.

By anon241553 — On Jan 19, 2012

So is water a diuretic?

By anon154956 — On Feb 22, 2011

I recently read that asparagus is a natural diuretic. Can it interfere with my two different water pills I already take once a day?

By kbonin — On Jan 21, 2011

Do I have to limit my intake of cranberry juice to avoid dehydration and a related symptom of a vision

condition of "twinkling" or blurring?

By anon100554 — On Jul 30, 2010

so many side effects: hypokalemia, hyperuricemia, hypomagnesmia.

By anon97193 — On Jul 18, 2010

what are side effects of diuretics?

By anon87889 — On Jun 02, 2010

What tests can the hospital do to see if someone is taking water tablets? Can the hospital see if someone is using them?

By tarek — On May 12, 2010

Do diuretics have any effect on muscle mass for athletes?

By anon74142 — On Mar 31, 2010

thanks for the info. clear and concise.

By anon70634 — On Mar 15, 2010

That is not at all what Alli does. Alli does not boost metabolism, nor does it give you energy or decrease your appetite. Alli blocks a portion of the calories you eat from turning to fat. That's all it does and all it is meant to do.

By anon55686 — On Dec 09, 2009

Didn't answer the question. What are the different types of diuretics that can be gotten with a prescription?

By anon43276 — On Aug 27, 2009

can water pills cause a low creatinine level in urine that could make a person's urine dilute?

By anon42453 — On Aug 21, 2009

Diuretics are prescribed to reduce foot and ankle swelling, so therefore are unlikely to cause it.

By anon39698 — On Aug 03, 2009

to anon25143: clearly ALLI cannot be both a diuretic *and* a "cause for swelling of the ankles, feet, and legs"... if ALLI caused edema, it would not be promoted as a healthier alternative to weight-loss. but to answer your question, no. ALLI is definitely no diuretic. it assists weight loss by speeding up your metabolism, giving you energy, and decreasing appetite. just like several other popular OTC weight-management products. ALLI is safe for people who are clinically overweight. no need to fear. just don't abuse it.

By anon25143 — On Jan 24, 2009

Is ALLI considered a diuretic? Can ALLI be the cause for swelling of ankles, feet and legs?

By anon7245 — On Jan 22, 2008

I've also heard that dandelion, ginger, and juniper are natural diuretics.

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