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Water Pills And Weight Loss - The Dirt on Diuretics

Updated on March 8, 2011

How Do Water Pills Work?

Diuretics, more commonly known as water pills, are herbs or drugs that increase urination and amplify the excretion of body water. Medically, they often are used in the treatment of conditions like heart failure, high blood pressure, liver cyrrohsis, and some kidney diseases, but more and more often, diuretics are being marketed to the average consumer as a weight loss aid.

There are many categories of diuretics, and they all work slightly differently, but most over-the-counter water pills act on the kidneys, causing them to expel water and salts. Aquaretics (herbs like goldenrod and juniper) increase blood flow to the kidneys, while xanthines (caffeine and pamabrom, an ingredient often found in PMS relief supplements) increase the kidneys' filtration rate, as well as inhibiting the reabsorption of of sodium.

Water Pills And Weight Loss

Up to 60% of a person's body weight is water. Knowing that fact, and that diuretics expel water, it's easy to see why taking water pills makes you lose weight. The problem is, the pounds you drop are just that: water. This means any weight you lose is temporary. In a healthy person, as soon as you eat or drink something, the body will naturally move back towards its natural equilibrium... and put those pounds right back on.

Side Effects of Water Pills

Many of our vital organs are dependent on water to function. The brain is 70% water, 83% of blood is water, and the lungs are up to 90% water. Knowing this, you can imagine how depleting your body's water store can have negative effects on your body.

OTC water pills are generally pretty weak, as diuretics go, but some people do report side effects, especially with consistent use. These side effects echo the symptoms of dehydration. They can include:

Water Pills
Water Pills
  • Thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle cramping
  • Cloudy thinking
  • Irregular heartbeat

Who Needs Water Pills?

If your doctor hasn't recommended them to you for the treatment of a specific condition, chances are you don't.  And if the only reason you're considering taking water pills is to lose weight, it's simply a waste of money.

Bottom line: you may see a lower number on the scales as a result of taking water pills, but that number is deceptive. Diuretics do not burn fat; they simply remove water from your system.  As such, they're counterproductive.  Just like restricting your calorie intake too much slows down your metabolism, dehydrating yourself can make you retain water.

So do yourself a favor: skip the water pills.  Stick with water.


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