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Diuretics 101: A Complete Guide to Dropping Water Weight

Water weight — everyone has it, some more than others, but no one really likes it. Water weight covers up the lean, sexy, flat stomach you’ve worked so hard to get, and no matter how much cardio, calorie cutting, or caffeine chugging you do, nothing seems to get rid of it.

Diuretics are often used to help flush unwanted water weight from the body, but they’re a controversial topic, especially in the world of bodybuilding and modeling.

What do they do? Should they be used? Are they safe? How do you know if you should even consider them?

We’ve got all that answered and a whole lot more, including the best natural diuretics you can find right in your house ahead in our complete guide to helping you get rid of that unwanted water weight!

What are Diuretics?

Diuretics, also known as water pills, are medications used to enhance water and salt removal from the body through urine. They’re commonly used to treat high blood pressure, but diuretics also find use in the treatment of numerous other conditions including:

  • Tissue swelling (i.e. swollen feet, ankles, legs, etc.)
  • Diabetes
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Cirrhosis
  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Kidney stones
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

How do Diuretics Work?

When discussing prescription grade diuretics, they typically fall into one of three categories:

Osmotic Diuretics

Osmotic diuretics are injectable drugs that act directly on the kidneys by instructing them to remove anything and everything that enters. These diuretics don’t discriminate between certain minerals (sodium, potassium, etc.). They remove any and all water entering the kidneys.

Osmotic diuretics essentially override the normal, natural function of the kidneys, and can lead to renal failure, if misused.

Potassium-Sparing Diuretics

Potassium-sparing diuretics are milder in their actions than the osmotic diuretics described above, but that doesn’t mean they don’t come with their own disadvantages. Names, potassium-sparing diuretics reduce sodium and water reabsorption through the kidneys and expel them through the urine.

However, unlike osmotic diuretics that eliminate everything, potassium-sparing diuretics retain potassium. But, too much potassium can be hazardous as is too little, as too much potassium in the body, in extreme cases, can lead to cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) or sudden death.

Loop Diuretics

The third and final class of prescription diuretics comes in the form of loop diuretics. This also happens to be the class of diuretics most frequently used in the world of bodybuilding, with furosemide being the common one used by top level bodybuilders.

Loop diuretics are typically prescribed to treat high blood pressure and edema (fluid retention). They’re also used to rid the blood of toxins and hazardous foreign agents in the instance of blood poisoning.

Similar to osmotic diuretics, loop diuretics act directly on the kidneys and do no discriminate in which fluids or minerals are flushed from the kidneys, meaning they have a tremendous impact on the overall balance of electrolytes in the body as they remove sodium, potassium, calcium and water.

Side effects experienced with loop diuretics include thickening of the blood, drop in blood pressure, fainting, renal failure, extreme cramping, and even death (due to muscular cramping of the heart).

Loop diuretics are extremely powerful, and when they are used in conjunction with other water removal techniques employed during peak week for a contest, can have serious effects on your health and well-being.

Common Side Effects of Prescription Diuretics

Prescription diuretics are extremely powerful and have been known to lead to serious consequences when they are abused. Overall though, diuretics are safe when used appropriately.

Common side effects of diuretics include:

  • Thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Lightheadedness
  • Rash
  • Headaches

In the extreme cases, most often experienced in the world of bodybuilding, abuse of diuretics has resulted in several unfortunate and untimely deaths, not to mention the countless hospitalizations that have occurred in the days leading up to a big contest.

Who Should Use Diuretics?

Aside from physique competitors getting ready for the stage or models prepping for a photo shoot, diuretics are also frequently prescribed to individuals who are retaining too much fluid, a condition called edema.

How to Lose Water Weight

Eliminating unsightly water weight can be accomplished in a number of ways that don’t involve you taking some potentially hazardous chemicals. These diuretic alternatives include:

  • Decreasing or eliminating sodium from the diet
  • Increasing cardio workouts
  • Consuming greater amounts of water followed by a sudden and dramatic reduction in water intake
  • Drinking distilled water, free of any minerals or electrolytes
  • All natural, herbal diuretics

The Top 10 Best Natural Diuretics

Fortunately, if you are looking to shed some unwanted water weight either for beach season or the competition stage you don’t have to resort to a bunch of potentially hazardous pharmaceuticals. You can use the much safer, more natural water-ridding agents found in a number of plants including:

  • Dandelion

    While most think of the common dandelion as just a really pretty weed growing on the side of the road, it’s actually a pretty potent natural diuretic. Research has shown that dandelion increases activity of the kidneys as well as frequency of urination.[1]

    The reason dandelion is so effective at shedding water weight is its taraxasterol content, which are phytochemicals that support excess water secretion and improve the body’s natural detoxification processes.

    Perhaps best of all, dandelion also helps flush excess water without dehydrating you, as it is naturally high in potassium, a vital mineral lost in abundance when dealing with prescription diuretics.

  • Hawthorn

    A relative of the rose family, hawthorn is another powerful plant diuretic that reduces fluid buildup in the body, a key factor in treating congestive heart failure. Research has shown that the hawthorn can increase urinary excretion and flow [3], and is one of the primary reasons Hawthorn berries have been used to treat kidney problems.

  • Horsetail

    Historically used by the Ancient Greeks and Romans, horsetail is an herb used to treat a variety of conditions including everything from ulcers to tuberculosis.[4] Research has found horsetail to be as effective as prescription medications[5], but with fewer side effects, making it a better alternative for removing excess water than prescription diuretics, especially if you may have experienced problems with prescription-grade diuretics in the past.

    Interestingly enough, horsetail can also be brewed as a tea, if you prefer to drink your diuretics.

  • Uva Ursi

    Also known as Bearberry, Uva Ursi contains a compound known as arbutin, which has been shown to exert strong diuretic effects in the body. The plant has traditionally been used to treat urinary tract infections (UTIs).

    Studies show the plant triggers a rapid release of fluid from the body through the urinary tract, decreasing water retention without putting undue stress on the kidneys. [6,7] Uva Ursi has also been used in the cosmetics field for its skin-whitening abilities due to its ability to inhibit melanin synthesis. [8]

  • Juniper

    Juniper’s use as a diuretic dates back to medieval times, and for good reason, and it’s been shown to have a rather potent effect on urine volume.[9] The plant has also been used to treat other ailments including gout, nerve pain, arthritis, and even the common cold.

    Juniper is able to increase urine volume due to a compound in Juniper called terpinen-4-ol[10], and, similar to other all natural diuretics, juniper is able to increase water removal without depleting potassium.[11]

  • Corn Silk

    We already know what you’re thinking….

    “Is this the same thread that gets stuck in my teeth when eating corn on the cob?”

    You bet it is, and addition to being a nuisance when trying to enjoy a delicious summer food, it’s also great for getting rid of that unwanted water weight. Historically, corn silk was also used to treat bladder infections, prostate inflammation, kidney stone formation, and even bedwetting. Today, corn silk is brewed in various cultures as a tea and consumed to treat these conditions.

    Modern research notes that corn silk reduces the symptoms of urinary tract infections (UTIs) as may even enhance glucose metabolism. [12,13]

  • Tea (Green & Black)

    Next to water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage on the planet. Yes, even more than coffee or Red Bulls. Aside from helping you wind down after a tough day at work, tea may also be helping to eliminate some unwanted water weight, and studies have shown that both green and black tea exerts pro-diuretic effects in the body. [14,15]

  • Hibiscus

    Commonly found in well-maintained home gardens, hibiscus has more to offer than just the appearance of its beautiful flowers. Numerous studies have shown that the attractive flower exerts powerful diuretic effects and even boosts the filtration ability of your kidneys. [16,17]

    Similar to some of the other botanical diuretics we’ve discussed, hibiscus can also be brewed and consumed as a tea.

  • Urtica Dioica

    More frequently found under its easier to pronounce name, stinging nettle, urtica dioica is an herbaceous perennial flowering plant offering a wealth of benefits to you that extends beyond eliminating excess water. Some of these benefits including reducing inflammation, reducing blood pressure, and decreasing blood sugar.

    More pertinent to our discussion of its pro-diuretic benefits, stinging nettle helps remove remove excess sodium and water from the body by increasing urine flow. [18,19]

  • Celery

    Yes, a common household food and staple of numerous cuisines, celery also serves as an effective, all-natural diuretic. Research found it to exert antihypertensive (blood pressure lowering) and diuretic effects comparable to prescription grade diuretics. [20]

Other Top Diuretic Foods

Besides the ten all-natural diuretics detailed above, there are a few other more common foods you can add to your diet to help get rid of unwanted bloating and excess water weight. These foods include:

  • Asparagus
  • Bell Peppers
  • Garlic
  • Watermelon
  • Grapes
  • Berries
  • Onions

Basically, adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, while removing salt-laden, hyper processed foods is crucial to losing that unwanted water weight.

Should I use Diuretics?

This is a loaded question, and it really depends on your particular circumstances.

If you’re 50 pounds overweight and just beginning a fat loss journey, diuretics are not the first thing you should turn to to fix your problem. A stout exercise program and clean diet are. But, if you’re a few days out from a competition or a big photo shoot, you’re certainly an ideal candidate for natural diuretics.

If you fall into the latter category, we’ve got just solution for you too!

Hydra Steel — The Natural Way to Lose Water Weight

The lean, ripped, and dry physique showcased by elite physique competitors and muscle magazine models can be your, and it doesn’t require any fancy filters, photoshopping, or angling. SteelFit has developed the ultimate fast acting and all-natural diuretic in Hydra Steel.

Using a mix of natural herbal supplements, Hydra Steel gets you ready for the stage or beach in only 10 days, without depleting those essential electrolytes you need to sustain performance in your workouts.

When it’s time to not only get lean, but absolutely bone dry, the only choice is Hydra Steel.

References

  1. Rácz-Kotilla E, Rácz G, Solomon A; The action of Taraxacum officinale extracts on the body weight and diuresis of laboratory animals . Planta Med. (1974)
  2. Clare BA, Conroy RS, Spelman K. The Diuretic Effect in Human Subjects of an Extract of Taraxacum officinale Folium over a Single Day. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2009;15(8):929-934. doi:10.1089/acm.2008.0152.
  3. Dizaye K. Antihyperuricemic and Diuretic Effects of Procyanidins Extracted from Crataegus Monogyna. Vol 6.; 2011. doi:10.15218/zjms.2011.0009.
  4. Pérez Gutiérrez RM,  Laguna GY, Walkowski A. Diuretic activity of Mexican equisetum. J Ethnopharmacol. 1985 Nov-Dec;14(2-3):269-72.
  5. Danilo Maciel Carneiro, Ramias Calixto Freire, Tereza Cristina de Deus Honório, et al., “Randomized, Double-Blind Clinical Trial to Assess the Acute Diuretic Effect of Equisetum arvense (Field Horsetail) in Healthy Volunteers,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2014, Article ID 760683, 8 pages, 2014. doi:10.1155/2014/760683
  6. Gohari A-R, Saeidnia S. The role of herbal medicines in treatment of urinary tract diseases. Journal of Nephropharmacology. 2014;3(1):13-14.
  7. Beaux D, Fleurentin J, Mortier F. Effect of extracts of Orthosiphon stamineus Benth, Hieracium pilosella L., Sambucus nigra L. and Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (L.) Spreng. in rats. Phytother Res. 1999;13(3):222-225. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-1573(199905)13:3<222::AID-PTR447>3.0.CO;2-P.
  8. Zen J-M, Yang H-H, Chiu M-H, Yang C-H, Shih Y. Selective determination of arbutin in cosmetic products through online derivatization followed by disposable electrochemical sensor. J AOAC Int. 2011;94(3):985-990.
  9. M. Denise Dearing, Antonio M. Mangione, William H. Karasov; Plant Secondary Compounds as Diuretics: An Overlooked Consequence, Integrative and Comparative Biology, Volume 41, Issue 4, 1 August 2001, Pages 890–901, https://doi.org/10.1093/icb/41.4.890
  10. Tyler VE. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994, 76-7.
  11. Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 2000, 218-20.
  12. Guo J, Liu T, Han L, Liu Y. The effects of corn silk on glycaemic metabolism. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2009;6(1):47. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-6-47.
  13. Ahmed Salih Sahib S. Use of Aqueous Extract of Corn Silk in the Treatment of Urinary Tract Infection. Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmacology. 2012;1(2):93-96.
  14. Manodeep Chakraborty, Jagadish V. Kamath, and Ananya Bhattacharjee, “Potential Interaction of Green Tea Extract with Hydrochlorothiazide on Diuretic Activity in Rats,” International Scholarly Research Notices, vol. 2014, Article ID 273908, 5 pages, 2014. doi:10.1155/2014/273908
  15. Abeywickrama KRW, Ratnasooriya W, Amarakoon AMT. Oral diuretic activity of hot water infusion of Sri Lankan black tea (Camellia sinensis L.) in rats. Pharmacogn Mag. 2010;6(24):271-277. doi:10.4103/0973-1296.71788.
  16. Jiménez-Ferrer E, Alarcón-Alonso J, Aguilar-Rojas A, et al. Diuretic Effect of Compounds from Hibiscus sabdariffa by Modulation of the Aldosterone Activity. Planta Med. 2012;78(18):1893-1898. doi:10.1055/s-0032-1327864.
  17. Alarcón-Alonso J, Zamilpa A, Aguilar FA, Herrera-Ruiz M, Tortoriello J, Jimenez-Ferrer E. Pharmacological characterization of the diuretic effect of Hibiscus sabdariffa Linn (Malvaceae) extract. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012;139(3):751-756. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2011.12.005.
  18. Yarnell E. Botanical medicines for the urinary tract. World J Urol. 2002;20(5):285-293. doi:10.1007/s00345-002-0293-0.
  19. Tahri A, Yamani S, Legssyer A, et al. Acute diuretic, natriuretic and hypotensive effects of a continuous perfusion of  aqueous extract of Urtica dioica in the rat. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000;73(1-2):95-100.
  20. Moghadam MH, Imenshahidi M, Mohajeri SA. Antihypertensive Effect of Celery Seed on Rat Blood Pressure in Chronic Administration. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2013;16(6):558-563. doi:10.1089/jmf.2012.2664.

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