There are numerous over the counter water pills for weight loss products on the market today, but only a handful of them work. I know this because I was once obese and trying to lose weight. That’s why I want to review the best water pills for weight loss available. You could go running for hours. You could go on a starvation diet, only drinking liquids and eating apples for days. You could even use drugs (but don’t ask me about that). All of these things could work. But there’s something a lot simpler and safer you can do — water pills!
How Do Water Pills Work?
Water pills “work by having the kidneys remove sodium from the body, and the water then follows the sodium,” says Bakshi. This decrease in fluids running through your veins and arteries is what gives water pills their “anti-bloating” properties. When it comes to your natural fluid intake while on diuretics, it’s best to listen to the instruction of your doctor—especially if you have kidney or heart issues—as this depends on your individual calorie intake and weight.
From a nutritional standpoint, Condell notes that diuretics are useful for a variety of medical conditions—even for treating acne—but should always be used under the care of a physician. Typically, water pills are taken orally once a day, and you may notice more urine passing within the first two weeks of use.
Common Risks and Side Effects
When it comes to water pills, there are common side effects and then there are more serious ones, especially when they’re not being taken under the care of a doctor. Nasty side effects include but aren’t limited to “excessive urination, dehydration, constipation, dizziness, low blood pressure, muscle cramping, and elevated heart rate,” in addition to potential interactions with other medications. Which is why, Bakshi says, you should really only take these types of pills while monitored by your physician.
It’s important to note, however, that when taken as prescribed, diuretics can be safe. Side effects are still a possibility, but if taken under the care of a medical professional, these symptoms can be dealt with in a prompt and safe manner.
Prescription vs. Over-the-Counter Water Pills
There’s an important differentiation when it comes to water pills: diuretics that are prescribed and diuretics that are sold over-the-counter. Considering that water pills are often taken as a weight-loss solution, it’s important to get information from both a medical and nutritional standpoint.
This is important. Unlike prescribed diuretics, over-the-counter water pills are not regulated by the FDA. In other words, “The ingredients listed on the box may not actually be what is in the pill you are taking,” says Bakshi. She continues, “There is also no guarantee of the concentration of the ingredients or promise that the listed benefits of the drug are what you should achieve.” (In other words, a functioning, healthy human shouldn’t need to take water pills in the first place).
Which left us wondering, how are water pills even allowed to be sold over the counter? According to Bakshi, oftentimes, certain once-prescribed medications can be sold over the counter once deemed safe to do so. “This is the case for diuretics and other medications, like ones for heartburn. That being said, when a medication is able to be sold over the counter, it can lose the oversight by the FDA (as noted earlier) and thereby, not need to follow the same regulations as prescribed medication for safety.” She adds: “Just because a medication is available over the counter does not mean that it is safe for all people to take.”
What are water pills, anyway?
There are actually three classes of diuretics that work in different ways, says Ellen Lunenfeld, M.D., an internist with Summit Medical Group in New Jersey—thiazide, loop-acting, and potassium-sparing diuretics. Each class works on a different part of the kidney’s nephron where urine is made, says Lunenfeld.
They sound pretty harmless, right? After all, you’re just peeing more.
Actually, it goes a little deeper than that. Here’s what you need to know about water pills—and why you should definitely skip self-prescribing them.
1. Water pills are one of the most commonly prescribed medications.
Take note of that word: prescribed. Water pills are meant to help reduce blood pressure, prevent fluid buildup, and reduce swelling respectively, says Linda Anegawa, M.D., an internist at Pali Momi Medical Center in Hawaii.
They’re usually given to people with health issues like hypertension, heart failure, and idiopathic edema (unexplained swelling)—not people looking to cure mild bloating or lose weight. Most doctors recommend against using water pills for those purposes.
2. OTC water pills are different from prescription water pills.
It might be tempting to pick up an OTC water pill at the drugstore if you’re experiencing mild bloating, but Lunenfeld warns against this. That’s because OTC water pills and prescriptions water pills aren’t the same thing.
“The problem with OTC meds like these is that you’re not sure exactly what they’re giving you,” she explains. “They’re not FDA controlled, so they may not be doing what they claim to and in fact might be making you dehydrated.” (With an Rx, a doctor will monitor your dosage and length of use—that doesn’t happen with OTC water pills, hence the dehydration risk.)
Going a step further, OTC water pills could even be toxic and interact badly with other medicines you’re taking, says Anegawa. (Again, with a prescription, a doctor will be monitoring this.) OTC water pills also haven’t been studied in research trials to prove their efficacy, she adds.
3. Water pills aren’t addictive, but they can be dangerous.
Water pills aren’t habit-forming or dangerous, says Anegawa—again, as long as you’re getting them through your doctor. When you start taking them on your own without a recommended dosage, however, you could do some serious damage to your body.
“[Taking them] can cause worsening kidney function, and lightheadedness or dizziness as a result of being dehydrated,” says Lunenfeld. Other scary symptoms caused by dehydration and loss of electrolytes includes heart palpitations, weakness, confusion, and severe dizziness.
4. They don’t really help you lose weight…
Sure, water pills help you shed excess water that’s making you feel super bloated—but only temporarily. Once you stop taking them, your kidneys go back to reabsorbing the normal amount of water and salt for your body, so you’ll go back to your typical body weight soon after you stop taking them.
“When you’re weighing yourself, [you’re adding up] bone, fat, muscle and water,” says Lunenfeld. “When you’re looking to lose weight, you’re looking to lose fat and maintain muscle mass. With a diuretic, you’re just losing water weight, which isn’t really getting you any significant weight loss.”
5. In fact, they might make you gain weight.
Yep, you read that right. If you take any type of diuretic over a long period of time, your kidneys will eventually compensate for their use and you’ll end up holding on to more water weight than you did before you started taking them.
It’s called diuretic-induced edema, which happens when your kidneys start retaining more sodium and water than they need and your body starts to swell, says Anegawa—kind of the opposite of what a water pill is supposed to do.
6. Prescriptions water pills can be helpful if you’re on your period.
While it’s not recommended for healthy women to take any kind of water pills, there is one exception: to reduce period bloating. According to Anegawa, it’s fine for women to take prescription water pills to help de-puff unexplained leg swelling or bloating caused by PMS, says Anegawa.
Again, that’s prescription-only, so don’t head to your nearest drugstore for diuretics. Instead, bring up the issue to your ob-gyn, who may prescribe water pills to take before your period or whenever you tend to feel super-inflated. Since your physician will be keeping an eye on your dose, you’ll reduce your risk of serious side effects and have someone to call if something feels off.
How To Shed Water Weight
About a week or ten days out, just stop eating processed foods. Don’t starve yourself! Stay away from fast foods and junk, and eat plenty of chicken and fish. Mix in lots of whole grains and vegetables, and switch to a low-salt, low-carb diet overall. At the same time, start taking a diuretic supplement. Most importantly, make sure to maintain your regular exercise regimen. Because if you’re going to do this, you may as well make the most of it. And nothing sheds water like a good, sweaty workout.
Make sure to drink plenty of water; you’ll need to stay hydrated with all the fluids your body is flushing out. After a few days, chances are you may start to look and feel a bit trimmer and within a week or so, most people find themselves a few pounds lighter. Those who are already fitness enthusiasts should notice a bit more muscular definition. The effect is much the same as after you start that low-carb diet, but the diuretics should aid in flushing out excess water from your system. (Of course, you should always consult your doctor before beginning any kind of weight-loss regimen.)
As with any low-carb diet, once the water weight sheds off (your body will only regulate itself so far) your sudden, semi-drastic weight loss will temper itself. Then it’s up to you to continue eating right and exercising regularly. Clearly, avoiding processed and junk foods and cutting back on salt overall is good diet advice, anyway. But with any luck, you’ll not only look your best for the occasion, but you’ll have the discipline to stay the healthy, trim course.
There are plenty of products on the shelves that claim to help you lose water weight and ease bloating. Most of them are all-natural, herbal supplements that use a variation of dandelion root, cranberry powder, burdock root, and the like. Many are stimulant-free and vegetarian. Which diuretic supplements are best? Here are nine we think will help you shed water weight and ease bloating, naturally.
Tevare Water Away
The number one-selling diuretic on Amazon nets 4.5 stars from 1,600-plus reviews. Packed with vitamin B6, pyridoxine HCI, potassium, dandelion and green tea extracts, cranberry powder, juniper berry and buchu leaf extract, apple cider vinegar extract, and corn silk, paprika, and watermelon powders.
GAT Jet Fuel Diuretic
An effective muscle-defining supplement with 14 active ingredients. Each serving delivers 2,455mg of water expelling actives. It’s free of stimulants and stacked with herbal extracts and electrolytes.
Zeal Naturals Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a fantastic aid for chronic bloating relief, cleanse for weight loss, detox, and a natural appetite suppressant. Mix in a touch of cayenne pepper, and you’ve got a powerful, all-natural cleansing solution. ACV has also been shown to reduce cholesterol.
Nutrex Research Lipo 6 Aqua Loss
A fast-acting, natural diuretic that helps eliminate excess water from the body. It helps reduce bloat and enhance definition by supporting subcutaneous water loss (from beneath the skin). It also contains key electrolytes to help maintain muscle strength and fullness.
NOW Water Out
Dandelion root has been traditionally used to support the maintenance of water equilibrium, while uva ursi and juniper have historically been used by herbalists to support a healthy urinary tract. Also contains vitamin B6 and potassium.
Jacked Factory Dry XT
Horsetail herb, dandelion root, and hawthorn berry powder act as diuretics, while B6 and potassium, calcium, and magnesium provide electrolytes and nutrition. Also contains green tea extract and yerba mate powder.
Nutra FX Fluid Fighter
Some water weight pills can deplete electrolytes. Fluid Fighter formula contains potassium to balance potassium lost through urination, plus herbs for fast, natural water weight loss. The stimulant-free formula contains vitamin B6, buchu, uva ursi, parsley, and Burdock root.