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How Effective are Diuretics for Water Retention?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated May 17, 2024
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There is very little scientific evidence to support the use of diuretics for water retention. Some natural herbs have been touted as reducing bloating and swelling, but whether or not they actually work is up for debate. They can also sometimes be harmful when taken with other medication or if they come in a formula combined with additional ingredients.

The premise behind using diuretics for water retention is that they make one urinate more often, but there is no evidence to back up these claims. Any herbal remedy or water pills should only be used under the supervision of a medical professional. Additionally, sometimes swelling is caused by an underlying medical condition such as congestive heart failure or diabetes. These are serious conditions which should be treated immediately to avoid complications.

“Water pills” are supposed to work by adding more water to the system in order to flush out excess fluids, but drinking enough water each day is a much safer and more effective alternative to taking over the counter diuretics for water retention. It is also a good idea for patients to avoid excess sodium in the diet and to get plenty of exercise. These things work at reducing bloating for most people.

Water retention which occurs during a woman’s menstrual cycle is considered normal and generally subsides without treatment. Some over the counter medications are sold which claim to reduce bloating during this time of the month, but eating more water-based vegetables and drinking clear fluids is generally equally or more effective. Bloating which does not subside within several days may be due to another health issue.

If drinking extra water, eating vegetables, and maintaining a low sodium diet do not reduce bloat or swelling, and it has been shown that a health condition is not to blame, then trying diuretics for water retention may be an option for some individuals. Some herbal options, such as dandelion root, are not harmful when taken in their pure natural form, but they should still be consumed only under a doctor’s supervision. Patients should also read labels very carefully to ensure that there are no additional and unwanted ingredients.

Although rare, side effects may occur and should be reported to a health care professional. If severe side effects do result, the supplements should be discontinued and a doctor or pharmacist should be notified. Serious adverse reactions are not common.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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