Obesity Weight Loss Drugs Diuretics

Although many over-the-counter (OTC) weight loss products contain a certain amount of natural diuretics, diuretics alone aren’t a safe treatment for obesity. Prescription diuretics treat water retention and hypertension, with side effects such as dehydration and blood pressure changes.

Diuretics and Water Retention

Diuretics encourage the excretion of fluid from the body. A drop in fluid levels corresponds to a drop in weight — the initial weight loss seen in many fad diets, for instance, is usually fluid. Because diuretics treat water retention, people sometimes use diuretics for quick weight loss. Diuretics, along with laxatives, are often abused by people suffering from anorexia nervosa or bulimia. Paradoxically, two side effects of diuretics abuse are water retention and weight gain.

Natural Diuretics and “Treatment” for Obesity

Most diuretics require a prescription. Herbal diuretics, however, are often seen in weight loss dietary supplements. Remember that natural diuretics can be just as harmful as prescription diuretics.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regularly monitor dietary supplements, so their ingredients may vary in type, amount and purity. Some weight loss supplements list all ingredients, while others won’t list natural diuretics or other substances. Be careful when purchasing such supplements, since both listed and hidden ingredients may interact with medication and/or aggravate medical conditions.

Natural diuretics found in OTC treatments for obesity include dandelion, ginger and caffeine. Potentially dangerous natural diuretics are juniper, horse tail and shave grass.

Diuretics’ Side Effects

Diuretics’ side effects can be very serious: prescription diuretics are used to treat high blood pressure. If this condition doesn’t exist, diuretic misuse can lead to low blood pressure.

Other diuretic side effects include:

  • Dehydration
  • Dizzy spells
  • Fainting
  • Fluid retention
  • Hypokalemia
  • Weight gain.

Hypokalemia refers to low levels of potassium in the blood. One of the most dangerous diurectics side effects, hypokalemia can cause dizziness, headaches, irregular heartbeat and muscle paralysis.

Dehydration caused by overuse of diuretics can cause the following health complications:

  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Dry eyes
  • Heart palpitations and irregular heart rhythms
  • Hypokalemia
  • Kidney damage
  • Low blood pressure
  • Salt and electrolyte imbalances
  • Water retention.

Severe dehydration can be fatal.

Safe Ways to Reduce Water Retention

Luckily, you can reduce water retention without misusing diuretics. People looking to reduce water retention should reduce their sodium (salt) intake. Eating fresh vegetables and fruits with high water content will also encourage urination, thereby reducing water retention. Stay hydrated by drinking at least eight glasses of water a day; a dehydrated body tends to retain water.

The combination of a healthy diet and exercise is a much safer treatement of obesity, as compared to the “quick fix” weight loss that results from using diuretics.


Best-Boss, A. (n.d.). Diuretic effects. Retrieved April 27, 2010, from http://www.eatingdisordersonline.com/medical/diuretics.php.

Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Over-the-counter and herbal remedies for weight loss. Retrieved April 27, 2010, from http://my.clevelandclinic.org/healthy_living/weight_control/hic_over-the-counter_and_herbal_remedies_for_weight_loss.aspx.

Zeratsky, K. (2010). Water retention: Are there any natural diuretics? Retrieved April 27, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/water-retention/an01680.