Should You Take Water Pills for Weight Loss?

Diuretics, a.k.a. water pills, have long been touted as weight-loss wonders. Get the facts and see if they may benefit you.

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Dr. Oz’s 3-Day Water Pill Experiment (3:04)

You’ve probably heard claims about how water pills can work wonders for weight loss. But here's something we'll bet you haven't heard: Water pills were never designed to help people lose weight. So what were they made for, and how safe are they? Read on to find out.

What are water pills?

The medical term for water pills is diuretics. Essentially, diuretics help your kidney get rid of excess water and salt. Different types of diuretics treat different types of conditions you are trying to treat.

Who should take water pills?

Patients who have certain heart, kidney, and lung problems typically use water pills. They often have a condition called edema, where water accumulates in the tissues and causes swelling and inflammation. Enter water pills, which help flush out stubborn fluids. With the excess water and salts removed, the heart pumps more easily and the entire body can start functioning properly again. Water pills are often the first choice to treat high blood pressure, as well.

Who shouldn’t take water pills?

Pregnant women should use water pills only when they're clearly needed to treat a medical problem, and not just for the swelling that's common during pregnancy. Taking water pills without a prescription is also dangerous. 

Why do I need a prescription?

Doctors work closely with their patients who take water pills to make sure that that the dosage is correct and the body is functioning properly. Taking water pills without a doctor's supervision may cause dangerous side effects.

What kinds of side effects do water pills have?

Diuretics are generally safe, but there can be side effects. The most common one is frequent urination. Others include tiredness or weakness, muscle cramps, dizziness, thirst, excessive weight loss, increased blood sugar, skin rash, and nausea. If you take water pills and experience any of these symptoms, see your doctor.

Can I take water pills if I’m on other medications?

Tell your doctor if you’re taking any other medications or are planning to while you're on diuretics. Certain water pills taken with certain medications can be dangerous. Here are some of the medications that may interact negatively with water pills:

  • Cyclosporine
  • High blood pressure medicines
  • Antidepressants
  • Lithium
  • Corticosteroids
  • Certain anti-inflammatory medications
  • Anticlotting drugs
  • Diabetes meds

Can water pills help me lose weight?

Initially, yes. While your body gets rid of the excess liquid, you may lose some weight. But the second you start drinking fluids, your weight shoots right back up. That’s because with water pills you’re losing water weight, not fat  so it’s not a healthy type of weight loss. And because your body relies so heavily on water to function, losing too much water may lead to dehydration and other serious consequences. So while technically, water pills do lead to some weight loss, you should never take them for weight loss alone. A better plan: To shed pounds, forget magic cures  and stick to a smart combo of diet and exercise instead.

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