Diuretics are used to rid the body of extra fluid or salt. People with high blood pressure, heart failure, swollen tissues, and kidney disease often use diuretics to treat these conditions.
Extra fluid in the body makes it hard for the heart to work properly and can make breathing difficult. Prescription diuretics are commonly called water pills and will increase urination, to begin with.
Fast facts on diuretics
Here are some key points about diuretics. More detail and supporting information are in the main article.
- Diuretics can affect the levels of certain minerals in the body
- Doctors can prescribe diuretic medication
- There are also many foods and drinks that work as diuretics
Seven natural diuretics to eat and drink
There are several foods, drinks, herbs, and spices that work as natural diuretics in the body. Unless someone has a certain condition that causes their body to retain fluid, they should not increase their intake of diuretics.
Using diuretics for weight loss will only cause dehydration. Once the body is rehydrated, the weight will return.
1. Nigella sativa
Nigella sativa, also known as a black seed, is one of the more effective natural diuretics.
Nigella sativa also called black cumin, black seed, or black caraway, is a natural diuretic shown to be as effective as a popular prescription diuretic. Nigella sativa increases urine output and in turn, reduces sodium and potassium levels.
The seed has a strong peppery flavor and used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. Nigella sativa is being studied as a possible treatment for high blood pressure. High doses of Nigella saliva may cause liver damage.
The Hibiscus sabdariffa plant works as a natural diuretic and also prevents the body from getting rid of potassium.
Hibiscus sabdariffa is also known as roselle or red sorrel. It is often used as a medicinal supplement or made into a tea. Hibiscus tea is made by steeping the dried petals of the hibiscus flower in hot water.
Alcohol is a well-known diuretic that works by increasing urine output. However, alcohol has many adverse health effects and should always be consumed in moderation.
A common wildflower found in many parts of the Northern hemisphere.
Caffeine has a diuretic effect, although it is mild and short-term.
Both dandelion and ginger are popularly used in drinks and teas claiming to be detoxifying because of their diuretic qualities. No sound human studies have proven their effects, however.
A study found that parsley seed extract given to rats increased their urine volume significantly. Parsley has been used as a home remedy diuretic for many years.
Parsley is often used as a spice, either fresh or dried, and pairs well with Italian cuisine, chicken, or fish.
Caffeine may have a mild, short-term diuretic effect. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks. People who regularly have drinks with caffeine can develop a tolerance to caffeine and will not see any difference.
Theophylline, a compound found in tea, enhances the diuretic effect of caffeine.
Who uses diuretics?
Swelling caused by excess fluid in the body’s tissues is known as edema. While mild edema often goes away on its own, some cases need to be treated with diuretics.
Fluid retention can be caused by many different medical conditions, as well as some drugs. Anyone who is thinking of using diuretics to get rid of extra fluid should discuss the possible causes of fluid retention with a doctor first.
Taking diuretics can be helpful for people with kidney disease whose kidneys cannot filter potassium. This can cause a buildup that leads to serious health issues.
Diuretics can also alter the body’s levels of other important minerals such as magnesium.
It is important to have sodium, potassium, and magnesium levels frequently checked when using diuretics. It is also important for people to have their kidney function and blood pressure tested regularly while taking diuretics.
Mild edema usually goes away on its own but some cases require treatment with diuretics.
Side effects of prescription diuretics can include:
- Frequent urination
- Muscle cramps
- Skin rash
Considerations for using natural diuretics
People should consult their physician before trying any natural diuretics, especially if they are already taking a prescribed diuretic.
Using natural foods like ginger or parsley as a spice or tea in food is considered safe. However, supplements are not regulated and may or may not contain what they claim.
Long-term use of diuretics can cause mineral deficiencies. As a result, mineral levels should be closely monitored while taking diuretics.
Some diuretics can lead to low levels of potassium in the blood. Symptoms of low potassium levels include:
- Muscle cramping
- Heart rhythm problems
If diuretics are being taken to lower high blood pressure, a number of other medications can be taken if they are not effective enough. This include:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers
- Beta blockers
- Calcium channel blockers
As mentioned earlier, diuretics are not helpful for losing weight. Anyone who wishes to lose weight should follow a healthy, balanced diet and exercise regularly.