By Rachael Link, MS, RD
Whether you’re looking to flush out water weight or keep kidney stones at bay, including a few servings of natural diuretics in your diet may be just what you need. These healthy foods boast a long list of benefits, from reducing blood pressure to beating bloat, and can help sidestep many of the troublesome symptoms that often accompany over the counter medications.
So what are natural diuretics, what do they do and why should you consider adding them into your daily routine? Let’s dig in.
What Is a Diuretic?
Diuretics are a class of drugs that promote diuresis, or the increased production of urine. Also sometimes called water pills, these medications are used to remove excess water from the body and treat conditions like heart failure, liver disease and high blood pressure.
But although often necessary in the treatment of several different health problems, diuretics can be accompanied by a slew of side effects such as high blood sugar, headaches and dizziness, causing many people to turn to natural diuretics as an alternative treatment method.
What is a natural diuretic? These powerful herbs, supplements and foods can mimic the effects of diuretics to increase urine volume and flush out extra fluids. Plus, besides preventing fluid buildup, many also supply a host of health benefits as well as a range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to optimize other aspects of health as well.
Switching out your over-the-counter (OTC) diuretic for a few natural options instead can have a powerful impact on your health. Let’s take a look at a few of the top natural diuretics food, herb and supplement options and how you can add them to your diet to take advantage of the multitude of health benefits that they have to offer.
19 Natural Diuretics
Natural Diuretic Herbs and Supplements
1. Green Tea
2. Black Tea
Natural Diuretic Foods
11. Bell Peppers
6 Benefits of Diuretics
- Lowers Blood Pressure
- Reduces Bloat
- Promotes Proper Filtration
- May Prevent Kidney Stones
- Treats Ascites
- Decreases PCOS Symptoms
1. Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a condition caused when blood pushes against the artery walls with too much force, putting extra strain on the heart muscle and causing it to weaken over time. Diuretics are one of the first lines of defense used against high blood pressure and can help excrete extra sodium through the urine to lower blood pressure.
Using natural diuretics for high blood pressure can also be an effective treatment option. In fact, several natural diuretics have been linked to lower blood pressure levels. One massive analysis of 13 studies, for example, found that green tea was able to lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. (1) Another review found that several herbs have been shown to have powerful blood pressure-lowering properties, including hibiscus and ginger. (2)
2. Reduces Bloat
Fluid retention, also known as edema, is a common condition characterized by the buildup of fluid in the tissues, leading to symptoms like swelling, puffiness and bloating. Incorporating a few servings of natural diuretic foods for water retention is an easy and effective way to lose water weight and prevent bloating.
Watermelon, for example, is an excellent natural diuretic for edema thanks to its high water content. Eating plenty of hydrating foods and natural diuretics like fruits and veggies can flush out excess water and prevent fluid from accumulating in the body.
3. Promotes Proper Filtration
Your kidneys play a vital role in your health; they are responsible for filtering the blood and excreting toxins and waste products through the urine to keep your body healthy. Natural diuretics can help promote proper filtration to optimize the function of the kidneys and maximize overall health.
For people with impaired kidney function, in particular, this can be especially beneficial. When your kidneys aren’t working properly, certain minerals like potassium and magnesium can start to build up in the blood and cause health problems. High levels of potassium, for example, can cause symptoms like weakness, chest pain and irregular heartbeats. Excess fluid can also build up in the body with impaired kidney function, leading to swelling and water weight gain. Diuretics are commonly used to flush out excess water and prevent electrolyte imbalances to enhance kidney function. (3)
4. May Prevent Kidney Stones
If you’ve ever had a kidney stone, you are likely all too familiar with just how painful it can be. Kidney stones are hard mineral deposits that form in the kidneys, causing symptoms like pain, nausea, vomiting and blood in the urine. Increasing your fluid intake is often recommended to flush out the kidneys and aid in kidney stone excretion. Similarly, diuretics are also sometimes used to help prevent kidney stone formation. (4)
Certain natural diuretic foods can also do double duty to help prevent kidney stone symptoms. Lemons, for example, can help promote hydration and also supply a burst of citric acid, which increases urine volume to block kidney stone formation. (5) One study conducted by Duke University Medical Center even found that treating patients with lemonade therapy for four years was able to decrease stone formation from an average of one kidney stone per year down to 0.13 per year. (6)
5. Treats Ascites
Similar to edema, ascites is the accumulation of fluid in the peritoneal cavity, which is the layer of tissues that lines the abdomen and helps protect the body’s internal organs. This condition is usually caused by liver disease or cirrhosis, which is a scarring of the liver. Diuretics are typically used to help manage and treat this condition by flushing extra water and removing excess fluid in the abdomen. (7)
When used in conjunction with traditional treatment, including a few natural diuretics in your routine may also be beneficial. Plus, many also boast liver-protecting properties as well to enhance liver health even more. Dandelion, hawthorn leaf and asparagus, for instance, have all been shown to reduce the risk of liver injury in both in vitro studies and animal models. (8, 9, 10)
6. Decrease PCOS Symptoms
Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is a disorder caused when women produce high levels of male hormones, leading to symptoms like irregular periods, weight gain, depression and acne. Diuretic pills are often used as a conventional treatment for PCOS, which works by removing excess water and androgen hormones from the body to reduce symptoms.
In addition to promoting proper hydration and enhancing the body’s ability to effectively flush out extra hormones and fluids, some natural diuretics also boast anti-androgen effects as well. Green tea, for instance, is rich in epigallocatechins, which are catechins that can help block the conversion of certain sex hormones to reduce the risk of PCOS symptoms. (11)
History & Interesting Facts
Although widely used to treat a variety of conditions today, diuretics have only risen in popularity within the last century or so. In fact, up until about 1957, the only effective types of diuretics available had to be injected directly into the muscle or veins and were difficult to administer, so they were typically reserved only for patients with heart failure.
In 1958, cardiologist Dr. Marvin Moser realized that chlorothiazide, a common diuretic used primarily for heart failure, was also able to lower blood pressure levels, and by 1964 a large randomized controlled trial conducted by the Veterans Cooperative Study was the first to show that reducing blood pressure through the use of medications was able to protect against cardiovascular events. (12, 13)
Today, the uses of diuretics extend far beyond heart health. Diuretics are also commonly used to balance hormone levels, decrease bloating and water retention and even aid in the prevention of certain conditions like kidney stones. In recent years, many people have turned to natural diuretics like herbs, supplements and foods to mimic the effects of diuretics while reducing the risk of negative side effects.
How to Use/Cook Natural Diuretics
One of the easiest ways to take advantage of the wealth of health benefits provided by natural diuretics is by simply including a few servings of natural diuretic fruits and veggies in your diet. Try starting your day with a delicious green smoothie, satisfying your sweet tooth with a tasty fruit salad or swapping your fries for a side salad to help get in your fix.
Natural diuretic pills and supplements are also available for a quick and easy way to flush out extra water while sidestepping some of the negative symptoms associated with certain OTC diuretic medications. Check your local pharmacy or health food store to find supplements like hawthorn berry, horsetail and hibiscus in convenient capsule form. Be sure to use as directed and stick to the recommended dosage to avoid adverse side effects.
Plus, sipping on some tea throughout the day can also help increase urine volume and remove excess fluid. And not only is tea a diuretic, but it’s also filled with other health-promoting properties like thearubigins, epicatechins and catechins, all of which act as antioxidants to ward off chronic disease and prevent cell damage. Brew a cup of your choice of natural diuretic tea options, such as green, black or hibiscus, and enjoy the multitude of powerful health benefits.
Possible Side Effects/Caution
In general, natural diuretics can be a safe alternative to over the counter diuretic medications and an effective way to avoid potential water pills side effects. Some of the most common diuretic side effects include muscle cramps, high blood sugar, diarrhea, headaches, low sodium levels and high or low levels of potassium in the blood.
For most people, natural diuretic foods can be enjoyed with minimal risk of side effects. If you do experience any negative side effects or food allergy symptoms such as swelling, rashes or hives, discontinue use and consult with your doctor.
Diuretic herbs and supplements, on the other hand, should be used in moderation to prevent adverse side effects. Stick to the recommended dosage and talk to your doctor before starting if you have any underlying health problems such as diabetes, kidney disease or liver problems.
Additionally, while these natural diuretics can help reduce excess fluid buildup, they may not be an appropriate substitute for medications prescribed by your doctor. Be sure to address any concerns with a trusted health care professional to determine the best course of treatment for you.
- What is a diuretic? Defined as any medication that promotes diuresis, or the production of urine, diuretics are commonly used to treat everything from heart failure to high blood pressure.
- Natural diuretics are foods, herbs and supplements that act as diuretics to prevent fluid buildup and decrease bloating.
- Adding a few servings of natural diuretics into your diet could help prevent kidney stones, decrease PCOS symptoms, treat bloating and ascites, lower blood pressure and promote proper filtration in the kidneys.
- While natural diuretic foods are generally safe with minimal risk of side effects, be sure to stick to the recommended dosage and consult with your doctor before taking herbs or supplements.
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