Should You Take Water Pills for Weight Loss?

Water pills are used to treat a variety of conditions, but extra fat is not one of them.

hands holding two pills and a glass of water

Medically reviewed in June 2021

Updated on March 4, 2022

You’ve probably heard claims that water pills can work wonders for weight loss. But the fact is, water pills were never designed to help people lose weight. So, what are they for?

Here are your top questions about water pills, including how to take them safely and whether they may be right for you.

What are water pills?
The medical term for water pills is diuretics. Essentially, diuretics help your kidneys flush excess water and salt from the body. Different types of diuretics are used to treat various medical conditions. It’s important to know that diuretics should only be taken as directed by a healthcare provider (HCP). Taking these pills without specific instructions can be dangerous.

Who should take water pills?
Patients who have high blood pressure as well as certain heart, kidney, and lung problems typically take water pills. These people often have a condition called edema, in which water accumulates in the tissues and causes swelling. Enter water pills, which help the kidneys flush out these extra fluids. Relieved of the extra burden, the heart pumps more easily and the entire body can start functioning better.

Who shouldn’t take water pills?
Most people who don’t have a medical condition calling for fluid unloading should not take water pills. Pregnant women should use water pills only for a medical problem, not just for the swelling that's common during pregnancy.

What are the side effects of water pills?
The most common side effect is frequent urination. Others include tiredness or weakness, muscle cramps, dizziness, thirst, excessive weight loss, increased blood sugar, skin rash, and nausea. Some water pills can lead to life-threateningly low or high levels of potassium in the blood.

Can I take water pills if I’m on other medications?
Yes, but only in consultation with your HCP, since some water pills taken with certain medications can be dangerous. Here are some of the medications that may interact with water pills:

  • Cyclosporine
  • Antidepressants
  • Lithium
  • Corticosteroids
  • Certain anti-inflammatory medications
  • Anti-clotting drugs
  • Diabetes medications

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 moment you start drinking fluids to replenish what you’ve lost, your weight will increase. That’s because when you take water pills, you’re losing water weight, not fat—so it’s not a healthy type of weight loss. And because your body relies heavily on water to function properly, losing too much water may lead to dehydration and other serious consequences.

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 is to forget magic cures—and stick to a smart combo of diet changes and exercise instead.

Article sources open article sources

Mayo Clinic. Diuretics. August 13, 2021.
Cleveland Clinic. Diuretics. October 1, 2021.

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