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The Dangers of Water Pills

author image Adam Cloe Ph.D./M.D.
Adam Cloe has been published in various scientific journals, including the "Journal of Biochemistry." He is currently a pathology resident at the University of Chicago. Cloe holds a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry from Boston University, a M.D. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in pathology from the University of Chicago.
The Dangers of Water Pills
Woman holding a capsule Photo Credit: psphotograph/iStock/Getty Images

The majority of the body is made of water, which is contained in blood as well as fluid found inside and outside of cells. Consequently, much of the body's weight comes from water. It is possible to lose weight by eliminating some of the water from the body through the use of "water pills," but there are significant risks as well.

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Diuretic Mechanism and Uses

Water pills, also known as diuretics, work by affecting the way the kidneys filter the blood. Some of them block the ability of the kidneys to reabsorb sodium and/or potassium, which also pulls extra water into the urine. Others increase the rate at which urine flows through the kidneys. Regardless of their mechanism, water pills increase the amount of water lost through the urine and often are used to treat high blood pressure, kidney disease and congestive heart failure, the Texas Heart Institute explains. Because they eliminate water from the body, they may also cause short-term weight loss.


One of the most prominent dangers of taking diuretics is dehydration. Because these medications increase urine output, they can cause your body to become depleted of water. Early symptoms of dehydration include increased thirst, headaches and dizziness. Diuretics also can cause your blood pressure to become dangerously low from decreased blood volume. Finally, dehydration can exacerbate gout, as the loss of water from the body can cause crystals of uric acid to build up in the joints.

Electrolyte Imbalances

Electrolytes are substances that have an electrical charge when they are dissolved in water and have an important role in the function of nerves, muscles and other tissues. Taking water pills can cause you to develop abnormally low concentrations of these electrolytes because of increased excretion in the urine. One kind of diuretic, known as loop diuretics, can cause you to lose sodium through your urine, Cardiovascular Pharmacology Concepts explains. Thiazide diuretics, another type of water pill, can cause to you become depleted of potassium. The loss of these electrolytes can cause muscle cramping and an irregular heartbeat.

Diuretics For Weight Loss

Although diuretics can cause you to lose a lot of weight rapidly, they are limited in their ability to function as an agent for long-term weight loss. Diuretics do not cause you to burn extra calories or lose fat; instead, the weight loss they cause is entirely water. When you stop taking the diuretics, your body will regain this lost water by replenishing its water reserves. For sustainable weight loss, follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly.

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