How to Get Rid of Water Weight Safely
Retaining water is normal and common. However, when your body holds too much water, it can be uncomfortable. And if you’re trying to lose weight, daily weight fluctuations on the scale can be confusing and frustrating, making it harder to tell if your program is working.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to help reduce your water weight safely and effectively. Many of these are backed by science or recommended by medical professionals.
What Causes Water Weight
According to Dr. Kathleen Wyne, your weight can fluctuate significantly in the course of a day. Dr. Wyne is a board-certified endocrinologist who practices at Ohio State University.
She says that while a five-pound weight change is typical for most people, the number can be much higher if you are overweight or obese. “In a person with a body mass index of 40, 50, or more, there can be a 20-pound weight change in the course of the day.”
So why do these daily weight fluctuations occur? In many cases, the cause is water retention, which can be caused by a variety of factors.
According to one study published in 2010, about 22% of our water intake comes from food, although the number can vary depending on your intake of fruits and vegetables. Increased carbohydrate intake can also cause fluid retention. Dr Wyne adds that being insulin-resistant can impact it too.
Dr. Wyne also explains that salt sensitivity can cause you to gain water weight. However, anyone who takes in too much salt or who is highly sensitive to salt may feel bloated and want to lose water weight.
Certain hormones can affect how much water your body holds. This is especially true for females as fluctuating estrogen and progestogen levels through various stages of life can increase water weight retention, such as during menopause. Water retention is also normal during pregnancy.
Medication Side Effects
Your body might also hold onto water as a side effect of some medications. This is typically referred to as edema and can occur when taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), antidepressants, blood pressure meds, antivirals, and hormones.
How Not to Get Rid of Water Weight
Since water retention is a common concern, you’ll see many different methods advertised to lose water weight. Unfortunately, not all of them are safe and most of them are not effective.
Most treatments to get rid of water claim to have “diuretic” properties. Diuretics help your body get rid of excess water by increasing urine volume. As a result, you feel like you need to go to the bathroom more frequently when you take a diuretic.
Some medical professionals have raised concerns about the use of diuretics to lose water weight. These pills are often misused for quick weight loss by athletes and dieters. In severe cases, misuse can lead to injury or death.
These are some of the most popular herbal treatments that are advertised to help you lose water weight.
- Maroon bush: This herb is used in traditional medicine as a diuretic but medical sources say that there is no evidence to prove that it works.
- Damiana: Some people take this herbal treatment as a laxative, a diuretic, or for menstrual pain. But there is no strong scientific evidence to support any of these claims.
- Alfalfa: Also called “Buffalo Herb,” some people believe that alfalfa can act as a diuretic to help reduce water weight. But evidence to support this claim is lacking.
- Butcher’s broom: This herb is claimed to help you increase urination to get rid of water weight, but there is no strong evidence to support it. The herb may have some anti-inflammatory benefits.
- Olive leaf: You might see olive leaf extract advertised as a product to help reduce water retention through urination. But, again, medical sources say that there is no evidence to support that claim.
- Parsley: You can easily find parsley at your local grocery store and add it to your salads or veggie dishes. While some people believe it can help you to lose water weight, the evidence is lacking.
- Green tea: Green tea contains caffeine, which acts as a diuretic.
- Dandelion: This herb is one of the more popular treatments for water weight. And in fact, a study published in 2009 suggests that it may help to increase urination.
- Mate: You might see this herb labeled as “St. Bartholomew’s tea.” Sellers advertise that it can promote urination. Mate contains caffeine, which might help you to lose water weight.
It’s also common to see diets to lose water weight advertised on television and online. Many of the diets reduce your carbohydrate intake, causing a temporary loss of water weight and some diets may include some of the herbal treatments listed above.
If you decide to take this route, keep in mind that the body does still need some carbs to function. Therefore, it is advised to not cut carbs too low or eliminate them from your diet completely as this can negatively impact your health.
In addition to herbal treatments, you might also see over-the-counter (OTC) treatments to get rid of water weight. These products are commonly found in drug stores and pharmacies and often contain 25-50 milligrams of a medication called pamabrom.
According to Dr. Wyne, just because these non-prescription water pills are readily available does not mean that they are safe.
“Over-the-counter diuretics are going to be less potent and possibly less dangerous than the diuretics prescribed by a physician, but there are still risks,” she says. “None of those have gone through FDA-approval for safety or effectiveness because they are not medications.”
She goes on to say that the OTC water pills may have either short or long-term effects on potassium levels in your body but we don’t know because the products have not gone through the formal approval process.
How to Lose Water Weight
If most herbal treatments to get rid of water aren’t effective and unregulated water pills have the potential to cause harm, is there any safe way to get rid of water?
Here are a few methods that might help.
- Reduce your sodium intake. If you are salt-sensitive, watch the amount of salt you consume each day. Remember, sodium hides in many unlikely places. In fact, most of the salt that we consume each day comes from processed foods like canned goods, fast food, and frozen meals.
- Drink water. It might seem like an odd recommendation to lose water weight by consuming water, but if you drink enough water each day, your body will use and get rid of water properly.
- Eat hydrating foods. Plan meals with water-filled fruits and vegetables to stay hydrated so your body doesn’t bloat. Cantaloupe, strawberries, watermelon, lettuce, cabbage, celery, asparagus, and spinach are healthy foods that are full of water. Some sources call these foods “natural diuretics.”
- Exercise. Exercise is great to improve circulation. But Dr. Wyne points out that exercise is especially good for diabetic patients who retain water. “If you are insulin resistant, then daily exercise may help you to lose water weight because it improves insulin sensitivity,” she says.
- Choose healthier carbs. Carbohydrate restriction often causes quick water loss. But if you cut back on carbs too much, your energy levels will plummet. Instead of going carb-free, choose healthy carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables and avoid refined carbohydrates that can cause your body to retain more water.
A Word From Verywell
It’s important to talk to your doctor if you retain water on a regular basis or experience major fluctuations in your weight. Your health care provider can determine if the condition is normal or if it is an indicator of a more serious health concern.
Tell your doctor if you are using any treatment to get rid of water weight. Herbal supplements to reduce water, water pills, and even certain foods can interact with medications and diuretics that your doctor prescribes.
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