November 2, 2021/Nutrition

Natural Diuretics to Reduce Water Retention

Here's what to eat, drink and do to get rid of excess water in your body

A mug of black tea.

In the moment, having a delicious meal and drinks is one of life’s great pleasures. However, the aftermath of a gigantic dinner often doesn’t feel quite so good. You could retain water from overdoing it on salt and feel bloated and sluggish.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

It might be tempting to find a quick way to shed that excess water by reaching for an over-the-counter medicine or looking up the best natural diuretics. While the latter can be a good solution, registered dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, says you need to be smart about what you’re doing to reduce the bloat.

What do diuretics do?

Diuretics are pretty simple: They help your body get rid of excess accumulated water and salt. How do they achieve this? By making you pee more.

Diuretics are helpful if you have a medical condition that makes you retain water, such as kidney failure or congestive heart failure. In fact, they are also often included in medications used to treat high blood pressure.

Are there any natural diuretics?

Although diuretics commonly come in the form of water pills, there are both foods and activities considered to be natural diuretics.

Fruits and vegetables

Water-based fruits and veggies don’t just provide vitamins and minerals — they can also be good natural diuretics. Zumpano recommends adding these diuretic foods into your diet:

Herbs

Certain herbs — including parsley and dandelion — are considered natural diuretics. The trick is how you use them, Zumpano says. “Avoid taking medications or herbs in a concentrated form if your need for releasing fluid retention is not disease-based, medication-based or directed by a doctor,” she says. “Using diuretic medications or herbs without proper advice from a certified healthcare professional is definitely not recommended.”

The reason for this comes down to science — or lack thereof. “Herbs are not regulated or researched very well,” Zumpano says. “Generally, it’s hard to manage and to figure out a proper dose because there aren’t enough clinical trials to show how much you should be really taking.” Some herbs could interact badly with medications you’re on and cause health issues, she adds. “That’s a big one. You want to be careful.”

Advertisement

Zumpano says the same guidance goes for using berries commonly advertised as diuretics, such as hawthorn and juniper.

However, she notes you can get diuretic effects by sprinkling parsley in a salad, rice, a sauce, or soup, or adding the herb to a smoothie or juice. “Incorporate herbs into your diet via a meal, not in a pill or liquid concentrated form,” Zumpano says. Hibiscus tea, which is herbal and doesn’t have caffeine, is another good option.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a natural diuretic, which is lucky for people who enjoy coffee and tea. Zumpano says black and green teas are best if you’re looking for diuretic drinks, not least because you know how much you’re ingesting. “Teas are a little easier to regulate,” Zumpano says. “You have a teabag. You’re not taking a pill or a vitamin or concentrated form of it. You’re drinking a glass of piping hot tea or iced tea.”

Exercise

Exercise is one of the easier natural diuretics, since getting your heart rate up will help circulate whatever fluid you have built up. “It’s tremendously helpful to move that fluid around in your body,” Zumpano says.

Weight loss

Weight loss is another not-so-surprising natural diuretic — after all, about 60% of your body is water, so losing weight is one way to reduce fluid retention.

Reduce sodium intake

If you’re trying to get healthy enough so you don’t need diuretic medications, but want to resolve some of your fluid retention naturally, reduce your salt intake. “If you’re eating a high-salt diet, you’re going to retain a lot more fluid,” Zumpano says. “Naturally eliminating fluids with healthy foods, exercise and reducing salt intake is very safe.” Being mindful of liquids that may be secretly full of salt, like soda, is also key.

Can natural diuretics be dangerous?

If you’ve overdone it with the food and drink, Zumpano says changing your lifestyle for a few days (or upping your time at the gym) can help reduce the fluid you’re retaining. “There is no harm in consuming foods and beverages that are natural diuretics, especially as a part of a whole food-based eating plan, along with decreasing salt and increasing water intake and increasing your movement.”

Advertisement

She does recommend being careful about not overdoing it. For example, if you excrete too much water from your body, your electrolyte levels could be thrown out of balance, which can cause you to feel poorly or could even lead to further health concerns. “You do want to be careful with that,” Zumpano says. “That’s why you need to eat a balanced diet, to replenish some of those electrolyte losses.”

Starting to take water pills or another diuretic when you don’t need one also isn’t a good idea. “You should not be taking a diuretic if you’re not retaining water,” says Zumpano. “Only take a diuretic if it’s prescribed by a healthcare provider.”

Zumpano also says you should seek medical attention if you are noticing fluid retention on a consistent basis.

“If you experience bloating or edema that has been persistent — and it’s not just circumstantial, like associated near your menstrual cycle or after a heavy weekend of eating — definitely see a healthcare provider. It’s advised to have a proper health screening and your blood pressure checked. There may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.”

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Salmon over lentils and carrots
April 15, 2024/Nutrition
Psoriasis and Diet: How Foods Can Impact Inflammation

A well-balanced diet with anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce flare-ups and severity of psoriasis symptoms

Beef cut, chicken breast, cod filet and ground beef, with spices and seasoning
April 5, 2024/Nutrition
Are You Eating Enough Choline-Rich Foods?

This vital nutrient helps your brain and body in many ways — and most of us need more of it

Variety of foods that contain the antioxidant lutein
April 4, 2024/Nutrition
What Is Lutein? Learn About Its Health Benefits

This powerful carotenoid can help with your eye and skin health, LDL reduction and cognitive function

Turkey wrap cut in half on butcher board, with lettuce, tomato, cheese, onion
April 3, 2024/Nutrition
Is Your Sandwich Healthy? What About Your Wrap?

Wrapped or sandwiched, try to choose fillings and condiments that are minimally processed, low in saturated fat and high in fiber

Person sitting on bed applying antiperspirant
April 1, 2024/Nutrition
How 7 Different Foods Affect Your Body Odor

Beyond the usual offenders like garlic and onions, foods like red meat, fish and spices can cause a stink effect as well

Assorted fruits and vegetables in variety of colors
March 27, 2024/Nutrition
What Is Zeaxanthin? Benefits and Side Effects

Found in colorful foods like spinach, corn and oranges, this carotenoid helps with eye, skin and liver health

Giant letter K with foods with vitamin K and supplements surrounding it
March 25, 2024/Nutrition
The Power of Potassium: Why You Need This Essential Mineral

Found in an abundance of foods, potassium is an electrolyte that helps your muscles contract and acts as a counterbalance to sodium

Person prepping different foods in kitchen
March 20, 2024/Nutrition
What Vitamins You Should Take Is a Personalized Decision

There are several vitamins and mineral supplements that many people can benefit from — but it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider before you start one

Trending Topics

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

woman snacking on raisins and nuts
52 Foods High In Iron

Pump up your iron intake with foods like tuna, tofu and turkey

Ad