5 Safe Ways to Get Rid of Water Weight

Experts reveal different methods to lose water weight

Green tea and herbs
Trinette Reed/Stocksy United

If you're trying to lose weight with diet and exercise, daily weight fluctuations on the scale can be frustrating. It can be hard to tell if your program is working when the scale bounces up and down. But those daily weight changes are often due to water retention. So how do you get rid of water weight? Medical sources reveal the best methods to help you reach your goal and to stay safe.

Why Do I Have 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 5-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. Dr. Wyne says that the food you eat can cause your weight to shift during the day. According to one study, about 22 percent of our water intake comes from food, although the number can vary depending on your intake of fruits and vegetables. And increased carbohydrate intake can also cause fluid retention. 

Dr. Wyne also explains that salt sensitivity can cause you to gain water weight. She says that if you are insulin-resistant you may experience more fluid retention.

But anyone who takes in too much salt or who is highly sensitive to salt may feel bloated and want to lose water weight.

Herbal Treatments 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. That means that they help your body get rid of excess water by increasing its volume of urine. When you take a diuretic, you feel like you need to go to the bathroom more frequently.

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 This popular weight loss supplement is often used by dieters. There are no studies that prove it can help you to lose weight, but green tea does contain caffeine, which acts as a diuretic.
  • Dandelion. This herb is one of the more popular treatments for water weight. And in fact, some studies show that it may help to increase urination. 
  • Mate You might see this herb labelled 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.

Diuretics (Water Pills) for Water Weight Loss

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. But, 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.

Other physicians and organizations have also raised concerns about the use of diuretics to lose water weight because these pills are often misused for quick weight loss by athletes and dieters. In some severe cases, the misuse can lead to severe injury or death.

Safe Ways to Get Rid of Water Weight

So 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? There 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. And 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. 

Lastly, it's important to talk to your doctor if you retain water on a regular basis. Your health care provider can determine if the condition is normal or if it is an indicator of a more serious health concern. And be certain to 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. 

Sources:

About herbs, Botanicals & other products. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/treatments/symptom-management/integrative-medicine/herbs.

Berger RE, Ganetsky M. An over-the-counter weight-loss supplement with a toxicity that may be unexpectedly difficult to treat. Internal and Emergency Medicine. 2011;7(S2):91–92. doi:10.1007/s11739-011-0696-2.

Edema. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/edema. 2013

Janevik-Ivanovska E, Sterjova M, Popeska B. Performance-enhancing drugs: A new reality in sport and A real show ground for pharmacists. http://eprints.ugd.edu.mk/11486/.

Popkin BM, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH. Water, hydration and health. 68(8). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908954/

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