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What is a Diuretic & What are They Used for?

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Last Updated Aug 21, 2020

What is a Diuretic?

A diuretic is any substance that promotes diuresis, the increased production of urine. This includes forced diuresis. Basically, diuretics work by helping expel excess sodium and water out of the body. These can be in the form of a medication or there are natural diuretics. Read this article to find out more.

What are the 5 Types of Diuretics?

A major difference among the types of diuretics depends on the level of potency. This variation in potency is due to the differences in the sites of action of diuretics on the kidney structure. The different types include:

  • Loop diuretics, which is the most potent type, increase the elimination of sodium and chloride by primarily preventing reabsorption of sodium and chloride. This high efficacy of loop diuretics is because of to the unique site of action involving the loop of Henle, which is a portion of the renal tubule, in the kidneys.
  • Thiazide diuretics increase the elimination of sodium and chloride in approximately equivalent amounts. They do this by inhibiting the reabsorption of sodium and chloride in the distal convoluted tubules in the kidneys.
  • Potassium-sparing diuretics reduce sodium reabsorption at the distal tubule, thus decreasing potassium secretion. In the distal tubule, potassium is excreted into the forming urine coupled with the reabsorption of sodium. This type of diuretics when used alone is rather weak compared to the other two mentioned first, hence they are used most commonly in combination therapy with thiazide and loop diuretics.
  • Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors work by increasing the excretion of sodium, potassium, bicarbonate and water from the renal tubules.
  • Osmotic diuretics are low-molecular-weight substances that are filtered out of the blood and into the tubules where they are present in high concentrations. They work by preventing the reabsorption of water, sodium and chloride.

What are Diuretics Used For?

Diuretics are used for various conditions which include:

  • congestive heart failure
  • edema
  • polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • certain kidney disorders
  • diabetes insipidus
  • female hirsutism
  • osteoporosis
  • glaucoma
  • high blood pressure
  • lymphatic swelling
  • sciatica
  • premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Diuretic Medication

Also called water pills, diuretics work by making the kidneys expel more sodium in urine and in turn, it takes water with it from the blood. As the amount of fluid flowing through the blood vessels decreases, the pressure on the walls of the arteries decreases. There are three different types of diuretics – thiazide, loop, and potassium-sparing. Each type works by affecting a different specific part of the kidneys and each has its own use, side effects, and precautions. The type that is best for you will depend entirely on your health and the condition being used for.

Natural Diuretics

It is best to check with your doctor first to determine your option whether you are in the position to use diuretic medicine or you are able to use natural diuretics. Natural diuretics are natural foods or herbs that allow increased urine flow and therefore help in the removal of fluids out of the body.

Foods that are high in sugar and salt cause the body to retain significant amounts of fluid and can lead to water retention and bloating. Additionally, inadequate amounts of protein, amino acids and B vitamins can also lead to water retention.

In China, green tea is considered a natural diuretic and has been used for centuries. Cranberry juice can help in the removal of excess fluid retention. Apple cider vinegar contains natural diuretic properties that helps in maintaining potassium levels in the blood. Dandelion, nettle, and fennel are also used as a natural diuretic.

Foods with high water content like cucumber and watermelon help increase urination and therefore help with the removal of toxins from the body. Cucumbers have high sulfur and silicon content which help in stimulating the kidneys to help remove uric acid. Asparagus contains an alkaloid called asparagine, which boosts kidney performance, that helps with the removal of wastes from the body. Brussel sprouts stimulate the pancreas and kidneys. Beets attack floating body fats and fatty deposits. Oats have silica which is considered a natural diuretic. Lettuce aids with metabolism and flushing out toxins. Tomatoes have high vitamin C content which aids metabolism and releasing excess water out of the kidneys.

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Originally published on Oct 10, 2008

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