Foods and drinks that naturally help your body get rid of excess water (and sometimes, salt)—and therefore cause you to pee more frequently—are often referred to as diuretic foods. Although diuretics commonly come in the form of water pills, there are both foods and activities considered to be natural diuretics.
What is a natural diuretic?
“In general, any food that is high in water content will increase the volume of urine—think fruits, soups, smoothies, and any fluids that are consumed during the day,” says Elizabeth Kavaler, MD, urologist, uro-gynecologist, surgeon, and the medical director at Total Urology Care of NY. These are not necessarily diuretics; rather, they just make you pee more because they're filled with liquid. “An increase in overall volume will result in increased urine production.”
But that’s not the end of the story. In addition to anything with a high water content, foods and beverages that irritate the bladder will also make you urinate more frequently. “The categories of foods that increase bladder sensitivity are caffeine, spicy foods, citrus, and alcohol,” says Dr. Kavaler. “With the exception of caffeine, these are also not diuretic foods. Rather, they cause irritation to the bladder which makes you want to urinate more, but not because more urine is being produced by the kidneys.” Caffeine is the exception because it is both a diuretic and an irritant. Bladder irritants like caffeine and alcohol are, according to Dr. Kavaler, among the most common causes for frequent bathroom trips.
So, if liquidy foods and bladder irritants aren't necessarily considered diuretics by urologists, what is? Find the top diuretic foods according to Dr. Kavaler below.
Natural diuretic foods
According to Dr. Kavaler, one of the most common natural diuretic foods include fruits, especially watery ones. So, which fruit is the most diuretic and potentially a great food for bladder health? Probably a combination of these three: watermelon, grapes, and blueberries. For context, these hydrating foods are comprised of 90-99 percent, 80-89 percent, and nearly 85 percent water, respectively. Meanwhile, she notes that lemons and pineapple can also have a diuretic effect on the body.
Want to reduce water retention? These veggies can lend a helping hand. “Common vegetables that increase urine production are cucumbers, asparagus, beets, and celery," says Dr. Kavaler, which have a similar effect as the water-rich fruits listed above. Meanwhile, alliums—including onions and garlic—are also considered diuretic foods.
Other healthy greens that can promote urination? "Herbs like parsley, which move through the system quickly, can increase water output from your body,” Dr. Kavaler says. Now, if you're looking for diuretic drink options, dandelion and hibiscus are two other common food diuretics that are often consumed as herbal teas, and can be a great healthy morning drinks option.
Soda will also make you pee more (like, a lot more). “Soda is bad news all around for your bladder,” says Dr. Kavaler. “It [can have] caffeine, so it both irritates the bladder and acts as a diuretic. It also [can have] lots of unhealthy chemicals and it’s high in oxalates, which are one of the agents in kidney stone formation.”
That said, like most things, moderation is the key. “Caffeine will make you urinate more, but that doesn't make it any more or less nutritious. You just have to be aware that if you drink it, you should have access to a bathroom.” In fact, drinks like coffee (that contain caffeine) can offer a chock full of other benefits, including potent antioxidants. But is coffee hydrating? Perhaps not as much as we may like for it to be, especially considering you may end up peeing most of its hydrating benefits just a few minutes later. Thus, it's important to stay on top of your H2O-drinking goals with other hydrating beverages throughout the day.
Who should regularly consume these diuretic foods?
According to Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, CLEC, CPT, a registered dietitian based in Charleston, some folks can definitely benefit from consuming these natural diuretic foods. "Individuals who might benefit from incorporating natural diuretics into their diet include those dealing with high blood pressure, edema, kidney stones, or other health conditions where reducing excess fluid in the body can be beneficial," Manaker says. "Athletes might also find diuretic foods useful for meeting weight requirements in certain sports. However, it's important to note that while natural diuretics can complement medical treatments, they should not replace prescribed medication or professional medical advice," she says.
What's more, Manaker explains that natural food diuretics and over-the-counter (OTC) diuretic medications work very differently than one another. "While both food and OTC forms of diuretics play a role in promoting fluid balance, they do so in different ways and with different degrees of intensity. Food diuretics like cucumbers and watermelons work gently and naturally, offering a mild increase in urine production without drastically altering the body's electrolyte balance. They also provide a host of other nutritional benefits, contributing to overall health beyond their diuretic properties," she says.
On the other hand, Manaker notes that OTC diuretics are typically much more potent than food diuretics, and are typically reserved to treat more serious chronic illnesses. "They're designed to stimulate significant fluid loss to quickly alleviate symptoms of conditions like high blood pressure or edema," she says. It's also important to keep in mind that these drastic changes can result in an electrolyte imbalance, which typically involves too much or too little of certain minerals in the body at one given time, such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. "While effective, they can potentially lead to an imbalance of vital electrolytes if not used under the guidance of a healthcare professional," Manaker says. As such, it's important to ensure a well-balanced diet is maintained to reduce the risk of any imbalances.
Plus, the registered dietitian points out that OTC meds won't offer the same wide-ranging nutritional benefits as food diuretics—say, fiber, antioxidants, prebiotics. In short, food or OTC diuretic consumption should be considered on a case-by-case basis. "While both are beneficial, their use should be tailored to individual health needs and always in consultation with a healthcare professional," Manaker recommends.
How to reduce frequent urination
While it may seem obvious, if you’re looking to cut down on your bathroom trips, be mindful of your water consumption. “If consumed in large quantities—defined as more than the body needs at any given time—water will be eliminated as urine,” Dr. Kavaler says. However, you may also want to consider keeping a bladder journal, especially if you find yourself peeing nonstop, to help monitor your activity and determine if there may be any underlying issues. In which case, it's best to consult with a medical professional to determine the best form of treatment to mitigate your symptoms.
An RD shares a guide to the most hydrating foods:
- Popkin, Barry M et al. “Water, hydration, and health.” Nutrition reviews vol. 68,8 (2010): 439-58. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x
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