The Squeeze on Lemon Water
If you haven’t been having lemon water every morning, chances are someone you know is. It’s all over influencer and celebrity “daily routines” and there are 122,000,000 results on Google if you search for the benefits- so it must be worth it, right?
It's claimed to improve digestion, detox our body, promote weight loss, pay your mortgage...feels like pretty much everything. Is there any truth?
Lemons are generally healthy fruits containing citric acid, Vitamin C and polyphenols, though this might be as exciting as it gets to most people.
The claims and “reasons” given to explain lemon water improving digestion vary.
Some relate lemon water’s use to increasing the secretion of bile-acid (important for gut motility and the absorption fats and fat-soluble vitamins). This is something the body should be doing as part of normal digestion, if not, this is not something lemon juice will fix.
Similarly, some aim to supplement stomach acid with the acid in lemon. Again, if your body is not doing this effectively (as in hypochlorhydria), then this is not the solution.
Finally, acidic foods may slow digestion (also why vinegars are related to lowering the GI of meals), however this does not mean better digestion, just modified at best. In saying this, there is no specific evidence relating to lemon juice and this process.
While many of these proposed benefits do relate to digestive function, but there's no evidence a slice of lemon will 1) have any impact or 2) remedy an underlying issue if these processes aren't happening as they should.
Detoxifying your body
Nope. Nuh uh. Your liver, kidneys and lungs have you covered. While yes, nutrients and bioactive compounds support this process, you can't jump to then saying lemon water (should it contain a small amount of any related compound) will detox your body. If these organs aren't working well, lemon water won't help.
There isn’t any evidence currently supporting this claim at present. Having a balanced diet and functioning organs will do.
There’s no magic here unfortunately. Unless you're swapping out sugary soft drinks, or just improving your hydration in general (may help some eat less if near meals in particular), there's no evidence lemon water will help here.
Balancing your pH
This belief tends to relate to “alkaline diets”, with their own myriad of purported health benefits.
First off, pH is the measure of how acidic or alkaline something is, on a scale of 1-14. The higher the number, the more alkaline. The diet is based off the theory that what we eat/drink can alter this. Well, good news - it can't.
Thankfully, our bodies, with the help of things like lungs and kidneys, work very hard to keep our blood's pH at a tightly regulated 7.35-7.45. When it doesn't, you are very, very unwell.
Your body is a big bag of chemical reactions, dependent on this pH, and if they stop...you will too. Believe it or not, our body has ways of dealing with the different pH of foods!
For example, one way the body maintains this tight range is via the kidneys, removing anything that might compromise this. The pH of your urine then does not mirror your body's pH- this pH is easily affected to do its job properly.
So, thankfully, a squeeze of lemon in your water will not completely undermine core functions of your organs.
Vitamin C Content + Common Colds
Lemons do contain Vitamin C and beneficial polyphenols. There is evidence Vitamin C may reduce the duration of (read: not prevent) common colds. This is by about 1 day overall, if anything. However, you really are not using enough lemon in water for this to be a key source of vitamin C.
So, there isn’t any evidence to suggest having some lemon in water will prevent or cure the common cold (neither for vitamin C itself).
There is evidence that lemon water may reduce risk of kidney stones. Though, I realise there is only a small subset of the population that would be excited about this.
Lemons do contain citric acid, quite a lot of it. A derivative of citric acid, called citrate, can with the help of calcium in the kidneys, reduce risk of calcium-oxalate stones. If this is a problem for you, speak to your GP and healthcare team.
Damaging tooth enamel
Yep, the same reason many look to include lemon in their water, the acid content, is one of the main downsides to having it. The acid may soften your tooth enamel, leading to erosion. Aim to rinse your mouth and avoid brushing your teeth soon after consuming.
You'll often see large leaps including a small, factual detail that makes a theory seem logical, but really they are based on flawed foundational knowledge. Don’t get caught out my misinformation. If you enjoy lemon water, go for it, just don't expect it to solve all your problems. If you struggle with drinking plain water, or just prefer the taste- there’s no harm if you’re cautious.