Drinking lemon juice first thing in the morning has become a popular health trend, with claims that it can help with digestion, weight loss, immunity, pH balance and more. But what does the science say? Here’s a closer look at the potential benefits and downsides of making lemon water part of your daily routine.
Does lemon water help with digestion and regularity?
One of the most common claims about lemon water is that it helps kickstart digestion and keeps you regular. There are a few reasons why this makes sense:
- Lemons contain citric acid, which can stimulate digestive juices and help get things moving in the GI tract.
- The tart, acidic taste of lemons can trigger a reflex in your mouth that starts the digestive process.
- Staying well hydrated is important for healthy digestion, and drinking lemon water may encourage you to drink more fluids first thing.
However, the existing research on lemon water’s effects on digestion is limited. One small study in 10 healthy people found that drinking warm water with lemon juice increased bile secretion, which aids digestion. But more research is needed.
Conclusion on digestion
While lemon water may have some benefits for digestion due to its acidic pH, bile stimulation, and hydration, the impact likely depends on the individual. Those with gastrointestinal issues should speak with their doctor.
Does lemon water help with weight loss?
Another common claim is that drinking lemon water in the morning can help promote weight loss. There are a few potential mechanisms behind this:
- Lemons contain pectin fiber, which may help make you feel full and reduce appetite.
- The citric acid in lemons has been shown to prevent kidney stone formation, which can occur more frequently at higher weights.
- Drinking lemon water instead of juices high in sugar and calories can reduce calorie intake.
- Flavonoids in lemons may play a role in fat metabolism, although more research is needed.
That said, there’s no evidence that lemon water alone will lead to significant weight loss. Its impacts will likely depend on the overall quality of your diet.
Conclusion on weight loss
While lemon water won’t directly lead to major weight loss, it can be a lower-calorie substitution for other beverages and may offer some small benefits for weight management.
Does lemon water boost your immune system?
Lemons are high in vitamin C, providing about 31 mg per 100 g of fruit. This vitamin plays an important role in immune health by supporting the function of various immune cells. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that can reduce oxidative damage linked to disease development.
However, regularly drinking lemon water likely won’t significantly impact vitamin C levels or immunity. You would need to consume much higher amounts from foods or supplements to see measurable effects.
Conclusion on immunity
While lemons are high in vitamin C, lemon water won’t provide enough to notably boost immune function. Eating a variety of vitamin-C-rich fruits and vegetables is a better strategy.
Can lemon water help balance your body’s pH?
Some argue that drinking lemon water can help balance pH levels and reduce acidity in the body. This is largely based on the fact that lemon juice has an acidic pH of around 2-3.
However, once metabolized, the byproducts of citric acid – the main acid in lemons – are alkaline. This makes the net effect on your body’s pH neutral or only slightly alkaline. The kidneys also tightly regulate blood pH levels, regardless of diet.
Conclusion on pH balance
Despite having an acidic pH, lemon juice does not appear to have an acidic effect in your body. Lemon water is unlikely to significantly impact pH balance.
Does lemon water have any risks or downsides?
For most people, drinking lemon water is safe and can be a healthy addition to an overall balanced diet. However, there are some potential downsides to consider:
- Can erode tooth enamel: Lemon juice is acidic and can wear down tooth enamel over time, increasing the risk of cavities.
- May trigger reflux: The acidic nature may worsen symptoms in those with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
- May irritate the skin: Applying lemon juice directly to the skin can increase sensitivity to UV light.
- May interact with medications: Lemon juice can affect how certain medications are broken down in the liver.
Drinking diluted lemon water, rinsing your mouth afterward, and not applying lemon juice to your skin can help prevent these adverse effects.
Conclusion on risks
Drinking small amounts of diluted lemon water is likely safe for most people. But it may worsen reflux, erode tooth enamel, irritate skin, and interact with some medications.
How much lemon juice should you drink per day?
There’s no standard recommendation for how much lemon water to drink per day to reap potential benefits. Most sources suggest drinking around 8 ounces (240 ml), which equates to the juice from about half a lemon.
Drinking this amount in the morning before eating is thought to be most beneficial. Just be sure to rinse your mouth afterward and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing your teeth.
You can adjust the amount based on your personal tolerance. Start with a smaller amount of juice if you have reflux or sensitive teeth.
Conclusion on dosage
Drinking 8 ounces or less of lemon water before breakfast is a safe starting dosage. Adjust the amount of juice based on your individual symptoms and tolerance.
Should you drink warm or cold lemon water?
Some claim that drinking warm or hot lemon water provides better health benefits than drinking it cold. However, there’s no evidence to support this.
Potential benefits are related to the ingredients themselves, including vitamin C, antioxidants, and plant compounds like hesperidin and diosmin. The temperature you drink it at doesn’t change these effects.
That said, you may want to avoid ice-cold lemon water, as this can be harsh on tooth enamel. Lukewarm or room temperature lemon water is ideal.
Conclusion on temperature
Temperature does not affect the potential benefits of lemon water. Lukewarm or room temperature lemon water is ideal.
Should you drink lemon water before or after a meal?
Most sources recommend drinking lemon water first thing in the morning before eating breakfast. Here are a few potential benefits to this timing:
- May stimulate digestion and help food move through your system.
- Provides hydration after sleep, which may improve energy levels.
- The acidity may have greater impacts on pH and bile production when stomach is empty.
Drinking lemon water 30–60 minutes before eating gives it time to kickstart digestion while still hydrating and energizing you.
Conclusion on timing
Drinking lemon water first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, at least 30 minutes before eating, is thought to have the biggest impact.
Should you use lemon juice or lemon slices?
You can add either fresh lemon juice or sliced lemons to your water. Here’s how the two options compare:
- Lemon juice: Provides consistent lemon flavor and vitamin C.
- Lemon slices: Provide milder flavor but allow you to infuse longer.
- Juice is absorbed faster and may have greater digestive effects.
- Slices may be better for dental health since juice is more acidic.
Using some juice with a lemon slice infused in the water combines the benefits of both options.
Conclusion on lemon juice vs. slices
Both lemon juice and slices can be used, but juice may provide more vitamin C. For dental health, squeezing juice into already-infused sliced lemon water is ideal.
Should you add other ingredients like honey or ginger?
Other ingredients like honey, ginger, mint leaves, apple cider vinegar and cayenne pepper are sometimes added to lemon water, but are these additions healthy?
- Honey adds calories and sugar, which should be limited.
- Ginger adds flavor and may aid nausea and digestion.
- Mint leaves provide vitamin C, antioxidants and phytochemicals.
- Apple cider vinegar may improve insulin sensitivity.
- Cayenne provides antioxidants but only small amounts should be used.
Overall, adding some ginger, mint, or a splash of vinegar could provide additional benefits without negatives. Avoid large amounts of honey for calorie control.
Conclusion on other ingredients
Small amounts of mint, ginger, or apple cider vinegar are healthy additions to lemon water. Limit honey due to the extra calories and sugar.
What is the best lemon water recipe?
Based on the available research, here is a simple, easy and healthy lemon water recipe to try:
- Juice from half a fresh lemon (about 2-3 tbsp)
- 8 oz cool or room temperature water
- Optional: 2-3 mint leaves, 1 tsp freshly grated ginger, 1 tsp ACV
- Ice cubes if desired
Put all ingredients except ice in a glass and infuse for at least 15 minutes, then add ice if desired. Drink first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
Conclusion on best recipe
A simple but effective recipe is 8 oz water, half a lemon, and optionally mint, ginger or ACV. Infuse before drinking in the morning before eating.
The bottom line
Drinking lemon water, especially first thing in the morning, may have benefits like aiding digestion, hydrating, pH balancing and weight loss. However, its impacts likely depend on the individual and their overall diet.
Have realistic expectations, be consistent, use proper dental hygiene practices, and consider your personal symptoms and conditions when deciding if to add this habit to your daily health and wellness routine.