ôô

What Are the Benefits of Lemon Water?

Proponents claim that drinking warm lemon water in the morning will detoxify and alkalinize your body, and rev your metabolism. Nutrition Diva takes a closer look at what lemon water can (and can't) do for your health.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
4-minute read
Episode #330

Want to detox, rev up your metabolism, and melt off the pounds more quickly? It’s easy: Just sip a glass of warm water and lemon juice first thing every morning.

Or at least that’s what countless websites, magazine articles, and health gurus are claiming.

Lately, I’ve heard from several of you asking whether these benefits are for real. Let’s take a closer look at what drinking warm lemon water can (and can’t) do for your health. Let’s start with what drinking lemon water doesn’t do:

False Claim #1: Lemon Water Detoxifies Your Body

Your liver, kidneys, skin, and lungs constantly work together to break down and eliminate chemicals—both natural and synthetic—that might otherwise harm your health. Drinking warm lemon water doesn’t speed up or enhance this process at all.

See also: How to Detoxify Your Body and How to Reduce Your Exposure to Pesticides

 

Lemons do contain a compound called limonene, which has been shown to enhance production of certain liver enzymes that are involved in detoxification (in lab rats). But the amount of limonene in lemon water is far too small to have any effect on your liver enzymes.

The very best way to enhance detoxification is to give your organs less to detoxify by reducing your optional exposures to harmful compounds.

False Claim #2: Lemon Water Makes Your Body More Alkaline

Your kidneys and lungs are in charge of maintaining your body’s pH at the ideal balance no matter what you eat or drink. Check out my episode Does a pH Balancing Diet Work?

False Claim #3: Lemon Water Increases Your Metabolism

Nope, sorry. 

Although some of the claims for drinking warm lemon water don’t hold up under scrutiny, that doesn’t mean that this practice has no benefits. Here are a few good things that might result from drinking warm water and lemon juice in the morning......

What Can Lemon Water Do for You?

  1. Might help control appetite. Drinking water takes up room in the stomach which reduces the urge to eat. If you drink water before a meal, it can decrease how many calories you consume. Drinking water between meals can reduce hunger sensations for the same reason. Hot or cold liquids seem to stay in the stomach longer than room temperature liquids. See also: 3 Tips on How to Eat Less Without Feeling Hungry

  2. Might promote regularity. Drinking a warm liquid in the morning may simulate intestinal motility—which then sends you to the bathroom. A cup of plain hot water or tea would work just as well as lemon water. Many people find that coffee works best of all. Staying well hydrated can also help keep you regular—especially in combination with a high-fiber diet. See also: How to Relieve Constipation

  3. Provides some nutrients. An ounce of fresh lemon juice provides about 20% of your daily vitamin C requirement and small amounts of potassium and certain B vitamins. 

  4. Aids hydration. Drinking water (with or without lemon juice, hot or cold, on an empty stomach or full stomach, in the morning or any other time of day) provides fluids that your body needs to function properly. Most people need to take in around 2 liters of water every day. Things that increase your fluid needs include high protein diets, physical exertion, hot environments, dry environments (such as airplanes). Drinking more water can also help you flush excess sodium from your body, reducing bloat. See also: How Much Water Should I Drink? and Can You Compensate for a High Sodium Diet?

  5. Provides a mindful morning ritual. Many people report that this practice—which has long been a part of traditional healing systems such as Ayurveda—makes them feel more in tune with their bodies and helps them make healthier choices throughout the day. To which I say: “Fantastic!” Taking a few moments to sip some warm lemon water might be the perfect way to start your day in a peaceful, conscious way—and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that...

...except, perhaps, that lemon water can contain enough acid to soften tooth enamel.  You especially want to avoid brushing your teeth right after drinking acidic beverages. The combination of the acid and the mild abrasives in the toothpaste can really do a number on the enamel. If you've been drinking acidic liquids, swish your mouth out with fresh water before brushing and use a soft-bristled brush and a non-abrasive toothpaste. See also: Does Lemon Water Ruin Your Teeth?

The Bottom Line on Warm Lemon Water

Although some of the claims you’ll see about lemon water need to be taken with a (large) grain of salt, drinking warm lemon water in the morning certainly won’t hurt you and may offer some benefits. If you feel that it improves your life in any way, I can’t see why you’d want (or need) to stop doing it.

References

Brown SR, Cann PA, Read NW. Effect of coffee on distal colon function. Gut. 1990 Apr;31(4):450-3.

Elegbede JA, Maltzman TH, Elson CE, Gould MN. Effects of anticarcinogenic monoterpenes on phase II hepatic metabolizing enzymes. Carcinogenesis. 1993 Jun;14(6):1221-3.

McArthur KE, Feldman M. Gastric acid secretion, gastrin release, and gastric emptying in humans as affected by liquid meal temperature. Am J Clin Nutr. 1989 Jan;49(1):51-4.

Vij VA, Joshi AS. Effect of excessive water intake on body weight, body mass index, body fat, and appetite of overweight female participants. J Nat Sci Biol Med. 2014 Jul;5(2):340-4. 

Lemon water image courtesy of Shutterstock.

About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.