By Dr Willie Ong (Internist and Cardiologist)
Lemon water has some health benefits, but it’s not a miracle cure.
Lemon, like other citrus fruits, contains vitamin C which is beneficial for the body. Moreover, drinking water by itself has many benefits since our bodies are made up of 70-80% water. Drinking water, whether it is lemon water or alkaline water, can help prevent urinary tract infection and kidney stones. Water can also reduce fever, loosen cough and phlegm, and hydrate the skin, keeping it soft and supple.
Here are the nutritional values of 100 grams of lemon (the size of a large lemon). This has 29 calories, 138 mg potassium, 22 mg calcium, 2.8 grams dietary fiber, 2.5 grams sugar, and 88% of our daily requirement for vitamin C.
Despite this, the long list of cures associated with lemon water is probably overstated. Let us check out these claims.
Can lemon water improve digestion?
Probably not. In fact, the citric acid in lemon can actually irritate the stomach and cause stomach pain and abdominal cramps. If you mix too much lemon in a glass of water, then you can make the water too acidic. This may worsen heartburn or acid reflux.
Can lemon water detoxify the body?
Yes, but only a little. Lemon contains an anti-oxidant called d-limonene, which is also found in oranges and other citrus fruits. D-limonene helps activate liver enzymes that are responsible for detoxifying (degrading) some food products and medicines that we take. However, you will need to take in lots of lemons to achieve this process, which I don’t recommend.
Is the vitamin C in lemon water beneficial for your health?
Yes. One piece of lemon contains 40 mg of Vitamin C. This is however lower than an orange which has 90 mg of vitamin C. Vitamin C may help prevent skin wrinkles, eye disease and heart disease. Vitamin C is also an anti-oxidant which protects your cells from damage. Hence, the nutrients in lemon are beneficial for you.
Can lemon water help you lose weight?
Yes, if you combine this with diet and exercise. Drinking water by itself can help you lose weight because water makes you feel full. Hence, if you drink a glass or two of water before eating, then you will have less room in your stomach for food. Researchers have shown that the pectin and polyphenols in lemon are the substances that may suppress your appetite. Pectin is a soluble dietary fiber that helps you feel full. In one study, drinking lemon water reduced the cholesterol levels of the subjects.
Safety Tips With Lemon Water:
There are side effects that may occur should you drink too much lemon water.
- Hyperacidity – Those with hyperacidity should be careful in drinking a concentrated preparation of lemon water. Lemon contains a small amount of salicylic acid, which is the main ingredient of aspirin. We already know that aspirin can harm the stomach and cause ulcers.
- Erosion of the teeth – Drinking lemon water is healthier than drinking soft drinks which can also harm the enamels of your teeth. However, taking too much lemon water can also harm your teeth, resulting in teeth sensitivity with hot and cold foods. Hence, it is prudent to limit the amount of lemon you place in a glass of water. In addition, you may use a straw to reduce direct contact between the lemon water and your teeth.
- Don’t swallow lemon seeds – Accidentally swallowing a few seeds will not harm you. However, constantly swallowing seeds may cause health problems in the elderly and those with bowel problems.
How To Prepare Lemon Water:
- Strong preparation – Some people mix one whole lemon in one glass of water. For me, this is too acidic and may cause unwanted side effects especially if you drink it on an empty stomach. I do not recommend this.
- Milder preparation – Mix the juice of half or one lemon in a liter of water. You can add a little honey if you like. This is more acceptable for most people and will not cause side effects.
- Just a taste of lemon – In some restaurants, they add a small slice of lemon to their water. Anyone can drink this type of lemon water but you will not get the health benefits since the amount of lemon is very small.
In conclusion, I would not advise you to drink lemon water to treat any medical condition. It’s not a miracle cure. If you want to drink lemon water for general health purposes, then that is okay. However, if you experience any side effects upon taking it, then you should consult your doctor. As the medical saying goes, “Everything in moderation.”