Lemon Water For Digestion: Legit Or Quit?

Is there really a need to start your day with a big squeeze? (Photo: Getty Images/Yahoo Health)

Sometimes the biggest health trends are the smallest practices—for example, the advice proffered ubiquitously by wellness experts to drink plenty of lemon-infused water. Proponents say it promotes digestion, helps “alkalize” the body, and boosts your immunity. But can such a simple act reap all those rewards? Yahoo Health found out:

Where The Trend Began:

Celebs including Beyoncé and Martha Stewart have sung the praises of the citrusy libation, which has also become a mainstay in the Instagram feeds of many —okay, all— health experts. The reason for its popularity? It’s one of the few wellness trends everyone can participate in. Paleo? Vegan? Gluten-Free? Check. Check. Check.

What The Science Says:

The acid in lemon juice “works with the body to nourish and to enhance proper function,” Roxanne Sukol, MD, a preventive medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute, tells Yahoo Health. By drinking lemon water, you’re giving your body more time to take in and process the nutrients in the foods you eat afterward, she explains. This slow absorption is good for two reasons: It conserves the stores of insulin in your body (insulin is important in regulating the amount of glucose in the blood), and also helps your body get more out of the food you eat. Plus, quick absorption of certain “stripped” carbs — such as white flour, corn starch, and corn syrup — can be a digestive nightmare, she adds.

Related: The 9 Best Sugar Substitutes

Aside from aiding digestion, there are other benefits to lemon juice itself. “It’s a good way to consume vitamin C without the higher levels of sugar that may be found in other citrus fruits, like oranges,” says Sukol. And if you’re used to swigging a glass of OJ with your first meal of the day, try swapping in lemon water instead. It provides that same tangy jolt, without the crash that comes from downing a fiber-less juice.

The Downside:

While lemon water may be good for digestion, it can do a little damage en route to your belly. “By adding [acidic] lemon to water, you are increasing your risk of eroding the enamel away, which can cause issues over time,” dentist Matthew Messina, DDS, tells Yahoo Health. “Once enamel is eroded away, it can’t be replaced.” 

Related: Heart Disease, Brittle Bones, And Other Scary ConditionsYour Dentist Can Spot 

The Verdict:

There are sound health reasons to imbibe lemon water, especially if you typically have a finicky digestive system. But it’s wise to take a few extra steps to save your smile:

  • “Drink it as part of a meal, not by itself, to help stimulate saliva production,” Messina advises. Saliva “washes harmful acids and food particles away from teeth and helps neutralize acid, protecting teeth from decay.” 

  • If you want to drink warm lemon water first thing in the morning, try waiting until it cools a bit, and then use a straw. This “may help to push the liquid past teeth,” Messina says. 

  • Drink lemon water before brushing your teeth, so the acid isn’t hitting enamel directly (morning tooth scuzz has purpose!). Then, “it’s best to wait a little while to brush your teeth, approximately 30 to 60 minutes,” he says. 

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