Weighing the Side Effects and Benefits of Drinking Lemon With Water

Lemon water has several upsides, but there can be disadvantages to drinking it daily.
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Zinging up a glass of water with lemon juice can make it taste more interesting and may even offer some health benefits. But there can be disadvantages to drinking lemon water daily, including worsening heartburn and damaging tooth enamel.

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But you don't have to avoid lemon water entirely — moderation is key here.

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Read more:3 Benefits of Lemon Water, and 5 Claims to Stop Believing

What Happens if You Drink Too Much Lemon Water?

The side effects of drinking too much lemon with water don't affect everyone the same. Most people tolerate it well, but if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), you should take care, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. That's because in people prone to reflux, the acid in lemons (and citrus fruits more generally) may trigger GERD symptoms or make symptoms worse.

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The acidity of lemons can also damage your teeth. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), lemon juice is highly erosive to dental enamel, worse on your teeth than soda, sports drinks or orange juice.

This doesn't mean you should avoid lemon water altogether, but you should definitely limit how much you drink and how often, per the ADA.

Fortunately, rumors that lemon water can cause diarrhea are just that — rumors. "Drinking normal quantities won't upset a healthy person's bowel movements," says Miami-based Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson Su-Nui Escobar, DCN, RDN.

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Read more:7 Foods That Are Bad for Your Teeth, According to a Dentist

The Potential Benefits of Lemon Water

Drinking lemon water has several upsides, Escobar says. For a start, it makes you more likely to enjoy water — and if you are starting your day with healthy hydration, you are setting yourself up to succeed.

"As a daily habit, it can provide the mindset you need to keep working on your nutrition goals for the rest of the day," Escobar says.

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"Furthermore, adding lemon to water will increase vitamin C intake, which is a powerful fighter against infections and strengthens the immune system," she adds.

The idea that lemon water can help with weight loss might not be an old wives' tale, either. A March 2020 review and meta-analysis of 13 studies in ​Phytotherapy Research​ found that people who ate citrus and/or citrus extracts over a period of at least four weeks lost an average of 2.9 pounds.

Escobar says there is also evidence to suggest the citrate in lemon may improve calcium solubility and absorption, which in turn could benefit the strength of your bones.

Drinking Lemon Water Safely

Wondering how to get the benefits of lemon, but without running into any of the potential problems?

"I suggest drinking a glass of lemon water first thing in the morning and using warm water to get more of the nutrients into the water," Escobar says. Additional glasses are fine during the day, she adds, but be mindful of the potential effects on dental health.

To protect your teeth, the ADA suggests drinking lemon water with meals and perhaps using a straw. At the very least, do not swish or hold lemon water in your mouth longer than you need to. Just sip and swallow instead.

Another way to help reduce enamel erosion is by rinsing your mouth with plain water after you drink your lemon water or by following with a small snack of cheese, which can help neutralize acids, according to the ADA.

Don't rush to brush your teeth after drinking lemon water, though. In fact, you should wait an hour before you brush after eating acidic foods to give your saliva a chance to naturally wash away acids and re-harden your enamel, per the ADA.

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