lemon water
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
March 13, 2024 ·  5 min read

Benefits of Lemon Water: What’s Myth and What’s Fact?

We’ve heard all about the benefits of lemon water—it’s a natural detox, it flushes out your system, and it helps with weight loss and digestion. But how much of this is myth and how much is fact? With so many claims and misinformation out there, it’s sometimes hard to separate fact from fiction. We’re here to do that for you so that you can reap the benefits of lemon water without giving it too much credit as a “life-saving tonic.”

The Lemon Water Trend

We all know that drinking water is important for our health, but many people don’t drink enough of it—especially those who are busy or don’t like the taste of plain water. Lemon water is a great way to ensure you’re getting enough H2O in your day without worrying about other flavors or additives (like soda or juice). Within a particular context, it can be useful for those trying to lose weight or control their blood sugar levels (by displacing high-calorie/high-sugar beverages). If lemon water helps you drink more because you don’t enjoy plain water, it will help you avoid dehydration. Dehydration can be dangerous, potentially causing brain fog, mood changes, overheating, constipation, and kidney stones. As already mentioned, however, lemon water has become quite trendy in recent years. Along with this has come severely over-blown claims of what lemon water can do for your health. This article will cover some common myths about lemon water and some facts that might surprise you!

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Myth: Lemon Water Is A Natural Detox

Basket full of lemons on kitchen with a window and a lemon grove in the background. Front view. Horizontal composition.
Credit: Shutterstock

Fact: Lemons have antibacterial properties but don’t help flush harmful substances out of your body. (1) If you’re having trouble with kidney stones or other issues related to kidney function (like cystitis), drinking lemon water may help prevent them from worsening. The citric acid in lemons may help prevent kidney stones. This is because citrate, a component of citric acid, makes urine less acidic and may even break up small stones.

Myth: Lemon Water Helps You Lose Weight

Fresh ripe yellow Italian lemons and wooden juice squeezer, new harvest, on olive tree wood background
Credit: Shutterstock

Fact: Lemon water is not some magic weight loss elixir. Again, if it encourages more water consumption, this could benefit a weight loss plan. This is because dehydration can sometimes be confused for hunger, so you eat more. (2) One way lemon water may help you lose weight, however, is if you are using it in place of sugary drinks and sodas. Excess sugar intake can promote weight gain and contribute to heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and tooth decay. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends that adults limit their added sugar intake to six teaspoons per day (about 100 calories). But it’s not the lemon water itself doing the work- it’s the reduction in calories that would normally be in someone’s diet if they routinely consumed excessive amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages.

Myth: Lemon Water is Full of Vitamins and Minerals

Overhead Shot of Lemons with visible Water Drops. Close up.
Credit: Shutterstock

Fact: Some might assume lemons are bursting with vitamins and minerals, but they aren’t. However, lemons are a decent source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that supports your immune system and helps with wound healing. It also plays a role in collagen formation and may help prevent cell damage from free radicals. (3)

Myth: Lemon Water Promotes Digestion

Holding Sliced Lemon
Credit: Shutterstock

Fact: Overall, there is little evidence that lemon water improves digestion. However there are plenty of theories about how it could help, but human data is lacking. One theory is that lemon juice improves bile flow. However, if our bodies are not producing enough bile adequate bile flow, then the problem is most likely more serious than anything lemons can handle. Another theory is that the citric acid in lemons complements the production of stomach acid. However, our bodies generally do a good job of producing what we need, and if we are not producing enough stomach acid (Hypochlorhydria), it’s something that requires medical intervention. A third theory is that lemon juice delays gastric emptying. This actually does have some evidence behind it [4]. By delaying gastric emptying, it could help to improve nutrient absorption. Overall, evidence is lacking that lemon juice is overly helpful with any aspect of digestion [5].

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Potential Side Effects

Two glass with lemonade or mojito cocktail. With copy space.
Credit: Shutterstock

While lemon water has some potential benefits, it is not without a couple of potential side effects. For one, as already stated, it is high in citric acid. However good citric acid may be for our health, it can damage tooth enamel. This is why it’s important to drink lemon water with a straw and not swish it around in your mouth. If you do choose to swish, make sure that you rinse your mouth out with water immediately afterward. Another potential side effect of drinking lemon water is that it may cause gastrointestinal distress. This is especially true if you are sensitive or allergic to citrus fruits like lemons or limes. Again, though the increased production of gastric acid can have health benefits, it can also cause gastric upset and heartburn. If you are one who already suffers from heartburn, be careful how much lemon juice you drink.

How To Make Lemon Water

Cool lavender lemonade with
Credit: Shutterstock

Lemon water is easy to make: Simply squeeze the juice of half of a lemon into eight ounces of warm or cold water. To add more flavor (and potentially more health benefits), add other ingredients such as a sprig of fresh mint, a slice of fresh ginger, or other spices. You can also consider adding some honey or low-calorie sweeteners like monk fruit or stevia.

The Bottom Line

Summer refreshing lemonade drink or alcoholic cocktail with ice, rosemary and lemon slices on pastel light green surface. Fresh healthy cold lemon beverage. Water with lemon.
Credit: Shutterstock

Lemon water is good for you, but don’t believe everything you read about it online. It can be a nice addition to your daily routine. However, it cannot replace in general a healthy diet and lifestyle.

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  1. Effects of D-limonene on hepatic microsomal monooxygenase activity and paracetamol-induced glutathione depletion in mouse.” Pubmed. M M Reicks and D Crankshaw. July 1993.
  2. Lemon water benefits: Are there any?.” Live Science. Joanne Lewsley. April 27, 2022.
  3. 6 Ways Your Body Benefits from Lemon Water.” Healthline. Annette McDermott. February 23, 2023.
  4. The slowing of gastric emptying by four strong acids and three weak acidsPubMed.
  5. “Lemon Water: Is It Good For You?” Examine. January 31, 2023.