Back in the dark old days when I started out on my healthy eating journey I seemed to read everywhere that a hot lemon water in the morning was super healthy.
To be honest I can't remember all the claims I read but I think the one that convinced me most was that it would magically boost my immune system. Suffering with IBS and struggling to find answers to control my symptoms I was prepared to believe anything and the idea that a simple drink in the morning would set me up for perfect digestive health for the rest of the day was just the kind of line I was a sucker for.
I started a routine of getting up in the morning and popping the kettle on, and sipping on hot water with a slice of lemon while I got ready for work. My adherence was as strict as it could be and I used to get so angry with myself if I missed a morning, or - heaven forbid, had some breakfast before I'd sipped on the sacred beverage.
But the trouble was.... after 4-5 months of this I didn't really see any difference. Whether I missed a day, or stuck at the routine of the hot lemon water religiously for weeks, it didn't really have an effect on my IBS symptoms. Or at least not one I could categorically say was associated with the hot water.
So I put a question out on my Twitter and got a few responses which weren't exactly supportive:
This isn't exactly a ringing endorsement, and I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. We all know there's no quick fix when it comes to gut health, and sure as hell no "one size fits all" miracles. The idea that drinking a hot lemon water in the morning was somehow going to make my gut work smoothly was always going to be a stretch.
The universe then pointed three more things my way that made me feel compelled to write this blog post:
Firstly I was approached by a website that I won't name asking me to reference their article in a previous blog post of mine, where I mentioned that I had started having hot lemon water every day.
I read the article they wanted me to link to which made many claims about why your body might need to 'detox' and with regards to lemon water, made claims like this:
"Lemon water encourages the body to absorb nutrients from the food better. It stimulates the liver, so toxins are eliminated more efficiently. Its mild diuretic effect also speeds up the elimination of waste."
I couldn't see any referencing for this (a real must when you're reading health claims online) and it seemed a bit far fetched to me. The author also had no biography from which I could glean what qualifications she might have for making recommendations on what to eat. I responding saying I wouldn't be adding a link to their website and that in fact I was changing my mind on what the benefits really were of lemon water.
Secondly the infamous Nutrition Consultant Ian Marber ran his weekly #Nutribollocks vote on Twitter at the beginning of this month and included lemon water claims being made by a shop offering it to their customers. The lemon water won the vote hands down for ridiculous claims and a lot of experts chimed in about what nonsense hot lemon water was.
And thirdly I had a little look into the F45 Challenge. Having really got into F45 since moving to Dublin I was curious about their 8 week challenge and what steps they recommend for boosting fitness and helping weightloss.
But I was seriously disappointed with their recommendations. For a gym with such a great ethos I was saddened that the challenge recommended only eating 1,300 calories a day, going through a 'detox' period and... drinking hot lemon water, claiming it "aids digestion, supports immune function and increases alkalinity" :
"Lemons may be acidic in your fruit bowl but once consumed and digested they actually have an alkaline effect in the body. As we know alkalinity is essential for weight loss, reducing inflammation, increases energy levels and improving sleep patterns."
So I wanted to put this blog post together to try and bust some myths. I've sourced quotes from nutritionists to make sure I've got my facts right and hope that if you're like me and might have been sucked into believing that drinking hot lemon water has miracle powers this puts you straight.
Here are my 4 reasons NOT to drink lemon water for health:
1. Because you think it flushes out toxins
The only things in your body that are going to get rid of toxins are your liver and kidneys. And they don't need help. Certainly not from hot lemon water anyway.
Registered dietitian Samantha Blamires tells us:
"Lemon water is not a miracle 'detox'. Our liver and kidneys are constantly 'detoxing' our body, and no flavoured water or 'detox' drink will be able to do this for us."
You can find out more about Sam's opinions on 'detox' diets in my interview with her last month.
Here's Plantbased Pixie reminding Kayla Itsines of this fact too:
2. Because you think it boosts your immune system
I spotted she'd posted this on the Ian Marber conversation I mentioned above as inspiration for this post:
Dr Dave Stukus agrees:
3. Because you think it speeds up your metabolism
Registered dietitian Samantha Blamires says:
"Adding lemon to your water will not speed up your metabolism, however we sometimes mistake thirst for hunger. Staying well hydrated can help us to recognise our body's hunger cues so if you prefer the taste of flavoured water then lemons are a low-calorie way to flavour your water and help you to stay hydrated."
So if you think that hot lemon water is helping you shed the pounds, it's more likely that it's just filling you up and stopping you reaching for a snack. It could be just plain water though. No magic from the lemon.
4. Because it might actually be damaging your teeth
RD Sam Blamires says:
"Watch out for your teeth! The citric acid in lemons can cause erosion, so if you do choose to drink lemon water then try drinking through a straw, stick to drinking it at mealtimes and wait at least an hour before brushing your teeth. The acid can soften your tooth enamel and brushing immediately after can cause damage."
This is echoed by Dr Raha Sepehrara of Dental Suites Clinic who told Metro.co.uk:
"Tooth wear is caused by the acidity of the lemon which erodes the enamel of the teeth. Repetitive and frequent exposure to acidic drinks or foods can dissolve the enamel of the teeth, exposing the inner layer of the teeth called dentine, which is yellower than enamel and also very sensitive."
Lemon colour teeth? No thanks!
So should I stop drinking lemon water?
Ultimately, if you love a hot lemon water and you find it helps you drink more water and controls your appetite then by all means drink it. But don't think that it's got miracle properties. No food has.
I am a total water lover so I don't need to add lemon to encourage me to drink it. So personally, I won't be going back.
What do you reckon? Have you been drinking hot lemon water? What do you think motivates you to do it? Have you been sucked in by health claims online like I was? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
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