One of the first things you’ll see if you go to any “wellness blog” on the internet is that everyone is crazy about one thing: lemon water. Sometimes a dash of cayenne pepper is added, occasionally lemon/lime is added for added tartness, and every once in a while you’ll see a little mint or stevia for good measure.
But it always comes down to a simple recipe: warm water with a little lemon juice, drunk at least once a day with a cheerful smile.
And apparently, this juice does wonders for the body.
The benefits claimed for this “simple wellness hack” are truly amazing. Here is a short list of my 10-minute Google search:
- Aids digestion
- Detoxifies body
- Heals the body
- Rejuvenates skin
- Causes weight loss
- Improves mood
- Increases energy
- Balances Ph in the body/Alkalizes body
- Reduces inflammation
- Adds acidity to culinary dishes*
- Prevents bacterial growth
- Fights cancer
- Improves colon health
- Fights viruses
- Prevents pain in joints
I could go on. The amount of benefits claimed is truly staggering: if all of this were true, we could close hospitals, lay off doctors, and simply drink gallons of lemon water to live forever disease-free.
Of course, it’s almost all nonsense.
Lemon water does nothing for your health.
Most of these claims come from a few common sources. The first big one is that our bodies are highly acidic and for optimal health, you need to neutralize this with supposedly “alkaline” foods.
If you’re wondering how sour lemons can make your body alkaline, congratulations! You’ve done science in seventh grade and you’re more informed than most wellness bloggers.
Now, lemons are acidic, but when you drink lemon water, due to some interesting chemical interactions, your urine becomes less acidic. So the idea is that by drinking lemon water, you deacidify your body and become healthier.
This is pure nonsense.
Your body exists on a very fragile continuum when it comes to heartburn. If your blood becomes a little more acidic, you’re not just a little sick: you’re in a coma or death. People with diabetes need to be aware of this, because high blood sugar can make your blood acidic, leading to death.
Your body has amazing systems to keep you from having too much acidity or alkalinity. One of the things it does is get rid of the excess. Sometimes this is in the urine.
So all these “health benefits” are basically a misunderstanding of how urine works.
This also leads to some of the other false health claims, because the idea that lemon water can do something against cancer, bacteria, viruses, or inflammation is based on the idea that you need to alkalize your body.
The idea is that these problems are caused by an acidic environment: cancer can only grow in “acidic conditions”, bacteria thrive in highly acidic environments, etc.
So what does this mean for you?
Well, first of all, don’t read wellness blogs. If you don’t have a chronic illness, you’re probably doing just fine. If you’re worried you might have a chronic illness, talk to your doctor because, unlike wellness bloggers, they study and train for years in medical school before diagnosing and treating people.
What about our miracle cure?
Lemon water is a total waste of time.
Drink if you like the taste. Hell, drink it if it makes you feel better about yourself: at the end of the day, it’s just slightly bitter water.
Just don’t expect any health benefits from it.
There is no evidence that lemon water improves your health.