Lemon water is acidic, and some reports suggest that excess intake may erode the tooth enamel. Though it does have benefits, most of them are anecdotal. Does this mean drinking lemon water only can cause harm? In this post, we will look at what research says about the side effects of lemon water, and if you can prevent them in any way.
What Are The Side Effects Of Too Much Lemon Water?
1. May Decay Tooth Enamel
A study discusses a female patient (smoker) who experienced erosion of the enamel and dentinal hypersensitivity following the frequent consumption of lemon juice (lemon water). Excess intake of lemon water may lead to acidic demineralization of the tooth enamel (1).
Another Brazilian study proved the same. Lemon juice displayed corrosive effects on the teeth similar to that of soft drinks. All of them are equally acidic (2).
You may also drink lemon water using a straw to prevent tooth decay.
2. May Cause Sunburns
Certain studies indicate that heading out into the sun after applying lemon juice on your skin can cause blisters and dark spots. This condition is called phytophoto dermatitis and is a worse form of sunburn. The culprits are the chemicals in lemon juice, called psoralens, which interact with sunlight and cause the burn (4).
In another study, citrus consumption was linked to an increased risk of melanoma (skin cancer). The effect was attributed to the presence of psoralens in most citrus fruits. However, further studies are needed to better understand the effects of citrus fruit/juice on skin health (5).
3. May Aggravate Canker Sores
Canker sores are a form of mouth ulcers. These are shallow sores inside the mouth (or the base of the gums), and they are painful. Some research states that citric acid may provoke mouth ulcers (6). The mechanism of how citric acid may lead to this is yet to be understood.
The citric acid in lemons can worsen your sores and also cause more. Hence, ensure you don’t take lemons (or any citrus fruit) if you have canker sores. Wait for them to heal completely.
4. May Aggravate Heartburn
Some research considers citrus fruits to be causing heartburn or acid reflux. In studies, patients who complained of similar gastrointestinal symptoms were found to be consuming more of citrus fruits and juices (7).
However, the information in this aspect is mixed. Anecdotal evidence suggests that lemon water can both hurt and help heartburn symptoms. If you have heartburn symptoms, it is best to check with your doctor before consuming lemon water (or other citrus foods/fluids).
It is also thought that lemon may activate pepsin, which is a stomach enzyme that breaks down proteins. Reflux of the digestive juices in the stomach is believed to activate the inactive pepsin molecules in the throat and esophagus, leading to heartburn. More research is needed to substantiate this.
Lemon juice may also decrease the effectiveness of the lower esophageal sphincter muscle and instead allow the stomach acid to splash up the esophagus. The juice may also worsen peptic ulcers. Ulcers are formed by excessively acidic digestive juices. Drinking lemon juice (and eating other acidic foods) can only make things worse.
Certain experts speculate that lemon juice can also trigger GERD symptoms. Hence, avoid lemons if these symptoms are triggered, as the response varies.
The intake of lemon water on an empty stomach is also thought to trigger GERD symptoms, although there is no evidence to support this.
5. May Trigger Migraine In Patients
There is some research that citrus fruits may trigger migraines. The fruits may induce a migraine attack through an allergic reaction. Tyramine, a specific substance in citrus fruits, could be the culprit (8).
6. May Lead To Frequent Urination
There is no research that proves that excess lemon water may lead to frequent urination. If you experience the same due to excess intake of lemon water, it may have more to do with the water, and not the lemon itself.
Some believe that lemon juice, especially in a glass of warm water, can act as a diuretic. It can increase urine output, and if this goes overboard, you may end up feeling dehydrated. This is because the juice from lemon rids your body of the excess water. In the process, it can also flush out excess amounts of electrolytes and sodium through urine. At times, it can flush out too much of them and cause dehydration. However, research is lacking in this aspect.
It also is believed that acidic fruits like lemons can irritate the bladder. This may increase the urge to urinate more often. Though there is no evidence to support this, you can avoid lemon water and other acidic fruits for about a week and see if your symptoms improve. If not, consult your doctor.
Lemon water is also believed to cause excess iron content in the blood, although there is no research to support this. The vitamin C in lemon water may increase iron absorption, but this was only found to help with iron deficiency anemia (in rat studies) (9).
It also is believed that lemon water may trigger nausea or vomiting. This may be attributed to its vitamin C content. There also have been cases of vomiting following excess intake of lemon water (more than 2 lemons or 3 cups of diluted lemon juice). Theories suggest that the body would flush out the excess vitamin C, triggering the symptoms. However, there is no evidence to support this.
Most of the side effects attributed to lemon water are yet to be studied. Excess intake of the beverage can erode the tooth enamel and may aggravate sunburns or trigger migraines. The other side effects need more research to substantiate the findings.
Is there a way to drink lemon juice and avoid the side effects? Is there a safe dosage?
What Is The Recommended Dosage Of Lemons/Lemon Juice?
The ideal dosage of lemon water depends on the user’s age, health, etc. There is not enough scientific information to determine the ideal dosage of lemon/lemon water. But from anecdotal evidence, about a glass or two of lemon water (about 120 ml) per day seems to be safe.
Do Lemons Have Any Interactions With Medications?
Though lemons don’t severely interact with any medications, certain studies shed light on the interactions of other citrus fruits (grapefruit juice) with calcium antagonists (medications that disrupt the movement of calcium through calcium channels, which are used for treating hypertension) (10).
Though the citrus juice could increase the bio availability of the medication, its effects on the human body may not be desirable.
Another Japanese study recommends that patients avoid the intake of citrus juice while on medications as the juice might interact with them, causing potential hazards (11).
There is insufficient information on the interactions lemon water might have with herbs.
The major concern with lemon water is possible dental erosion. It also may increase the risk of sunburns, although it is unlikely if you take/use it in normal amounts and remember to use a sunscreen before stepping out. While citrus juice does have its own benefits, consuming it in moderation is key.
You may stick to one to two glasses of lemon water a day. If you experience any undesirable symptoms, please stop its intake and consult your doctor.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Does the intake of lemon water every morning weaken your bones?
There is no research that supports this. Hence, you can go for it. But if you have come across someone facing such issues due to the intake of lemon water in the mornings, do consult your doctor.
What are the side effects of lemons on hair? Does it decolorize hair?
Side effects of lemons on the hair, if frequently used, may include damage to the scalp, given the acidic nature of the fruits. This nature of lemons can also turn your hair gray. To avoid this, use lemon juice along with some warm hair oil. This ensures your scalp doesn’t get dried up.
Can you drink lemon water at night?
Yes. There are no known adverse effects of drinking lemon water at night.
Does lemon water harm your kidneys?
The citric acid in lemon water may help treat kidney stones. There is no evidence if lemon water may harm the kidneys.
- Particular dental erosion, The Pan African Medical Journal, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- In vitro study of enamel erosion caused by soft drinks and lemon juice in deciduous teeth analysed by stereomicroscopy and scanning electron microscopy, Caries Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- When life gives you lemons, make lemon water, University of Florida.
- A tropical skin eruption, The Canadian Journal of Infectious Diseases, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Citrus Consumption and Risk of Cutaneous Malignant Melanoma, Journal of Clinical Oncology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Canker sores from allergy to weak organic acids (citric and acetic): Case report and clinical study, Journal of Allergy, ScienceDirect.
- Risk factors for gastroesophageal reflux disease: the role of diet, Przeglad Gastroenterologiczny, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Diet and migraine, Revista de neurologia, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Effects of Citric Acid and Lemon Juice on Iron Absorption and Improvement of
Anemia in Iron-Deficient Rats, Food, Science, and Technology Research, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Interaction of citrus juices with pranidipine, a new 1,4-dihydropyridine calcium antagonist, in healthy subjects, European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Undesirable effects of citrus juice on the pharmacokinetics of drugs: focus on recent studies, Drug Safety, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
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