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One Major Side Effect of Drinking Lemon Water, Says Dietitian

This popular morning beverage purportedly supports digestion, but you may actually experience this major side effect.
lemon water

Want to be immediately healthier? "Drink a glass of lemon water every morning!" say social media influencers, health coaches, and nutrition fanatics. While there are benefits to this morning ritual, they may not be exactly what proponents of this habit claim.

"While social media claims that drinking lemon water boosts your metabolism, breaks down fat, and detoxes your body, the medical literature doesn't quite show as much enthusiasm surrounding these benefits," says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, of Nutrition Now Counseling and member of the Eat This, Not That! Medical Expert Board.

Rather than reaping the purported benefits of better digestion and a boosted metabolism, there is an unfortunate dark side of this wellness tip. One of the major side effects of drinking lemon water could be heartburn and acid reflux.

"For some people, particularly those with acid reflux, drinking lemon water may worsen reflux symptoms. Eating or drinking anything acidic, whether it is lemon water, tomatoes, or grapefruit wedges, can trigger reflux symptoms, which can be quite uncomfortable for some," says Manaker.

Acid reflux occurs when acid from your stomach flows up into your esophagus, causing inflammation and irritation. About 20% of the population has gastroesophageal reflux disease, otherwise known as GERD, according to Johns Hopkins experts. The pH—a metric that measures the level of acidity—of lemon juice is between 2 and 3, meaning it is acidic; acidic foods are more likely to exacerbate GERD symptoms whereas alkaline (high pH) foods, high-fiber foods, and water-rich foods can soothe symptoms. (Related: 28 Best and Worst Foods for Acid Reflux.)

The good news is that drinking lemon water may not necessarily affect you in this way.

"If you don't feel that burning effect, committing to drinking lemon water could help you stay hydrated, especially if you like that citrus taste better than drinking plain old water," says Manaker.

"Ultimately, maintaining proper hydration helps support overall health, and if you like the taste of lemon water, and that makes you drink more, that is a good thing," she adds.

Bottom line? If your body doesn't experience a negative reaction by drinking lemon water, then by all means have a glass when you wake up! Establishing a healthy ritual like this can set your day up for success—even though you may not reap some of the benefits we've been led to believe come with sipping on this citrus beverage. For more ways to start your day off right, check out Best Supplements To Start Your Day, According to Science.

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Olivia Tarantino
Olivia Tarantino is a senior editor of Eat This, Not That!, specializing in nutrition, health, and food product coverage. Read more