Lemon is an acidic substance, though many people believe it can help to reduce acid reflux. Does it work, and is it safe?
Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows up into the food pipe. This common condition affects 60 million Americans per month and 20 to 30 percent of people in the Western world. It can be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Many people are interested in home remedies to relieve the symptoms of acid reflux. In this article, we look at the evidence for lemon water.
According to a 2012 review, lemon juice has a history of use in Eastern and Western practices to aid digestion and gastrointestinal issues, including acid reflux.
However, there is no research to suggest that it works. In fact, because of its acidity, lemon juice could make acid reflux worse.
Some sources say that lemon water has an alkalizing effect, meaning that it can neutralize stomach acid, which may reduce acid reflux. However, this is not backed up by research.
Lemon juice is acidic, with a pH of 3, while water has a pH of around 7, which is neutral. This means it is neither acidic nor alkaline.
Some people may find that drinking a glass of lemon water can improve their reflux. For others, an acidic liquid, such as lemon water, could even make their symptoms worse.
There is no research to suggest that lemon water will relieve the symptoms of acid reflux. If a person still wants to try this home remedy, they can consider the following advice:
- Mix 1 tablespoon (tbsp) of fresh lemon juice with 8 ounces (oz) of water. If it tastes too strong, add less lemon juice at first. Always dilute lemon juice with water to reduce its acidity.
- Some people drink lemon water 20–30 minutes before each meal in an attempt to stop acid reflux from happening.
- Drink a small amount at first and see how the body reacts. Slowly graduate up to a full glass if appropriate.
- Drink lemon water with a straw, because the acid in the juice can damage teeth and enamel.
Lemon water has several benefits and a few risks to be aware of.
According to some people, lemon water can have a range of health benefits.
Lemon water contains vitamin C, which is an antioxidant. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Vitamin C helps improve the immune system, which helps the body fight off infection. Vitamin C also helps the body to absorb iron from the diet.
People also suggest that lemon juice can improve kidney function, skin appearance, and even reduce the risk of cancer. However, there is little high-quality evidence to support these claims.
Lemon water is usually safe to drink. However, there are a few possible side effects.
Lemon water can damage the teeth and the enamel. Drinking through a straw can prevent such damage. Rinse your mouth after drinking lemon water.
For some people, the lemon juice can make acid reflux or GERD worse. Always watch the body's signals and stop using a home remedy if it makes symptoms worse.
For mild or moderate acid reflux, some over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription drugs are available, such as antacids and proton pump inhibitors-PPIs. Talk to a doctor before taking any new medication.
The following home remedies may help to reduce acid reflux:
- Drinking aloe vera syrup. A study from 2015 found that drinking aloe vera syrup decreased the symptoms of GERD in 79 participants. Try mixing aloe vera syrup with water or juice to reduce inflammation and acid reflux.
- Eating enzyme-rich foods. Eating foods, such as papaya and pineapple, that are rich in digestive enzymes or taking digestive enzymes supplements before meals may reduce acid reflux.
Specific lifestyle changes can also help people manage their acid reflux:
- Avoid overeating. Eating too much or eating huge meals can irritate the stomach or directly cause acid reflux.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Acid reflux is more prevalent among those who are overweight and obese.
- Avoid trigger foods. Alcohol, caffeine, processed sugar, chocolate, carbonated drinks, tobacco, and spicy foods can all trigger acid reflux.
- Elevate the head of the bed. If acid reflux occurs at night, try raising the head of the bed to relieve the reflux. Avoid eating 2–3 hours before bedtime.
- Eat slowly. Eating fast can trigger acid reflux.
- Avoid tight clothing. Wearing loose-fitting clothes and avoiding tight belts can reduce pressure on the abdomen.
- Stop smoking. Smoking increases the risks of acid reflux.
Acid reflux is an uncomfortable condition that often leads to belching and heartburn.
Drinking lemon water is a potentially helpful remedy to reduce symptoms. Always drink it diluted and pay attention to the body's reaction.
Some people report that drinking lemon water can reduce their symptoms of acid reflux after a meal. For others, lemon water can make their acid reflux worse.
There are few risks to trying this natural home remedy, though people may want to talk to their doctor beforehand, particularly if they have any pre-existing medical conditions that affect the digestive system.
For those that do not find lemon water to be helpful, other home remedies and lifestyle changes can help.