Is lemon and hot water really the health elixir people make it out to be?

Do you start your day with a tall glass of warm water, honey and lemon? You’re not alone—many celebrities and wellness experts list it as their go-to morning drink as well. The combination is said to melt fat, clear up acne, stimulate weight loss and flush out toxins, but does this simple drink meet expectations? We spoke to both doctors and Ayurvedic experts to understand the effect the much-lauded concoction has on your body.

Is your habit of drinking hot water with lemon and honey in the morning really helping you?

Surprisingly, Ayurvedic experts believe this pairing could be a probable recipe for disaster. “According to Ayurveda, hot water and honey are virudh prakruti or opposite foods. In the longer run, [they can cause] digestive disruptions and the internal inflammations that show up as redness on the skin,” says Dr Akanksha Kotibhaskar, senior Ayurveda consultant, Forest Essentials. She also dismisses the detoxing powers of hot water with lemon and honey when had first thing in the morning as a myth.

While the benefits of the added ingredients (lemon and honey) cannot be denied, the problem arises when you add water. “Lemon is sour in taste, has light unctuous and sticky qualities, and is hot in potency. On the other hand, honey is sweet in taste, is heavy and dry, and cold in potency. Combining honey and lemon does promote healing, but Ayurveda advises against using the two with any hot substances (including hot water) because this changes their natural qualities, which in turn impacts our digestive and immune system,” explains Ayurvedic physician, Dr Aneesh Manoharan.

Is it actually good for weight loss?

“The concept of drinking hot water, lemon and honey to melt fat is again a fad that has no base in modern nutritional studies,” says clinical dietitian Fatema Valikarimwala. “Drinking hot water and lime does not make you lose weight. It is the swapping of sweetened tea or coffee for honey-lemon-water that may lead to a reduction in calories.”

She also warns against incorrect methods of preparation. “There are some people who squeeze out lime into boiling water, let it cool and then drink it. This is not advisable because Vitamin C is heat unstable and light sensitive. Its potency is weakened with heat and the more you keep it exposed to light, the sooner it starts denaturing,” she says.

But a dash of lime does make water more appetising and refreshing, especially in the summer months when we are looking for ways to keep the body hydrated. Valikarimwala recommends adding it in plain or lukewarm water and drinking immediately for best results, and having it with meals, as Vitamin C is required for iron absorption.

“There are many pros to consuming lemon,” says Dr Neha Pathania, dietician, Paras Hospital, Gurgaon. The juice is rich in Vitamin C, a strong antioxidant that helps strengthen our body’s immune system, and the fruit has pectin fibre, which helps controls food cravings, thus aiding weight management. “It also helps in the process of digestion, [promotes] fresh breath, and can prevent kidney stones,” she adds.

Is it good for the gut?

Yes. Vitamin C strengthens the intestinal barrier by supporting the blood vessels and epithelial cells lining the gut. “It prevents pathogenic bacteria from infiltrating the gut and triggering inflammation. If the barrier function is compromised, it usually results in leaky gut syndrome, which is a key step in the initiation and development of irritable bowel syndrome. Additionally, it also has the ability to regenerate other important antioxidants such as Vitamin E and glutathione (both offer additional anti-inflammatory protection for the gut),” explains Valikarimwala.

“Despite having an acidic pH prior to digestion, Vitamin C produces alkaline by-products once digested and metabolised by the body,” she adds. But having it on empty stomach still may not suit everyone, especially those who have weak digestive systems. “Some people can struggle with acidity after drinking lemon water, and in those cases it should be consumed in lesser quantities or after eating something,” recommends Dr Pathania.

Can the acidic hot lemon water harm your teeth?

“While a couple of glasses of lemon water are good to keep the digestive track up and running, excessive consumption can can cause erosion of teeth enamel due to lemon’s acidic nature” warns Dr Aikta Singh, dentist at Columbia Asia Hospital. When enough enamel is sloughed off, it exposes the dentin layer of the teeth, which can lead to sensitivity and pain. Some dentists suggest drinking lemon water with a straw to bypass the teeth, or rinsing the mouth with regular water straight after. Don’t brush immediately though, as that, coupled with the recent acid erosion, could cause even more damage.

This article first appeared in Vogue


  • Aparrna Gupta

    Transitioning from crafting stories for The Asian Age and Bombay Times to setting beauty trends in Verve, Aparrna Gupta’s journey has always revolved around resonant storytelling. Her prowess in content creation is unparalleled, with articles featured in renowned publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel India, Lifestyle Asia, Elle, and Femina. She also excels in content ideation, trend identification, mood board creation, and product styling. Her expertise has proven invaluable to homegrown brands, enabling them to authentically connect with their audience.

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