Nicky Park: What's all the fuss about lemon in warm water?

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There's mixed views on the benefit of warm water with lemon.
Photo / Thinkstock
There's mixed views on the benefit of warm water with lemon. Photo / Thinkstock

A glass of warm water with lemon has become part of my morning routine. It's something I sip as I get ready for work. I like the zesty taste, it warms me up and I have been led to believe that it's good for my insides.

But a piece I wrote recently about becoming a morning person got me thinking about this commonly held health habit. So I decided to dig a little deeper, and I've sussed it out from a number of perspectives:

What the Ayurvedic doctor says:

First I went back to Dr Ajit Singh since he was the health professional who gave me the advice. According to his ancient Indian healing methods, the morning drink should consist of half a teaspoon of ginger, half a teaspoon of honey and half a tablespoon of lemon juice.

"The purpose of this is to expel the toxins that are building up in our gut area," he says. "The ginger acts as a scraper, the lemon acts as a flusher and honey acts as a binder. This helps to clean up our gut before we start our eating." He said the "toxins" are collected from the food eaten the night before, when the metabolic process slows down. He says it's the sour taste of lemon that is doing all the work. He says sourness is a stimulant that makes the absorption process more effective, and triggers the secretion of enzymes and acid which helps the metabolic function operate at optimum state. He says warm water doesn't work as effectively.

What the dietitian says:

Dietitian Sarah Hanrahan from the the NZ Nutrition Foundation says there's no scientific evidence to suggest that lemon juice in the morning has any great advantage. "The real benefit would be is that it's quite a nice refreshing drink," Hanrahan says. "Sometimes a hot drink in the morning makes you feel better... and drinking that kind of drink, it doesn't have lots of things that you might want to avoid." So there's no harm in the morning brew. She said there might be something in the pectin in lemon peel that is good for the gut, but this couldn't come from floating a slice of skin in warm water. The best way to get your digestive system in peak performance is by eating whole foods, regular meals packed with fibre and fluid. The best thing about getting in to eating habits is that you instinctively cut back on fats and sugars. Lemon juice is a good source of vitamin C, but the whole fruit is better than the juice. Like anything, you can overdo it, and in excess it can actually cause digestive problems, Hanrhan says, although "you'd be hard pushed to eat enough to do that".

What the dentist says:

Chief of the NZ Dental Association, Dr David Crum, says adding a squeeze of lemon juice to warm water in the morning spells danger for your teeth. "Lemons are acidic. Lemons dissolve teeth. This has the potential of severely eroding teeth," Dr Crum said. Using acidic mouth rinses daily also presents a high risk of making your teeth sensitive to cold food and drinks, he said. "This idea is a bit of a lemon to me."

When it comes to health and wellbeing I think it's best to be informed and make decisions that work for you. I will be sticking to my morning drink for now, but it might not be for everyone.

Follow Nicky Park on Twitter.

Do you have any healthy hints you've heard that you'd like me to look in to?

Nicky Park

Editor of Life & Style.

Nicky lives to wine, dine and thrive. As Life & Style Editor at the New Zealand Herald online, she feels lucky she can call this work. Nicky crafted her writing skills as a cadet for an Australian news wire. Amongst the coverage of sport, news, finance and courts she found a favourite in features. A stint as a foreign correspondent sent this chipper Aussie across the Tasman, covering the big issues of the Pacific Islands. Every single day Nicky relishes the opportunities she has to mix and mingle with interesting people, feast on delicious food, visit new places and write all about it. Nicky wants everyone to make the most of their minutes, learn lots and live their best life.

Read more by Nicky Park

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