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Lemon Juice - Acidic, Alkaline or Both?

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Conditions: cancer, arthritis, gout, obesity, osteoporosis, allergies, chronic fatigue, diabetes type II, multiple sclerosis, gastritis, G.I. tract ulcers

Lemon-JuiceThere is often misunderstanding of lemon’s pH outside the body versus inside the body.  Let’s get this straight and expound on 10 benefits of regularly taking lemon juice with warm water (note: NOT equal to lemonade!)

Outside the body, lemon juice is acidic (pH is below 7).  This is a non-issue. Everyone knows this.  It’s a citrus fruit.

Inside the body however, when lemon juice has been fully metabolized and its minerals are dissociated in the bloodstream, its effect is alkalizing and therefore raises the pH of the body (pH above 7 is alkaline).  Please notice the difference.

Why is it important for body tissue to be alkaline rather than acidic?  Well, for chemistry enthusiasts, we know that in long-term acidic environments, normal cell structure and function are damaged.  The exception to this is the stomach, where the hydrochloric acid secreted there is intended to aid in cellular digestion of food.  But even the stomach is internally lined with special cells to prevent the acid from burning through the stomach’s layers, which is a condition otherwise known as “gastritis” or stomach ulcer.

Similar to the food we eat, human tissue – muscles, organs, fascia, cells and blood simply break down faster in acidic conditions.  The only difference however, is that ingested food becomes fuel for life in its metabolized state whereas broken down tissue dies and becomes toxic waste.

How does the body become acidic?  Through unbalanced diets too rich in acid-producing or inflammatory foods, repressed or unexpressed negative emotions, persistent negative subconscious thought patterns, and overall wear and tear in human body functions.

You may have heard that the acidity of lemon juice reduces the healthy enamel on teeth.  The answer to this lies in whether a person sucks on fresh lemons or limes all the time.  If so, then yes, doing so will damage the teeth’s enamel.

But drinking lemon-water does not expose the teeth for excessive amounts of time to high citrus acidic levels in the mouth, thereby causing no harm to the enamel.  In fact, it improves plaque-stained teeth and bad breath.

You may have also heard that lemon juice causes cavities.  Yikes!  Not true.  I even checked with my own holistic-focused dentist (who I recommend in a heartbeat - Dr. Ross Gorrell in Tsawwassen, B.C., Canada).  No matter if someone takes a lot of lemon juice in their diet, if they have relatively more sugar (processed foods, pastries, candy, pop, cakes, breads, chocolate, etc.), then it's the comparatively higher amount of sugar intake that leads to cavities.  When metabolized in the bloodstream, sugar is highly acidic, and because blood is the body's amazing superhighway, this leads to the breakdown of teeth, among many other symptoms of unbalanced health.


Simply put, outside the body lemon juice is acidic; inside the body after its minerals dissociate, its effect is alkalizing.  So in fact, lemon juice is both acidic and alkalizing.

Now what are its long-term benefits, indicators of general pH level in the body, and exceptions for those who would not be recommended to take it?

10 BENEFITS of Drinking Warm Lemon-Water (i.e. not claimed to be a "cure" for the following conditions)

Helps to:

  • Decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol
  • Cut through and reduce phlegm congesting the lungs and sinuses, or phlegm expressed externally as pus (ex. acne, boils, shingles)
  • Cut through adipose (fat) and cellulite tissue to assist weight loss, especially when taken first thing in the morning before breakfast
  • Decrease “fatty” liver
  • Astringe body fluid to help prevent abnormal fluid discharge (ex. night sweats, spontaneous daytime sweats, seminal leakage, urine incontinence, bedwetting) - this is based on over 4000 years of Traditional Chinese Medicine in which each flavour in food is understood to have a therapeutic purpose, and "sour" flavoured foods are used in herbal medicine to help astringe unwanted leakage of body fluids
  • Maintain teeth and mouth health
  • Reduce sweet, pastry and gluten cravings (which all cause acidic environments in the body)
  • Detoxify and alkalize acidic conditions seen in many diseases ailing people today (ex. rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, degenerative arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis, obesity, gout, diabetes type II, multiple sclerosis, digestive disorders, allergies, chronic fatigue)
  • Nourish and relax tight fascia tissue – ligaments, tendons and connective tissue
  • Maintain glowing, moisturized healthy skin and boost immunity

General pH Level Indicator
Keeping your dosage of lemon juice per 1 cup water consistent, a simple indicator of whether your body is more acidic or alkaline is whether lemon juice in hot or warm water tastes sour or not.  If the sour taste is strong, your body is very acidic.  If it’s not sour at all and even tastes like lemonade to you (without the sugar), your body is in a healthier, more alkaline state.

Depending on a) your ratio of lemon juice to water; b) body’s level of acidity; and c) consistency in daily intake, the taste of lemon-water should eventually not taste very sour at all.

Those who would not be recommended to regularly take lemon-water are those who have strong acid reflux (heartburn) or ulcers (known or unknown) – mouth, esophageal or stomach ulcers.  In these cases, lemon juice will cause an irritating “burning” sensation, because it has not yet been metabolized by the body and is still in its acidic state when passing these areas of the gastrointestinal tract.  Therefore, other remedies would be suggested.

Click Why is Lemon Water Alkaline? to watch a short video explanation, or read Dr. Robert Young’s book, The pH Miracle for more information.

NOTE: Taking LIME juice in warm water has similar benefits to drinking warm lemon-water.  See this comparison of nutrition facts between raw lemon and lime juice.

Resources: For evidence-based information on the benefits of lemon juice, read the following:

Lemon Rx: 12 Evidence-Based Reasons Why It Is A Powerful Medicine

The antimicrobial effects of Citrus limonum (Lemon) and Citrus aurantium (Bergamot) essential oils on multi-species biofilms

Sedative, anxiolytic and antidepressant activities of Citrus limon (Burm.) essential oil in mice

Impacts of fresh lime juice and peel on atherosclerosis progression in an animal model

Identification of Coumarins from Lemon Fruit (Citrus limon) as Inhibitors of in Vitro Tumor Promotion and Superoxide and Nitric Oxide Generation

Inhibition of Human Breast Cancer Cells by Citrus Limonoids

Further Studies on the Anticancer Activity of Citrus Limonoids

Citrus Limonoids: Analysis, Bioactivity and Biomedical Prospects

Bioactive compounds from Mexican Lime (Citrus aurantifolia) Juice Induce Apoptosis in Human Pancreatic Cells

Neuroprotective Effects of Citrus Flavonoids

"He who does not know food, how can he understand the diseases of man?"

- Hippocrates (460 - 357 B.C.)

Last Updated Friday, 13 June 2014 16:37
This article was written by Dr. Mee Lain Ling
All articles by Dr. Mee Lain Ling

Comments Refresh  

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k 2014-06-27 17:24
lemon juice and gout , my own experiment or test with gout was my father who after being subscribed with medication and then more medication was proving more detrimental to his well being with no improvement with his gout. After doing some research I discovered lemon juice with warm water for relieving gout.
After about 3 to 4 months it eased and never returned after suffering for it for two years, he hasn't changed any diet or lifestyle he is now more active than he once was. He no longer takes any western medicine and has never told his doctor who probably wouldn't have believed him but would prefer to push medication since its in their interests to do so. I am not a doctor but believe once you reach 76 the bodies ability to regulate blood acidic levels varies, perhaps the lemon stops acidic crystals from forming who knows but at least it seems to work and so far after a year and half it hasn't returned.
To the hot shots in here who seem to know what goes in the body; I suffered from bouts of diarrhea coming and going I had 4 blood tests and various other tests for dietary problems etc. No one could find a solution I was emptying my larger bowel which by all accounts wasn't particular delightful or good for my health I realized it had to be food. It turned out it to be the humble blueberry which was creating my problems since I used to occasionally eat them on my cereal at least three times a week.
It appears once I researched digestive systems very little is really understood a handful of little berries created what looked like major health problems for myself, western doctors have one tool box which they believe fits all - it doesn't. However I do occasionally wonder about lemons other cousin the humble lime!
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Rajbir 2014-07-07 18:26
Hello Dr Ling!
I have Ecoli and they thrive in Acidic environment. Indian cuisine makes the stomach highly acidic. From this article, I deduce that Lemon will act as an alkaline agent.

I am allergic to Lemon if it touches my skin. What if lemon also does some reaction inside my body? What is the other best way to remove/reduce acidity in my stomach.
Acidity is troubling me a lot, and my stomach and digestive process is very delicate.
Kindly advice what steps I should take to control this. I can also change my diet. What type of tea's can help me.
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Tina 2014-07-08 17:35
Let's all go have a warm glass of lemon juice and calm down. Life is good. Be happy. Be encouraging. Don't argue. Learn and let learn. It's a good thing to share and not be nasty about it. OK? So drink some juice just because it's good for you.....and go out and get some sunshine!
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Kerjun 2014-07-09 21:35
No on here is arguing that lemon juice does not have health benefits. The main arguments are that the author's claims that it is alkalinizing, the body benefits from alkalinization, and that lemon juice is beneficial because it's alkalanizing, are incorrect. The facts have been stated.

Now if lemon juice did something good for someone, that's great. But that is based on personal anecdote and not scientific evidence. It may be reported as a personal anecdote but true doctors should not prescribe based on personal anecdotes - the highest standard of scientific evidence should be met, otherwise it can be considered poor practice.

There is a reason that so called "western" medicine is prescribed. In order to even be approved, they have to meet standards of scientific evidence in clinical trials o show that they in fact work and to reveal what the side effects and dangers are. If so called "alternative" medicine was backed by enough evidence, it will be accepted as mainstream rather than alternative.

Statins for example, the gold standard class of medication for efficacy in reducing cholesterol and preventing heart attacks, came from a natural compound in red yeast rice which people noticed had beneficial health effects. It was studied by scientists and the compound in the red yeast rice responsible for the cholesterol lowering was identified, isolated and purified, and that is how the first statin medication, lovastatin, came about. Over time, pharmaceutical scientists figured out ways to modify the parent compound to make it more effective, last longer, and have less interaction with other medication and that is how the other stations such as Lipitor came about. The point is, there is a reason alternative medicine is not mainstream. However, reliable scientific evidence is able to reveal the efficacy of something such that it can be accepted as mainstream, such as in the case of statins, which is just one example of countless many. Currently, most alternative treatments simply don't have good evidence to support their use but researchers do examine such things. Lemon juice happens to not be evidence backed for health benefits.

One last thing - prescribers do not benefit from prescribing more medications here. There is a pharmacy-physician barrier that prevents a conflict of interest. Physicians do not have any financial gain from prescribing medications and any pharmacy who colludes and shares a portion of the revenue from providing prescriptions with a referring prescriber will lose their license or at minimum, at least here in the U.S.

One thing I witnessed when I went to China at a nationally renowned alternative medicine company that provides herbals is that a "doctor" will listen to your pulse, tell you what your health problems are, and then go on to recommend the very herbal products that they sell there in order to remedy your problems - I was part of a group touring the place. I'm a healthy young adult male who is physically very active and has a balanced diet and they told me I had liver problems just based on their 5 minute assessment of me from feeling my pulse. If you are male, they assume you smoke because mostly every male in China (or at least Beijing) smokes. Not a single person in the room was told that they are healthy. And they make thousands of dollars from sales to a single group. I'll leave it up to you to put 2 and 2 together.

I'm just pointing out the dangers of not having that separation between prescriber and medication provider. Here in the states at least, we put great emphasis on minimizing conflicts of interest as to prevent any kind of distrust with the medical professions. I mean if someone is prescribing you a drug, can you be sure that it is because you need it? Or is it because they are making money off of it? You want to be sure. Prescribers don't make money from prescribing things here, and in fact if someone prescribes inappropriately against medical standards, if they are audited, they get in trouble.
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Kerjun 2014-07-09 21:54
Quoting Rajbir:
Hello Dr Ling!
I have Ecoli and they thrive in Acidic environment. Indian cuisine makes the stomach highly acidic. From this article, I deduce that Lemon will act as an alkaline agent.

I am allergic to Lemon if it touches my skin. What if lemon also does some reaction inside my body? What is the other best way to remove/reduce acidity in my stomach.
Acidity is troubling me a lot, and my stomach and digestive process is very delicate.
Kindly advice what steps I should take to control this. I can also change my diet. What type of tea's can help me.

E. Coli, and most bacteria relevant to us do not thrive in an acidic environment in fact, that is why stomach acid is one of our defenses against foreign pathogens. The acid simply destroyed them... Very few bacteria relevant to us, helicobacter pylori which causes severe stomach ulceration for example, live in an acidic environment.

Every person on this earth has E. Coli. It is part of the natural flora that resides in our gut. If E. Coli is multiplying in your blood however, that is an entirely different story and would be a very serious situation that would likely lead to septic shock and death in a short amount of time if not treated immediately with antibiotics. In orther cases, E.coli can travel to the genital area and cause urinary tract infections. And that is why girls always should wipe from front to back. Normal nonpathogenic bacteria in our gut actually helps us by reducing the chances of our gut getting colonized by pathogenic bacteria. So you unless you have a really compelling reason, you most likely do not want to eradicate the E.coli you have in you. And even if you wanted to, it would be extremely difficult to eradicate all E.coli in your gut. Your gut is simply a place that will not ever be sterile.
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Kerjun 2014-07-09 22:03
Quoting Rajbir:
Hello Dr Ling!
I have Ecoli and they thrive in Acidic environment. Indian cuisine makes the stomach highly acidic. From this article, I deduce that Lemon will act as an alkaline agent.

I am allergic to Lemon if it touches my skin. What if leHiimon also does some reaction inside my body? What is the other best way to remove/reduce acidity in my stomach.
Acidity is troubling me a lot, and my stomach and digestive process is very delicate.
Kindly advice what steps I should take to control this. I can also change my diet. What type of tea's can help me.

Forgive me for not completely answering your question fully. If stomach acidity is truly the cause of your problems, the best short term solution is to neutralize stomach acid. Calcium carbonate (e.g. TUMS or equivalent) is great for that as the side effects are minimal (once it reacts with the stomach acid, it's byproducts are carbon dioxide and water which the body easily deals with, you get a decent amount of calcium which is good for your bones among other things, and lastly, unlike some other stuff, it tastes great.

For a long term solution, you may have to examine your diet and eliminate some of the agitating foods (usually things like sour, fatty, spicy , fried foods, and coffee). Make sure you're clear on the differences between indigestion and stomach pains due to acidity (which can cause ulcers and heartburn). Indigestion and associated is a completely different problem.
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Allen Hagler 2014-07-10 17:11
This has been a very interesting and useful exchange of information. I thank people for comments on both sides of this issue. Medicine and nutrition are areas of knowledge that involve a lot of tradition and faith including faith in science. Some people do not have much faith in science and have every right to that position. Sometimes science is wrong and new knowledge causes us to rethink things and do new research to correct our knowledge. Science has been very useful and is the basis of much of modern medicine. Much of modern medicine has come from traditions which were found by science to be true. But many traditional cures have been found to have no sound scientific basis. Sometimes things without scientific support do work, we just can not explain how. I have seen no direct proof that citric acid changes the pH of blood in our circulatory systems, much less that this is responsible for purification by removal of toxins from our bodies. But if it tastes good and has other positive effects on health. So go ahead and drink citric acid containing juices, just don't expect any miracles. I continue to drink my warm diluted lime juice.

Thank you Kerjun for pointing out that we all have E. coli because it is part of our normal biota. This usually is not a harmful species. Some strains can become pathogenic by picking up some kinds of plasmids. However, most microbes are not pathogenic and many are important to our survival.

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