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A Simple Way to Give Yourself the Gift of Health

Gift of Health     Forming and practicing daily habits of health is the best way to enjoy a healthy body now and, at the same time, prevent health breakdowns down the road.  Each routine we develop pertaining to our diet and lifestyle serves to either build up or tear down our body’s ability to maintain optimal health and keep us free of disease.  The good news is that every small step we take today to improve our health will pay off in big dividends over time.

     The first health tip I would like to cover in this new series on healthy habits is the benefits of drinking lemon water – particularly warm lemon water made with the freshly squeezed juice of a half of a lemon first thing in the morning.  Drinking lemon water is a “win-win” health habit that can significantly impact your well-being.  Even the busiest person can find time to incorporate such an easy and fairly inexpensive habit into their day. 

How Drinking Lemon Water Can Benefit Your Health

     Gift of HealthOne benefit of regularly drinking lemon water is that it increases hydration for most people, a great health-booster in itself.  After a night’s sleep, the body’s tissues are dehydrated and in need of pure water to flush out toxins and improve energy production in the cells.  Starting the day with a cup of coffee, as many people do, actually depletes the body of water reserves as well as essential minerals and electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium due to its diuretic effects.

    Although caffeine’s stimulating effects may feel like a shot of energy for a time, it should be realized that this short-lived instant “energy” is due to the release of extra blood sugar in response to stress hormones the adrenal glands produce.  Unfortunately, upward surges in blood sugar inevitably plummet later on (a further stress to the body), leaving people feeling more fatigued and apt to consume additional caffeine or carbs to raise them back up.  Keeping the body’s emergency stress system in this “on” position eventually drains and weakens these important glands.  The result is worsening fatigue in addition to blood sugar imbalances that increase oxidative stress, inflammation, and free radical damage to the tissues of the body. 

     Lemon water, on the other hand, hydrates and oxygenates the body and leaves the body feeling revitalized.  Fresh lemon juice acts as a natural cellular energizer since it is the only food that possesses more of the health and energy promoting type of molecules (anions) in its atomic structure. 

    Gift of HealthHelping produce a genuine and lasting energy in the body is just one of many health benefits derived from lemons and drinking lemon water.  Consider some of these other wonderful ways lemons and drinking lemon water can contribute to greater health:

Balances pH Levels

     Even though lemons are an acidic fruit, they are very alkalizing to the body and blood once metabolized due to their high alkaline mineral content. Drinking lemon water regularly can help to remove overall acidity in the body that makes a person more prone to disease.  Lemon also helps to remove uric acid in the joints, a main cause of pain and inflammation.   For more information on balancing pH and how important it is to health, I would refer you to my article "Understanding pH - Your Health is in the Balance".

Provides Key Nutrients

     Lemons offer an array of vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients.  They are particularly rich in vitamin C (four times more than oranges and 187% of the recommended daily allowance) as well as other powerful anti-oxidants like vitamin A and vitamin E that help to neutralize damaging free radical activity in the body. Citrus fruits like lemon also contain a number of beneficial bioflavonoids that exert powerful anti-inflammatory effects and are able to reduce cellular oxidative damage.  These important phytonutrients enhance and prolong the action of vitamin C and are vital to ensure its absorption. Without natural citrus bioflavonoids, ascorbic acid is easily oxidized and can even be harmful to the body (many vitamin C supplements consist only of the ascorbic acid portion of vitamin C).Gift of Health

     Lemons also contain a number of B-complex vitamins such as thiamine (B-1), riboflavin (B2) pantothenic acid (B-5), pyridoxine and folate (B-9).  B vitamins are essential for energy production, nervous system support, heart and muscle health along with tissue repair, growth and development. Since B vitamins are water-soluble and easily lost, they must be replenished daily.  

     Additionally, lemons are quite high in potassium, an alkaline mineral that is an important component of cellular and bodily fluids and one that is vital for controlling heart rate and blood pressure as well as nerve function.  Phosphorus, calcium and magnesium are also found in significant amounts in lemon in addition to trace amounts of other minerals such as sodium, iron, selenium, manganese, copper and zinc. 

Supports the Immune System

     Since lemons are so high in vitamin C, they act as an immune system booster to help the body overcome colds and other viral or bacterial infections.  Antimicrobial compounds in lemons act like an antiseptic, cleaning the body and bloodstream of impurities and helping to negate the effects of microbes.  In addition, vitamin C enhances iron absorption in the body, which plays an important role in immune function. 

     Gift of HealthWhen a person is sick with a cold, sore throat or fever, lemons can play a key role in various healing remedies.  Besides its antibacterial properties, lemons work to decrease and help clear out mucus and phlegm produced within the body in response to these infections. If you have a sore throat with a cold, drinking hot water with lemon and a little honey can be helpful. The lemon cuts through the mucus while the honey provides soothing relief.  It can also be used to treat a fever by drinking the juice of one lemon mixed with warm water every hour until the fever breaks.

Helps with Weight Loss

     Drinking lemon water boosts weight loss in a variety of ways.  Even apart from adding lemon, just drinking water 30 minutes before a meal can help reduce appetite and prevent overeating.  The pectin fiber found in lemon further reduces hunger cravings.  

     Probably the most effective way drinking lemon water contributes to weight loss success is how it helps to stimulate fat metabolism in the liver, the body’s main fat-burning organ.  Not only does the liver metabolize fat, but it also plays a vital role in removing excess fat build-up by transporting it to the small intestine where it can be fully digested for proper assimilation or elimination. 

     When the liver is congested and overloaded with toxins, it cannot burn fat efficiently and unprocessed fats get stored, typically around the midsection.  The liver produces a soap-like substance known as bile to break down fat globules into particles small enough to be combined with water and eliminated.  The problem is that food chemicals, pesticides, drugs and other toxins congest bile and can lead to clogged bile ducts that constrict its flow and prevent the breakdown of fats.  In addition to increasing fat storage in the body, thickened and congested bile can lead to gallstones and gallbladder disease as well as what is known as fatty liver (a condition in which excess fat is stored in liver cells).

     How does drinking lemon water help?  It thins the bile and increases its production in the liver, which in turn, helps to flush fat out of the liver and promotes more efficient fat metabolism.  It also helps produces the enzymes the liver uses in its different detoxification pathways.

     Gift of HealthJust the increase in water from the practice of drinking lemon water helps with weight loss due to the fact that the liver is more efficient at using stored fat for energy when the body is well-hydrated.  Moreover, vitamin C from lemon helps raise and sustain the production of glutathione, the master antioxidant the liver requires to effectively detoxify toxins.  Since the body uses fat cells to store toxins, getting rid of toxic build-up helps eliminate another root cause of excess fat.

Enhances Gastrointestinal Function

     Drinking warm lemon water first thing in the morning is a great way to kick-start your digestive processes for the day.  Not only does it stimulate the flow of saliva and stomach digestive secretions to improve digestion but it also is helpful for keeping things moving due to its ability to stimulate peristalsis (wave-like muscle contractions that propel the movement of food and waste through the intestinal tract). 

     Drinking a half of glass of water with a teaspoon or so of lemon juice in it 30 minutes before meals can also be beneficial for preventing symptoms of indigestion such as heartburn, belching, bloating and intestinal gas when stomach acid is insufficient (similar to the effect of apple cider vinegar though milder).  This is especially true for meals that contain any significant amount of protein since an acidic environment is needed for the breakdown of protein.  However, consuming lemon juice just before or with the meals is not the best idea for digestion, especially when a meal contains any significant amount of carbohydrates.  A more acid environment can slow down the digestion and absorption of those nutrients.Gift of Health

Helps Cleanse the Body

     Lemons also act as a cleanser, purifier and detoxifier in the body to flush out impurities, toxins, and mucus. Their natural diuretic action contributes to a healthier urinary tract by getting rid of retained water and increasing the rate at which the kidneys are able to process and eliminate toxins and uric acid. 

     As already mentioned, elements in lemon liquefy the bile to keep the liver decongested.  Increased bile flow also results in more efficient elimination of waste through the colon as well as better digestion and absorption, especially of fats.  In addition, the citric acid in lemon helps maximize enzyme function to allow the detoxification pathways of the liver to function more effectively.

     The juice from lemons is the primary ingredient in a very popular “cleanse” commonly used for detoxification and health fasting purposes.  It is called the “Master Cleanser” and you can read more about how it works in part five of my "Detoxifying for Better Health" series.

Improves Outward Appearance

     Skin cannot look healthy when the body is holding onto toxins and the lymphatic system is congested.  Lemon’s cleansing and purifying benefits rejuvenate the body from within to help purge toxins from the blood that may contribute to blemishes and other types of skin problems.  It helps to cleanse the lymphatic system and stimulates blood flow to the skin, which can help to reduce cellulite.  Anti-oxidants in lemon also help to counteract wrinkles and other deteriorating effects stemming from free radical damage.  Consistent use of lemon water can act as an anti-aging remedy that will improve the overall appearance of your skin.Gift of Health

     Lemons have also been used externally as a natural treatment directly applied to the body for acne and blackheads, lightening dark spots, lessening oily skin, conditioning and whitening nails (used with olive oil), whitening teeth (used with baking soda) naturally highlighting hair, exfoliating dead skin cells off of chapped lips and for various other cosmetic purposes.

Tips for Drinking Lemon Water

     For optimal results, I would encourage you to read over the following guidelines and cautions related to lemons and drinking lemon water:

  • Drink lemon water on an empty stomach and delay eating for 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Use only fresh lemons and filtered water (bottled lemon juices contain preservative and is pasteurized at very high heat levels that destroy many of the nutrients).  Use organic lemons if possible as they are more likely to be tree-ripened and possess higher nutritional value.
  • Use the juice of ½ of a lemon to approximately eight ounces of water.
  • Lemon water should be lukewarm to moderately warm but NOT hot or boiling as the higher heat will destroy the enzymatic properties of the fresh lemon and certain nutrients.  Icy cold water, on the other hand, used with lemon counteracts its digestive benefits.
  • It is a good practice to follow drinking your cup of lemon water with a glass of plain purified water.  Additional water is beneficial to flush your system well plus the plain water serves to rinse any residue of the lemon off your teeth.
  • Gift of HealthFor optimum health benefits, consume lemon water once first thing in the morning and again an hour before dinner or bedtime.

Lemon Tips and Cautions

  • Lemons produce more juice when they are at room temperature or a little warm.  You can either place a refrigerated lemon in warm water for several minutes or you can let them sit out at room temperature overnight.  Rolling the lemon under the palm of your hand on a hard surface also helps produce more juice.
  • Use lemon as quickly as possible after cutting it.  After 30 minutes of exposure to oxygen, there is a loss of the negatively charged ions that give lemons their unique alkalizing and energizing properties.
  • While fresh squeezed lemon is best, a way you can make the process more convenient and time effective each morning is to fill an ice cube tray ahead of time with the lemon juice (1/2 of a lemon generally produces 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice).  Be sure to freeze it promptly and cover the tray with plastic wrap to reduce exposure to air. After the tray is completely frozen, you can pop the cubes out and place them in a freezer quality zip lock bag (keep as much air out as possible). Each morning, simply place one cube into a cup of hot water and stir it until it melts before drinking.
  • Consuming lemon water with added sweetener negates many of the health benefits of the fruit.
  • Avoid adding lemon to tea, especially black tea (herbal teas are no problem) as it can multiply the absorption of the aluminum contained in these teas from the GI tract by as much as six times and increase its entry into the brain (aluminum toxicity in the brain is linked to Alzheimer’s and dementia). 
  • Due to its degree of acidity, lemon juice that sits on teeth for any length of time can begin to erode the enamel.  You can protect your teeth in several ways.  To reduce the amount of contact with the lemon juice and your teeth, drink the lemon water in a short amount of time rather than sipping on it for a length of time.  If it really concerns you, you can use a straw to drink it to avoid contact altogether.  As already mentioned, the easiest thing to do is to simply drink some plain water after you finish your lemon water and swish that water in your mouth to rinse off any lemon residue from your teeth.  It is recommended that you avoid brushing your teeth for 30 minutes to an hour after drinking a stronger solution of lemon water (a very small amount in a glass of water is not that consequential) as the acid leaves the enamel softened and more prone to erosion during brushing.  When you do brush, use and a softer toothbrush and do not brush aggressively.


     So, enjoy this first health tip in our new series on healthy habits--the benefits of drinking lemon water-- and remember, forming and practicing daily habits of health is the best way to enjoy a healthy body now and, at the same time, prevent health breakdowns down the road. Give yourself the gift of health!

Copyright © 2008-2015 Lucinda Bedogne, CNHP, CNC

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