You’ve probably heard celebs, fitness experts, and health gurus tout the benefits of drinking warm water with lemon. It seems like everyone’s doing it: Gwyneth Paltrow, Naomi Campbell, Deepak Chopra, your yoga teacher, my mom (just to name a few). If you’re wondering why it’s such a big deal, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to find out how lemon-infused water may help improve your health, and what science has to say on the matter.

Stimulates and aids digestion

According to Ayurveda — a 5,000-year-old whole-body healing system that originated in ancient India — drinking warm water with lemon promotes healthy digestion and the elimination of toxins.

I spoke to Shivani Gupta, an Ayurvedic practitioner and educator, to understand how this practice can promote better digestive health. According to Shivani, “In Ayurveda we believe drinking warm or hot water before a meal aids in digestion. The digestive fire (Agni) is ignited and ready to digest when you are hungry.”

Although most of us prefer it, drinking cold water, she explains, “is like throwing ice on a fire.” It inhibits proper digestion and absorption (of nutrients into the body), and causes food and toxins to be left in the bowel, which can result in bloating, gas, and constipation.

Based on this ancient wisdom, health gurus like Deepok Chokra and David Wolfe make it a daily practice to drink warm water with lemon first thing in the morning to flush out any remaining toxins from the night before, stimulate bowel movements, and rev up the gastrointestinal tract.

So, what does science have to say about this ancient practice? According to Roxanne Sukol, MD, a preventive medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute, the citric acid in lemon water aids digestion by helping to break down food just as your digestive juices do. Lemon juice also promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut, which helps with digestion and absorption. So there is definitely a scientific basis to these Ayurvedic beliefs.

However, there are no studies that tell us whether the actual temperature of water has any benefit. Proper hydration of water at any temperature helps the body to function at its optimal level.

Helps you lose weight

Some proponents of lemon water swear by its weight loss properties. Again, this is largely based on the Ayurvedic belief that it aids digestion, promotes the elimination of toxins from the body, and, in addition, that it can help the body melt fat.

I hate to burst your bubble, but dieticians and physicians resoundingly agree that drinking lemon-infused water is not a fast track to losing weight. At best, it has a small and indirect impact. For example, if you’re replacing caloric drinks with lemon water, it’ll help you lose weight because you’re consuming fewer calories. Staying hydrated in general boosts your metabolism, which can also help weight loss. Additionally, lemon is a mild, natural diuretic, which can reduce bloating in the short term, making you appear slimmer.

But, there may be a kernel of truth to the ancient wisdom that lemon water can assist in melting fat, as studies have found that Vitamin C plays a role in fat oxidation and that individuals who have depleted levels of the vitamin are more likely to be overweight. However, assuming you already get an adequate amount of vitamin C in your diet — the Daily Value for adults is 60 mg per day, which can be met by eating a single orange — there is no evidence that consuming any more of it will stimulate weight loss.

Cleanses and detoxes

Celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Lauren Conrad drink lemon water to detox and cleanse. Added bonus: lemon’s cleansing properties can help you attain clearer skin, without resorting to chemical-laden skin products.

Some experts agree that lemon does facilitate the excretion of waste and toxins from the body. In addition to promoting the elimination of waste through the bowels (as we saw above), lemon water can stimulate the liver’s production of bile, which binds up fats and fat-soluble toxins (i.e. environmental pollutants and chemicals that get stored in fat) so they can be removed from the body. It’s also worth noting that drinking water on its own helps your kidneys filter waste out of the blood and remove it through urine.

So should you make it a ritual to drink warm lemon water? Try it out and see if you notice any changes! But remember: the most important thing you can do to support optimal body function, including cleansing and weight loss, is to drink water throughout the day. If sipping warm water is not your cup of tea (get it!?), then go for your preferred temperature (with or without lemon) — as long as you’re staying hydrated.

Angelika Schlanger, PhD, is a Yale-trained-researcher, Health Coach, blogger, food-system reformer, and mom to three healthy eaters (well, sometimes). She helps institutions, individuals, and families create a balanced wellness program that is tailored to their individual needs. Angelika enjoys concocting healthier versions of classic recipes, growing her own organic veggies, and taking long naps on the beach. Read her articles and tips at homehealthlove.com and follow her on Twitter @homehealthlove.

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