Promoting Digestion With Fresh Lemon

  • Natasha KaurBiomedical Science – Bachelors of Science, University of Lincoln, UK
  • Stephanie LeadbitterMSc Cancer Biology & Radiotherapy Physics, BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science, University of Manchester, UK

Lemons are some of the most widely consumed fruits and are rich in citric acid, vitamin C and lemon polyphenols which have been found to alleviate fatigue.

If you have been struggling with digestion and have tried everything and anything to help, why not go back to the basics and give lemon a go. Whether that’s lemon water before breakfast, in drinks or in meals, lemons have many antimicrobial benefits for the body.


Importance of digestion

Effective digestion occurs when your body mechanically breaks down food into smaller substances for absorption in the bloodstream.

Your food contains three main macronutrients that need to be properly digested before they can be absorbed. These are fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Defects or issues with the digestion mechanism can lead to problems such as gastrointestinal issues and nutritional deficiencies.1

Food begins to be digested in the upper digestive system then later passes into the small bowel and colon to allow chemicals to further digest the food.2

Role of fresh lemon

Fresh lemon and lemon juice contributes towards normal digestion and antioxidant effects. They provide action against fatigue and gastrointestinal issues such as bloating.

Fresh lemon can aid in reducing puffiness in the face and also skin radiance with its antioxidants and detoxifying properties.

Nutritional benefits of fresh lemon

A raw fresh lemon contains:

  • Vitamin C total ascorbic acid: 53mg
  • Fiber: 2.8g
  • Magnesium: 8mg
  • Potassium: 138mg

Vitamin C itself plays a key role in processes such as:

  • Neutralizing free radicals
  • Making collagen
  • Metabolising proteins
  • Absorbing iron
  • Delaying the growth of certain cancers
  • Regenerating other antioxidants

The natural antioxidant health benefits of lemon are commonly associated with the fruits vitamin C and flavonoid content.4

How fresh lemon promotes digestion

Lemon juice has been shown to improve overall health by aiding digestion and stimulating natural detoxifying activities of your kidneys and liver.

Lemon juice lowers your glycemic response and increases gastric secretion and rate of emptying. The simple reason for this is the disruption of starch hydrolysis through the acid inhibition of salivary α-amylase.3

The high acidity from lemons stimulates hydrochloric acid (HCL) production, which is a major contributor to better digestion. HCL converts the undigested food pepsinogen into the enzyme pepsin. Following this, food is digested.

Since the acidity from both the lemon and the hydrochloric acid kills viruses, bacteria and parasites that may have contaminated food, you are provided with immune benefits.

Another way lemons improve digestion is by decreasing constipation. A low gut or bowel movement may be due to low acid or enzymes. Slow movement in the gut or digestive system will slow down the digestive process and hence result in constipation.

Lemon also supports bile production. Doesn’t sound the most pleasant but the production of bile supports the digestive process by breaking down the fatty acids left in the digestive tract. This can be supported easily by including lemon water in your diet.

Preparing and consuming fresh lemon for digestion

Lemon water recipes

Lemon water - one of the quickest, easiest, and tastiest ways to include lemon into your diet daily. For a simple lemon water you may not need a recipe, however, if you wanted to get the proportions right, here are a few recipes to give a go!

  • A single glass of lemon water
  • Cut a whole lemon in half
  • Pour yourself a glass of water approx 250ml
  • Squeeze the juice of ½ a lemon into your water, avoiding the seeds
  • Mix and enjoy

Optionally, you can enhance the flavour or increase the health benefits by adding any or a mix of the following:

  • Few leaves of mint
  • Maple syrup/ honey
  • Fresh cucumber
  • Lime juice
  • Berries

Lemon in meals

Lemon zest is the outer skin of the fruit. It is often grated into meals to bring a zingy flavour to any meal.

Why not try:

Creamy lemon and spinach pasta bake

  • A comforting vegetarian pasta bake

Lemon-tahini couscous with chicken and veggies

  • Quick and easy

Salmon with lemony mashed peas

  • An omega-3 rich, healthy option

Lemon-garlic butter scallops

  • A healthy and light meal option

Lemons are also great to squeeze over salads as extra flavour and some vitamin C.

Lemons can be easily incorporated into desserts such as:

  • Healthy lemon bars
  • Lemon muffins - A light, airy and lemony, easy lemon muffins with an extra citrus hit thanks to a simple glaze made with lemon juice and sugar

Lemon tea recipe

When you hear “lemon tea”, you may be getting flashbacks to the winter flu, but lemon tea in the morning with added honey is a warming drink for any cold day and is beneficial for your immune system.


  • Mix honey and fresh lemon juice in the bottom of a cup while boiling water in a kettle
  • Add the hot water over the honey and lemon juice and stir well to combine
  • Sweeten with extra honey if preferred

You may want to add fresh ginger for additional health benefits.

Timing and frequency of lemon consumption

If you are including lemon water in your diet, you should ideally drink this on an empty stomach first thing in the morning before breakfast. This will allow any stomach contents to be absorbed before you restart your daily diet.

If you do this, ensure you wait 30 mins before brushing your teeth due to the reactive nature of lemons and fluorine.

Hot lemon water before bed is a good way to keep hydrated without falling for sugary drinks. The antioxidant effects and detoxifying properties will support the production of collagen and bodily functions while you sleep.

An excessive intake of lemons, or any citric fruit, may be harmful so balance and moderate intake is key. This means that including it one to three times a day for an average person is sufficient. More than two to three lemons could irritate your gastrointestinal tract and cause heartburn.

Precautions and Considerations

Dental health

While focusing on body health, it is important to not forget about oral health. Lemons are high in citric acid. Excessive or direct intake of lemons can cause tooth enamel to dissolve so it is recommended to use a straw to consume lemony drinks and avoid brushing for at least 30 minutes after as the enamel may be soft. Brushing may remove enamel and increase tooth sensitivity especially over an extended period of time.

Lemon allergy

Allergy to citrus fruits is a clinical diagnosis and is due to cross-reactivity in these individuals.5

A general food allergy includes the following symptoms:

  • Feeling dizzy or light-headed
  • Itchy skin
  • Coughing, wheezing
  • Sneezing
  • Feeling sick
  • Tummy pain
  • Diarrhoea

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

GERD – also known as gastrooesophageal reflux disease, is a gastrointestinal condition which is described as the regurgitation of gastric contents back up into the oesophagus. It is caused by many things, including the exposure of the oesophagus to acidic food items such as lemon juice.6 GERD clinically presents as heartburn and regurgitation.

If you have GERD, it is not recommended to consume an excessive amount of citric fruit such as lemon and if you do, you should do so moderately while monitoring symptoms.


Lemons are a great source of vitamin C, antioxidants and citric acid, all of which either directly or indirectly contribute to improved digestion. With improved digestion and general detoxifying qualities, it is often accompanied by a reduction in fatigue as well as many other general benefits such as skin radiance and a reduction in bloating too.

For this reason, lemons are encouraged to be consumed in moderation but also as part of your daily diet. Improving digestion improves your metabolism, enabling you to lose weight faster and generally feel less sluggish.

Overall, the key point to remember is if you do not have a known medical condition causing indigestion then a balanced diet is significant. This includes eating fruit and vegetables alongside reducing fizzy drinks which is a key contributor to indigestion and bloating.

Any information in this article is for guidance only and is not meant to be a replacement for professional health advice.


  1. Patricia JJ, Dhamoon AS. Physiology, digestion. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023. Available from:
  2. Livovsky DM, Pribic T, Azpiroz F. Food, eating, and the gastrointestinal tract. Nutrients. 2020 Apr 2;12(4):986.
  3. Freitas D, Boué F, Benallaoua M, Airinei G, Benamouzig R, Lutton E, et al. Glycemic response, satiety, gastric secretions and emptying after bread consumption with water, tea or lemon juice: a randomized crossover intervention using MRI. Eur J Nutr. 2022 Apr;61(3):1621–36.
  4. Park YS, Kim I doo, Dhungana SK, Park EJ, Park JJ, Kim JH, et al. Quality characteristics and antioxidant potential of lemon (Citrus limon Burm. f.) seed oil extracted by different methods. Front Nutr. 2021 Sep 9;8:644406. Available from:
  5. Iorio RA, Del Duca S, Calamelli E, Pula C, Lodolini M, Scamardella F, et al. Citrus allergy from pollen to clinical symptoms. PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53680.6. Antunes C, Aleem A, Curtis SA. Gastroesophageal reflux disease. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Natasha Kaur

Biomedical Science – Bachelors of Science, University of Lincoln, UK

Natasha is a dedicated full-time student with a significant background in all things health and biology related, acquired over several years, which is why sharing concise health-related knowledge to the public has developed into one of her strong passions. Her interest lies in cancer-related topics, including her final year degree dissertation project, and so educating people about the disease is of particular interest to her. She has established recent experience in medical writing with Klarity Health which has pointed her into a full-time writing career, post graduating.

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