Healthy Drinks

‘I’m a Urologist, and Here’s How Drinking Lemon Water Impacts Your Bladder’

Photo: Stocksy/Milles Studio
Lemon water is often touted by wellness experts for its health benefits, particularly for those who don't exactly get excited at the prospect of drinking plain water but still want want to stay well-hydrated. That's why so many people swear by drinking lemon water as part of their daily wellness routine, especially first thing in the morning upon waking up. Lemon water can help to make you feel more awake and alert by replenishing your body's fluids—and you can't deny that the sharp, acidic zing from the citrus helps clear some of the morning blearies, too.

“Many people report that they benefit from drinking lemon water first thing in the morning," says Justin Houman, MD, a urologist available on Sesame. "They find it feels energizing and refreshing, alongside of course being thirst-quenching."

However, there might be other impacts that drinking lemon water can have on your body, particularly your bladder. Here’s what two urologists have to say about how lemon water impacts your bladder health—including whether it's beneficial or irritating—and provide recommendations for reaping the most bladder-boosting benefits from lemon water.

How Lemon Water Impacts Your Bladder

First off, let's quickly clear the air on one common misconception: Lemon water and lemonade are not the same. “Many people are told that lemon water and lemonade are natural treatments for common urological issues such as kidney stones, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and urinary incontinence, but in reality, lemonade is often full of bladder irritants like sugar and artificial coloring and flavoring, so those attempting to get the benefits of lemon water should not use lemonade as a substitute,” says Shenelle N. Wilson, MD, urologist and founder and CEO of Urology Unbound.

That being said, lemon water is certainly also no cure-all for bladder infections and doesn’t have miraculous powers that will make much of a difference in solving real-deal conditions like kidney stones or UTIs. "Lemon water will not dissolve existing stones, and it also won’t help stones pass any easier than if you were drinking plain water without lemon. Lemon water also does not prevent or treat UTIs or urinary incontinence, and any benefits derived for these conditions are due to the increased water intake associated with drinking lemon water and water in general," says Dr. Wilson. "If you have a UTI, for instance, drinking lemon water will not cause the infection to clear up on its own. You’ll likely need a round of antibiotics, as prescribed by a physician."

According to Dr. Wilson, however, it can work in tandem with other lifestyle habits and dietary measures to support your bladder and its health. "Drinking lemon water can be a healthy habit that encourages optimal bladder health by providing much-needed hydration to the body—and that’s enough of a reason to drink it in the day," she says. What's more, Dr. Wilson shares that drinking lemon water may help ward off the development or recurrence of kidney stones over time due to its ability to impact calcium oxalate formation, as shown in a recent study in the journal Europe PMC. “Lemon water can increase urinary citrate and urine pH, thereby potentially reducing one's risk for formation of the most common type of kidney stone, calcium oxalate," Dr. Wilson says.

Dr. Houman agrees, and adds this there may be slight immune- and digestion-boosting benefits to drinking lemon water as well. “Some patients who are prone to kidney stones are actually advised to drink freshly-squeezed lemon juice daily, as it may help reduce the chances of kidney stone formation, but more research is needed. The acidity of lemons can also help supplement the acidity in your stomach, which tends to decline with age, so drinking lemon water may help with digestion as we age,” he says. It's important to keep in mind that these benefits are likely minor—you're only consuming a small portion of a lemon by squeezing it into a glass of water, after all.

Are There Drawbacks To Drinking Lemon Water?

Despite the benefits of drinking lemon water, some people may get adverse reactions or feel GI or bladder discomfort from the acid. So if that’s the case, it’s best to ditch the lemons and focus on drinking plain water in adequate amounts each day to best serve bladder health and function. "Lemon water can irritate the bladder in some patients, causing the sensation where you feel like you need to urinate more often than usual,” says Dr. Houman. “Patients who are prone to irritative bladder symptoms in particular are advised to avoid citric foods, such as lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and tomatoes. Diluting your lemon water more heavily may decrease the irritative symptoms you are experiencing, but generally speaking, it's probably not worth it.”

Plain water offers virtually as many bladder benefits, adds Dr. Wilson, so you won't be missing too much if lemon water doesn't agree with your urological or digestive system. “Simply drinking at least two and a half liters of water daily is among the most important ways to help prevent kidney stones from recurring, so I would advise patients sensitive to lemon water discontinue the consumption of it if it causes them discomfort,” says Dr. Wilson.

Additionally, if you struggle with nocturia—or the need to urinate frequently in the middle of the night—lemon water before bed may not be the best idea. “There is no ideal time to drink lemon water, but since lemon is a natural diuretic, I would recommend patients who struggle with frequent urination at night to stop drinking it, as well as all other fluids, at least two hours before bedtime,” says Dr. Wilson.

Beyond that, Dr. Wilson says that there isn’t any negative influence on the bladder to worry about regarding lemon water. “There’s no drawback to drinking lemon water from a urological standpoint,” she says. So if you enjoy it for its flavor and find that it’s helpful for keeping you hydrated, drink as much as you like.

How to Drink Lemon Water

It doesn’t need to be fancy. You can drink lemon water warm—try boiling water and infusing it with lemon juice and zest—or you can squeeze lemon juice into a glass of cold water or pitcher and store it in the fridge for ease and accessibility. You can also sprinkle in anti-inflammatory spices like cayenne or turmeric, or drop in additional pieces of fruit or herbs for even more flavor and health benefits.

Bottom line

“Many who make a habit of drinking lemon water first thing in the morning consider it to be a healthy way to start a happy, productive day,” says Dr. Houman. Are who are we to suggest there's anything wrong with that? If you find that drinking lemon water in the morning improves your wellbeing and eases you into the day, then there’s zero reason to stop your daily practice.

“I've heard about the various ways people incorporate lemon water into their diet and drink it often myself,” agrees Dr. Wilson. “As a urologist, I don't manage my patients' mood or energy levels, but when I need to alkalinize a patient's urine, I discuss lemon water in that capacity. However, I also often prescribe medications for that purpose. So while I am a big believer and follower of naturopathic and dietary remedies, as a physician I don't make general recommendations for treatments or therapies that have not been really proven in the medical literature,” says Dr. Wilson.

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