When life gives you lemons, make lemonades, say some. We say, every once in a while, skip the lemonade. As much as you love lemons and swear by an early-morning lemon detox, you have to acknowledge that lemon juice has adverse effects. But the good news is that the side effects of lemon juice manifest only when you have too much.
Have No More Than 3 Cups Of Lemon Juice A Day
Lemon juice contains ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and citric acid, which makes up about 8% of the dry fruit weight. Together, these make lemon an acidic fruit, with a pH of around.
Ayurveda suggests not to mix lemon juice with milk, yogurt, tomatoes, and cucumber.
Most of the side effects of lemon are due to its high acidity, and some are due to vitamin C overdose.
That said, the risk of vitamin C overdose from lemons is quite rare. An adult man needs about 90 mg vitamin C every day and a woman needs 75 mg. Overdose-related health problems occur only when you exceed 2,000 mg. With an 8 oz cup of lemon juice containing 94.4 mg of vitamin C, you’d have to drink a preposterous amount to overdose – around 21 cups. But remember that it is not the only source of vitamin C in your diet and you might be taking supplements too.
As lemons are quite acidic and have a strong decaying effect on your teeth, always dilute the juice. The usual serving size for diluted lemon juice is 1 cup (240 ml or 8 oz), and 1 cup requires a little less than 1 lemon. Have no more than 2 lemons a day, which means you could have 3 cups of diluted lemon juice, spread across the day. Beyond that the citric acid load can become a concern. Also note that the standard amount of lemon juice when used as a cooking ingredient is 5 ml.
9 Side Effects Of Lemon Juice
1. Can Decay Tooth Enamel
Ever noticed how sensitive your teeth feel after you’ve sucked on a wedge of lemon? That’s because of the lemon acids acting on your tooth enamel.
Tooth enamel has a pH around 5.5, so it can be eroded by substances more acidic than it. Studies have shown that any acid below a pH of 4 can cause tooth erosion. Citric acid, malic acid (in apples and pears), and tartaric acid (in tamarind) are the worst culprits.
To protect your teeth, drink lemon juice through a straw to minimize contact with the teeth.
Like we discussed, lemon juice has a pH of around 2, thanks to its citric and ascorbic acid content. So when these acids act on the calcium in the tooth enamel, they erode the tooth. Moreover, lemon juice also has natural fruit sugars. Bacteria in the teeth break these down and cause further tooth damage.
Julia Morton, in her book, Fruits of Warm Climate, suggests that using it for a long time may even reduce the teeth to the level of gums. While that sounds extreme, a study does find that among a variety of soft drinks and fruit juices, lemon juice has the most erosive effect on teeth.
2. Can Worsen Canker Sores
Canker sores (little open sores inside the mouth) are often caused by an allergic reaction. You may get them if you are allergic to acidic foods like lemon juice.
Stay off lemon juice or dilute it well to avoid irritating canker sores.
There is little evidence to support the claim that lemon juice can cause canker sores in people who are not allergic. However, common sense and most doctors would advise you to stay off acidic foods like fruit juices and fizzy drinks when you have these lesions.
3. Can Worsen Heartburn, GERD, And Ulcers
Overdoing your lemon juice intake – even if you are just having it regularly in your food and not in medical doses – can have side effects. The acidic juice can irritate the lining of your stomach and your esophagus, bringing on a bout of heartburn or acid reflux.
Lemon juice can make your stomach acids move back up into the esophagus, causing heartburn.
This is because it activates the stomach enzyme pepsin, responsible for breaking down protein. When your digestive juices move backward, up to the throat and esophagus, you experience the burning sensation associated with acid reflux.
Studies have not, however, been able to definitively prove that the acidity in the lemon is the root problem. Still, for those with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or heartburn, avoiding too much lemon juice is one of the many essential dietary changes.
Those with stomach ulcers may find that having too much lemon interferes with the healing process.
4. Can Cause Nausea, Vomiting, And An Upset Stomach
Lemon juice is chock-a-block with vitamin C. While vitamin C is an essential nutrient, too much of it is a health hazard.
Nausea, vomiting, and an upset stomach after drinking lemon juice may indicate that you need to cut down on your vitamin C intake.
When you have too much lemon juice, your body cannot absorb all the vitamin C in it. To flush out the extra vitamin C and restore balance, water rushes into the bowel. Nausea, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea are typical symptoms of the problem.
But like we mentioned, it’s difficult to overdose on vitamin C. So you may not experience this side effect unless you are already taking a lot of vitamin C supplements.
5. Can Cause Frequent Urination And Dehydration
Drink a lot of water to make up for the water lost due to frequent urination.
As lemon juice increases urine production because of its high vitamin C content, some scientists suggest giving it to patients of hypertension or those with urinary diseases. So it’s essential that you increase your water intake too to avert dehydration.
6. Can Increase Iron Content Beyond Normal
Vitamin C increases non-heme iron (plant irons) absorption in your body. That’s bad news if you suffer from a rare inherited condition called hemochromatosis in which your body stores excess iron. Excess iron can damage your organs.
Cut down on your lemon juice intake if you know that your body stores more iron than usual.
The University of Virginia Health System claims that the amount of dietary vitamin C you normally consume is too low to cause problems, but it cautions against having orange juice with meals. A cup of orange juice has about 31% more vitamin C than 1 cup of lemon juice does. So it’s not necessary to skip lemon juice, but it might be a good idea to reduce your intake.
7. May Be A Trigger For Migraine Patients
If lemon juice is your migraine trigger, don’t go beyond 1/2 a cup of diluted juice.
For some people, citrus fruits like lemon may be a migraine trigger. In a study, 11% of 490 migraine patients said that eating citrus fruits brought on an attack. This is because citrus fruits have tyramine, a protein product, which has been seen to be a migraine trigger. You don’t have to avoid lemons altogether. Just lower your daily intake to half a cup.
8. Can Cause Sunburns
While lemon juice is a popular anti-tan remedy used to bleach the skin, it can backfire. If you are light-skinned, lemon juice can actually increase your chances of sunburn.
Lemon juice does help remove tan, but it is not a sunscreen. Don’t step out into the sun with lemon juice on your skin.This condition is called phytophotodermatitis (lime disease/margarita photodermatitis). It makes the skin sensitive to light and a sunburn can form after a mere 2.5 minutes out in the sun with lemon juice on the skin. Dark spots and blisters are often a fallout.
The misconception probably arose from the fact that your urine becomes slightly more alkaline after you have lemon juice. But that does not indicate your blood has become alkaline too. Lemon acids form salts like citrates, which are then excreted via urine. This may make the urine slightly more alkaline, but that only indicates that your body is flushing out the extra alkalis.
A Word Of Caution: Lemon Peels May Be Coated With Inedible Wax
Lemons you buy in a supermarket may be coated with wax. This is done to protect them from damage during shipping. Plant-based wax like carnauba or even insect-, animal-, or petroleum-based waxes may be used. Carnauba isn’t harmful, but the other waxes may not suit you. The wax on the peel is a concern if you crush the peel for juice or use it to infuse your water or use the zest in your dishes. It’s always a good idea to choose organically grown lemons.
Continue to have lemon juice, but in moderation. Its benefits outweigh its side effects. But if you want to use it to cure a medical condition, ask your doctor about the safe dosage. Also, if you are on certain medicines like aspirin or warfarin, ask your doctor about possible drug reactions.