Drinking Lemon Water with Baking Soda for Digestive Health Is Way Overhyped, Says a Dietitian
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Baking soda, a.k.a. sodium bicarbonate, is a common baking ingredient because it reacts quickly by producing bubbles when exposed to a liquid and an acid—this is how baking soda leavens foods. “Baking soda is also a key ingredient in many over-the-counter antacids because it’s alkaline; it reduces stomach acid by neutralizing the acid in your gut with its higher—more basic—pH,” says Bianca Tamburello, RDN, a nutrition marketing specialist at FRESH Communications. “This is how antacids, and even baking soda alone, can lessen indigestion and heartburn.”

ICYMI, we just learned that adding a pinch of baking soda to your coffee can help reduce its acidity, which can make the beverage easier to digest and less irritating on the gut, especially for those who have a sensitive stomach that doesn’t react well to acidic drinks. And given Tamburello’s explanation of how baking soda works, the science behind this makes a ton of sense. It also begs the question: Can baking soda lower the acidity of lemon water, too?

Lemon water with baking soda: lame or legit?

At the very least, adding a pinch of baking soda to your morning glass of lemon water seems like a great combo for those suffering from heartburn, especially given that lemons can aggravate acid reflux, right? According to Tamburello, however, it’s not quite that simple.

Tamburello notes that drinking lemon water with a small amount of baking soda dissolved may help with slight indigestion symptoms caused by acid in the stomach, but that it’s not right for everyone to so. She also affirms that this isn’t recommended for long-term use. “It’s important to not jump cup-swinging into this trend, but to ask your doctor if drinking lemon water with baking soda is right for you first,” she says. This will help determine what could be causing your indigestion in the first place—rather than “covering it up” by adding a pinch of alkaline baking soda to the high-acid beverage. If lemon water is irritating your stomach, Tamburello says that it’s probably smart to just ease off of drinking it entirely and try something else, like plain water, sparkling water, or even cherry water.

What’s happening in your gut when you drink lemon water with baking soda

The citric acid in lemon water has its benefits, but there are some drawbacks. “The acidity of lemon water could agitate those with GERD and exacerbate diarrhea for those with sensitive stomachs,” says Tamburello. “Additionally, the acidity of drinking lemon water over a long period of time may weaken teeth enamel. Adding baking soda, a base, to your lemon water, an acidic liquid, can help neutralize the acidity and limit negative side effects, however, this also limits some of the beneficial aspects of lemon water, such as better digestion.”

Tamburello goes on to emphasize the fact that as a registered dietitian, she does not recommend adding baking soda to your lemon water. “Again, if lemon water is harsh on your stomach, skip the lemon juice and drink water plain,” she says.

“Adding baking soda, a base, to your lemon water, an acidic liquid, can help neutralize the acidity and limit negative side effects, however, this also limits some of the beneficial aspects of lemon water, such as better digestion… If lemon water is harsh on your stomach, skip the lemon juice and drink water plain,” Tamburello says.

Bottom line: While Tamburello says that there is some research that supports using lemon water and baking soda separately for the digestion and anti-acid benefits respectively, there isn’t much in the way of using them in combination, which is why for now it’s arguably a drink trend you might want to skip.

Lemon water, if your stomach can tolerate it, is A-okay on its own

As for lemon water alone, while it gets a lot of buzz from the health glitterati, the biggest benefit of the elixir is hydration—which you can also get from drinking a glass of good ‘ol plain tap, too. “Staying hydrated is important for overall health and regular body functioning, but there is some limited research showing benefits of also adding in some lemons,” says Tamburello. “One study looked at the impact of drinking lemon before meals and found that lemon water helped increase stomach contractions for better digestion and the vitamin C in lemons can help boost your immune system.” Plus, Tamburello says that if you’re a coffee drinker, it’s beneficial to drink water (with or without lemon) before your morning cup of Joe to promote hydration for the rest of the day.

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