The lemon is perhaps one of the most versatile and useful fruits in existence. It’s been used for centuries as a cleanser, detox, zesty ingredient in cooking and beverages and as a potent source of vitamin C. Of course, the inevitable question this begs is, can lemons and kidney disease co-exist? The answer is a resounding yes! Lemon and kidney disease can enjoy a perfectly harmonious relationship. As always, when kidney issues are present or suspected, we must be especially vigilant of everything that goes into the body. So, can lemons have a place in a healthy kidney diet? Yes, absolutely! The benefits of including lemon in one’s healthy kidney diet are myriad.
What’s In A Lemon?
The bright yellow, zesty fruit otherwise known as the lemon has a pungent, mouth-puckering flavor due to its significant content of approximately 5% to 6% citric acid, giving it a pH of 2.2 and a distinctive sour flavor which has made it such a valued ingredient in a variety of drink and food recipes.
Lemons also contain a high amount of vitamin C, with nearly 64% of the daily nutritional value contained within just one fruit. They also contain phytochemicals, which are naturally-occurring chemicals that plants produce to resist fungal, bacterial and viral infections.
Lemons are also very rich in citric acid, which can help kill bacteria and lower acid levels in the urine. Among citrus fruits, lemon juice boasts a higher citric acid content than lime juice, grapefruit juice (twice as much) and even, orange juice (about five times as much!).
The vitamin C in lemons could potentially help lower blood pressure and prevent cardiovascular disease, which is an ever-present risk in those living with kidney disease.
When added to water, lemons can also help encourage people to drink more resulting in better hydration. Another positive correlation between lemon juice and kidney disease, is that it also helps keep the body alkaline which helps banish brain fog, supports heart health, keeps tissues and muscles fortified and can even repel candida overgrowth.
This brings us to our next point. Despite all of its other benefits, what can lemons do specifically for the kidneys? A lot of the information related to lemons and kidneys seems to be geared toward the relationship between lemon juice and kidney stones. Although kidney stones and kidney disease aren’t necessarily destined to intertwine, they can and often do. If someone has recurrent bouts of kidney stones, they could, for example eventually end up developing CKD.
Waste that builds up in the kidneys typically dissolves along with the liquid that passes through them. If, however, there is a surplus of salt and minerals, calcification of this waste can occur and this is when kidney stones form. The extreme pain experienced by people suffering from kidney stones is indicative of the kidney stone’s movement from the kidneys to the bladder through the tube known as the ureter.
Many doctors who have treated kidney stones advise that these patients should do everything they can to avoid future incidences of kidney stones, as this is the best way to prevent the kidneys from eventually developing kidney disease. Typically, staying very well hydrated is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent kidney stones, but adding lemon juice to that water can be even better.
Can lemon juice, lower your risk of getting kidney stones? (Along with lemonade and other juices)
Yes, lowering the risk of kidney stones can be done by drinking lemon juice. On the other hand, alternative beverages or supplements may do it more effectively.
Lemon juice offers assistance by providing citrate, which binds to calcium in the urine, preventing kidney storms from forming due to calcium. In addition citrate raises the pH of the urine, making it less acidic, which can also diminish the formation of kidney stones. In 20% to 60% of people with kidney stones, the amount of citrate in urine is lower than normal.
To increase citrate in the urine, one needs to increase citrate intake. Consequently, supplementing with potassium citrate, sodium citrate, or potassium-magnesium citrate is often recommended for kidney-stone formers who have hypocitraturia. A typical daily dose is 30 to 60 mEq (milliequivalents) (equal to 3,240 to 6,480 mg) of potassium citrate divided into two doses taken with or shortly after meals. However, this is a bulky amount (more than 3 to 6 grams) of potassium citrate and gastrointestinal side effects occur in approximately 10% of patients using these supplements (Prezioso, Arch Ital Urol Andro 2015).
Another option besides taking supplements is to drink certain citruses, like lemon juice, that are high in citrate. In fact, grapefruit juice has an even higher concentration of citrate (197.5 mEq/L) than lemon juice (145.5 mEq/L). Just be cautious that grapefruit juice can interact with many medications, including benzodiazepines (Valium, Xanax), certain statin drugs (Lipitor, Zocor) and others.
Now that we know how beneficial lemons can be for safeguarding kidney health and potentially preventing kidney disease from ever happening, we’ll also explore the benefits of lemons for people who already have chronic kidney disease.
Lemons and Kidney Disease
Although people with kidney disease need to be cautious about what they drink and eat, lemon water and kidney disease are a safe combination and a healthy way to encourage more adequate regular hydration, especially for people who find plain water to be bland and boring. Exercise caution, however, as people in later stages of kidney disease may need to make sure they aren’t drinking too much, as this can lead to water retention. It’s also important to brush one’s teeth regularly as lemon water can erode the enamel of the teeth, especially when consumed with great frequency.
Preparing the Best Glass Of Lemon Water
Lemon water is essentially just the squeezed juice of the lemon added to water and mixed together. Some people will add honey, turmeric, mint, cloves or cinnamon, but it can be enjoyed on its own as well. With the addition of a sweetener like sugar or agave, lemon water turns into lemonade which has enjoyed enduring popularity throughout the years. During the winter months, lemon water can be enjoyed as a tea and during the summer, it makes for a supremely hydrating thirst-quencher. We advise drinking 1-2 glasses of lemon water a day to start.
Lemon water contains very few calories, no fat, no sugar and only trace amounts of protein and potassium. The juice itself has abundant amounts of vitamins B, C and folate.
As mentioned above, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which abounds in lemons. Due to its status as an antioxidant, vitamin C has the ability to prevent tissue injury and scavenge free radicals, the same substances which are responsible for several types of cancers.
When it comes to lemon and kidney disease, this citrus superfruit can be especially beneficial in a variety of distinct ways:
- Vitamin C protects the kidney from inflammation and free radicals
- The extra fluid cleanses the kidney by removing the toxins
- The acidity of the juice can help prevent the development of certain types of kidney stones
- Drinking lemon water regularly can help boost the immune system. It is the presence of vitamin C which actually boosts the immune cells.
- May help prevent constipation and regulate bowel movements
Citrus fruits also contain plentiful amounts of substances called flavonoid compounds, which are known to help fight disease and enhance good health due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. By decreasing damage to the tissues, lemon water can help reduce the risk of many co-morbid conditions which particularly plague the CKD community. Conditions such as: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, several types of cancer, and obesity.
Freshness Is Key
It is important to make lemon water fresh as it tastes much better. For each glass, you may need one/two lemons. Try and pick slightly ripe lemons with a yellowish tinge on the skin. Very green lemons can be bitter. Cut the lemon into two halves and squeeze the juice into a glass. You should add water according to your taste. You can add a variety of spices (cinnamon, cloves, ginger), herbs (mint leaves), or honey to enhance the taste. Store the freshly made juice in the fridge for half an hour and drink when cold.
If you prefer to buy freshly squeezed lemon juice, always read the label because most commercial brands are heavily processed and may contain large amounts of preservatives, sugar, and other coloring agents. Plus in the long run, it is more expensive to buy commercial lemon water.
Is Lemon Water Safe to Drink Regularly?
Humans have been drinking lemon water for centuries and overall it is a safe beverage. However, the acidity in the lemon juice may cause tooth sensitivity or damage the enamel in some people, making the teeth prone to cavities. To avoid this problem, drink lemon water through a straw to protect the teeth. Secondly, always rinse the mouth with water after each drink.
Whether you drink the lemon water hot or cold makes no difference in terms of health benefits. It is simply a matter of personal preference.
Lemon is such an amazing alkalizer for the kidneys and for the body in general, that we often recommend it as a morning detox in our special reports which come with many of our supplements. Here’s the special recipe we swear by!
A.M. Kidney Detox
½ to 1 fresh lemon
½ tbsp of turmeric/curcumin
Filtered water (carbon filtered, reverse osmosis or distilled)
- Boil 14 to 16oz of water. When it reaches boiling point add in ½ tbsp of turmeric/curcumin and boil for 10 minutes.
- When water is cool enough for drinking, add ½ to 1 fresh squeezed lemon.
- Drink the full cleanse or at least 8 ounces. Wait 30 to 45 minutes before consuming any food.
Why This Works
By doing this first thing in the morning you will clear out built up toxins without the interference of food digestion, elimination and fluids. Fresh lemon is a great way to alkalize the body. The kidneys have to regulate the bodies’ acid/alkaline balance. Fresh lemon lets the kidneys rest and recover, as it supplies alkalinity so the kidneys don’t have to provide this function. Therefore, the kidney can rest, recover and heal. In the U.S., curcumin is a powerful ingredient within the spice turmeric, which helps reduce inflammation in the kidneys. Every form of kidney disease has some degree of inflammation. Therefore, curcumin is an excellent addition to this kidney cleanse. By boiling, it increases the absorption providing more anti-inflammatory benefits.
Are you looking for a healthy kidney dessert that can satisfy even the strongest of sweet tooth cravings? Look no further. This lemon square recipe is a favorite from the National Kidney Foundation of Georgia’s kidney-themed cookbook “Kidney Kooking” and proves that lemon and kidney disease can coexist peacefully (and deliciously!).
1 cup powdered sugar (divided use)
1/4 teaspoon salt (divided use)
1 cup all-purpose white flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, slightly beaten
4 tablespoons lemon juice (divided use)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon lemon rind. grated
- To make crust mix together 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, 1/8 teaspoon salt, flour and 1/2 cup butter.
- Pour into ungreased 8″ square pan and bake at 350º F for 15 minutes. Remove from oven.
- To make filling mix together granulated sugar, baking powder, 1/8 teaspoon salt, beaten eggs, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and grated lemon rind.
- Pour over crust and spread evenly.
- Return to oven and bake 20 minutes longer at 350º F. Remove from oven and cool.
- To make icing mix together remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar and 1 tablespoon softened butter.
- When crust and filling layers are completely cool, spread icing over the top.
- Refrigerate. Cut into 36 squares. Lemon squares also freeze well. Place on a tray and freeze then store in a freezer bag or container.
Is there a favorite lemon-themed healthy kidney beverage or food you enjoy?
Something else about lemon and kidney disease you’d like to share?
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