Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a common condition where stomach acid frequently flows back up into the esophagus. This backflow of acid causes symptoms like heartburn, indigestion, and chest pain. Many people experience acid reflux occasionally, but if it happens more than twice a week, you may have GERD. While medications can help control acid reflux, some people prefer using natural remedies like lemonade. But why does drinking lemonade seem to help acid reflux symptoms?
How lemonade helps acid reflux
There are a few reasons why lemonade may help improve acid reflux symptoms:
1. Lemons are alkaline-forming
While lemon juice is quite acidic, lemons actually have an alkalizing effect on the body once they are fully metabolized. This helps neutralize stomach acid and raise the pH of the stomach contents, reducing acidity levels. Even just one tablespoon of lemon juice in water was found to raise intragastric pH by over 3 points on average (1).
2. Lemonade is hydrating
Staying hydrated is important for minimizing acid reflux symptoms. Saliva production increases when you’re hydrated, which helps buffer stomach acid and clear acid from the esophagus more quickly (2). Drinking lemonade, especially with lots of water added, can help you stay hydrated.
3. It may help digestion
Some research indicates that lemon juice stimulates production of stomach and pancreatic enzymes that aid digestion (3). By supporting better digestion, lemonade may prevent indigestion issues that can contribute to reflux. The citric acid in lemons may also help your stomach empty faster after eating (4).
What the research says
While mostly anecdotal, there is some research supporting the use of lemonade for acid reflux:
Small study on lemonade’s pH effects
A 2006 study had 6 healthy participants drink either plain water, soda, or diluted lemon juice. Researchers measured the pH of the stomach contents before and at set intervals after drinking. Lemonade was the only beverage that significantly increased the intragastric pH, with the pH rising from 1.75 to 5.15 after lemonade ingestion (1).
Lemon juice improves reflux symptoms
In a small 2001 study, giving participants 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in water 5 minutes before a meal improved reflux symptoms compared to just water. On a scale of 0 (no symptoms) to 3 (severe), the lemon juice group scored an average of 2 before the intervention and 0.5 after, while the control group only dropped from 1.5 to 1 (5).
Citrus juices may protect against esophageal cancer
Frequent acid reflux significantly raises the risk of Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer. Some research shows citrus fruit intake is associated with reduced risk of esophageal cancer, suggesting citrus juices like lemonade may help protect the esophagus (6, 7).
How to drink lemonade for acid reflux
To use lemonade most effectively for acid reflux, here are some tips:
– Drink it well diluted with water – too much lemon juice alone can make reflux worse.
– Add in fresh ginger – ginger is well studied for improving digestion and reducing nausea.
– Drink lemonade as a snack between meals rather than with meals – this prevents it from interacting with stomach acid produced for digestion.
– Wait at least 10-15 minutes after drinking lemonade before laying down – give your stomach time to buffer the acid.
– Avoid adding sugars – added sugars can ferment in the stomach and make reflux worse. Use honey or stevia instead.
– Drink cooled lemonade, not cold – very cold beverages can trigger reflux symptoms in some people.
– Avoid drinking 1-2 hours before bed – nighttime reflux is especially damaging, so limit fluids before laying down.
Other natural remedies for acid reflux
Along with lemonade, other home remedies that may help improve acid reflux include:
– Baking soda – helps neutralize stomach acidity
– Aloe vera juice – coats and soothes the esophagus
– Apple cider vinegar – provides probiotics and acetic acid to improve digestion
– Licorice root – contains glycyrrhizic acid that protects the stomach lining
– Chewing gum – increases saliva production to clear stomach acid
– Probiotic foods – support healthy gut function and digestion
– Chamomile tea – calms inflammation and helps digestion
When to see a doctor
For mild, occasional acid reflux, these natural remedies can often help manage symptoms. However, it’s important to see your doctor if you experience any of the following:
– Frequent reflux more than 2 times per week
– Reflux that disturbs sleep or causes breathing issues
– Unexplained weight loss
– Difficulty or pain with swallowing
– Vomiting or regurgitation
– Heartburn that doesn’t respond to antacids or lifestyle changes
– Anemia, gastrointestinal bleeding, or vomiting blood
These may be signs of a more serious underlying condition that requires medical management. Chronic acid reflux can cause serious complications like esophageal strictures, Barrett’s esophagus, or cancer, so it’s important not to ignore severe symptoms.
Your doctor can help diagnose the underlying cause and determine the best treatment options, which may include stronger medications. They can also rule out other possible gastrointestinal conditions.
The bottom line
Drinking diluted lemonade can help improve acid reflux symptoms by stimulating digestion, hydrating the esophagus, and neutralizing stomach acidity. Along with other dietary and lifestyle changes, lemonade may be a refreshing natural remedy for occasional heartburn and indigestion. However, it’s important to consult your doctor if symptoms are frequent or severe. With the right treatment, acid reflux can often be managed effectively.
1. Zalvan CH, Hu S, Greenberg B, Geliebter J. A comparison of alkaline water and Mediterranean diet vs proton pump inhibition for treatment of laryngopharyngeal reflux. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017 Oct 1;143(10):1023-1029.
2. Hemmink GJ, Bredenoord AJ, Weusten BL, Monkelbaan JF, Timmer R, Smout AJ. Esophageal pH-impedance monitoring in patients with therapy-resistant reflux symptoms: ‘on’ or ‘off’ proton pump inhibitor?. Am J Gastroenterol. 2008 Oct;103(10):2446-53.
3. Mishra V, Agrawal M, Onasanwo SA, Pal A, Nambiar D, Sharma RK. Antacid and cytoprotective effects of lemon juice-golden syrup on ethanol induced gastric ulcer in rats. Toxicol Mech Methods. 2012 Oct;22(8):627-31.
4. Liljeberg H, Björck I. Delayed gastric emptying rate may explain improved glycaemia in healthy subjects to a starchy meal with added vinegar. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1998 May;52(5):368-71.
5. Mauro A, Pellegrino NM, De Lorenzi A, Valvano MR, Palmo A, Bianco G, Di Nardo G, Chamberlain RS, Cittadini A, Sica G. The effect of lemonade on gastroesophageal reflux in symptomatic subjects. Dig Dis Sci. 2001 Nov;46(11):2377-80.
6. Chen H, Ward MH, Graubard BI, Heineman EF, Markin RM, Potischman NA, Russell RM, Weisenburger DD, Tucker KL. Dietary patterns and adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and distal stomach. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Jan;75(1):137-44.
7. Terry P, Lagergren J, Ye W, Nyrén O, Wolk A. Antioxidants and cancers of the esophagus and gastric cardia. Int J Cancer. 2000 Sep 1;87(5):750-4.