Drinking Sunshine: Lemon Water

I haven’t blogged in about a month. Writing projects and deadlines + student meetings+ hell week here in AcademyLand=no blogging. My struggle to keep up with writing these last few weeks closely mirrors my struggle to sleep (I might change the name of this blog to the Blowingpast10pmblog) and eat well. I gave up sugar for Lent, but Easter was a week and a half ago, so the thing keeping me from not eating the box of donuts in the kitchen is self-control and the knowledge that I’ll feel worse later. Both of these qualities are wonderful . . . until they quit working. Studies show willpower alone is an expendable quality, and to keep the body doing what your spirit is willing to do, you need to help yourself out. So I am writing this blog in my office with the door shut, far from the donuts, and I’m drinking lemon water.

I started the year of our Lord 2015 drinking warm lemon water every morning. I am by nature a person who likes the idea of schedules and discipline (Pitta!) and struggles to execute them (Vata say what?), especially in the spring when despite my best intentions, the heaviness of the air and pollen, and the fluctuations of weather make me want to say eff it. I quit. Until this past week, the buds on the trees were very tightly clinging to the branches, refusing to open up. I feel like I survived the last two winters in Indiana doing the same thing. Having to shift gears from survival to creation and execution (the leaves, the projects and deadlines, the grades) is more work than my body wants. Donuts and Netflix sound way better.

But before I crawl back into my cave with a box of cookies, I’m reminding myself of a few easy things to feel better. Kapha time (late winter through spring) is a time of change, building, blooming, and cleaning out what we don’t need. Food is important, but it needs to be food that helps us accomplish those things, not food that reinforces going back into hibernation. Exercise is important. Enough sleep –but not too much—is important. Ways to get through Kapha time successfully are myriad, and the subject of a forthcoming blog, but for now, I’m reminding myself of one easy and fairly tasty way to clean out the body: warm lemon water.

How to do it: get out of bed in the morning. Heat up some water. While you’re waiting for the water, cut a lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a mug (in a pinch, bottled lemon juice will do but fresh squeezed is way better as it has active enzymes). Pour warm water in the mug. Drink it. Voile: hydration and improved digestion.

The benefits of lemon water are numerous, and for two simple reasons: lemon juice builds up healthy functions of the body while eliminating its toxins. For starters, the combination of vitamin C and potassium builds up the immune system; potassium also stimulates brain and nerve function and helps control high blood pressure (all good things for professors and students this time of year). Also, while lemon juice is acidic, it turns alkaline in the body, and a balanced PH leads to a healthier body and mind. This isn’t the norm in America—we tend to be fairly acidic by imbibing a lot of caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, and sugar, then top it off mentally by leading hectic lives and stressing out over our stress. Lemon juice is one step towards creating higher PH levels in the body, which also tends to help people lose weight more easily.

Digesting food better also helps in losing weight. Since the warm water stimulates the digestive tract, and the lemon juice helps clear out ama (toxins) in there, the whole digestive system works better, and the rest of the body benefits. Fewer toxins in the body means clearer skin, and increased energy and clarity. Additionally, the lemon juice actually slows down the absorption of food in the body, which means the digestive juices have more time to work, making digestion easier. Lemon juice also contains pectin fiber, which helps fight cravings. I can attest that my midafternoon sugar binges have decreased since drinking lemon water.

Lastly, warm lemon juice helps hydrate the body, which is essential to avoiding adrenal fatigue. If your adrenal glands become too dehydrated, they can no longer supervise the body’s stress response system, or create energy, or regulate water and sodium levels in the body.

Some have suggested that lemon juice is acidic and can wear on the enamel of the teeth. Again, because lemon juice turns alkaline in the body (and in the hot water), and because you’re only drinking about a tablespoon at the most, this isn’t really an issue. Another side effect that is really beneficial, but can be inconvenient: you might need a bathroom within an hour of drinking the lemon juice. The accelerated detoxification of lemon water means, well, you will detox in short order.

Variations of lemon water exist—some cafes serve room temperature water with cucumber and lemon slices in it to aid digestion during the meal. If you live in a hot part of the country, this could be a nice option if you don’t want a warm beverage. During the autumn and early winter, add honey, a quarter teaspoon of turmeric (a powerful anti-inflammatory spice) and a dash of cinnamon to warm up the body a little more.

Ayurveda says that what we do, eat, drink, think either builds your body up our tears it down. I know the decisions I make early in the morning can influence the decisions I make over the rest of the day. In the interest of full disclosure, I did eat half of a sour cream donut halfway through writing this blog. But it was just a half. Not the whole box. Thank you, lemon water.

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