Lemon Water – The Cure for a Stomach Ache?

Text: “Ever since I was little my mom has always prescribed me a glass of water with lemon squeezed into it whenever my stomach hurt or I felt nauseous. She did this because it helped her whenever her stomach hurt during her chemotherapy treatments. It never really worked for me but I kept doing it because I did not want to hurt her feelings and it always seemed to make her happy that she had this “cure” for stomach discomfort.

Context: AG is a friend of mine from Sydney Australia and it was at first pretty tough for him to come up with examples of folk medicine or food ideas. Once I broadened the scope of my interview though he recalled this story about how his mother would always make him lemon water whenever he had any symptoms pertaining to his stomach. This was my first time hearing about it, but he seemed confident one of his mom’s friends told her to do that to help with the nausea associated with her chemo treatments when she was battling ovarian cancer. The advice worked for her but not AG, but out of consideration for his mom he just went along with it.

Analysis: While there is evidence for the citric acid in lemons to aid with indigestion, there is not evidence to say it will aid or cure a stomach ache or nausea associated with other ailments. It is in no way a cure all for stomach discomfort as it believed by AG’s mother. I think the explanation likely lies in the fact that AG’s mother was likely desperate for relief and when she was offered it by her friend there was a sort of placebo effect that allowed her to feel better from her upset stomach. From my interview it was clear that the lemon water trick never worked for AG when his stomach hurt which aligns more with what science would suggest. I think it is very interesting how AG still went along with his mothers advice and attempt to cure him with the lemon water, there is also little risk to doing this so he did it just to be considerate of his moms feelings and also likely allowed her to continue using the placebo to treat stomach issues of her own.