Why Lemons Should be Part of Your Recovery

The information in this section is made available through the generous support of Dr. Grant Stevens.

Reducing Surgical Swelling and Moving Fluids with Lemon Tea

   Swelling is a factor for any patient after surgery. Trauma is the main cause, but intravenous fluids, pooled blood, plasma, and dead fat cells are also factors. These all contribute to swelling or edema -- visible swelling and puffiness from fluid accumulation in and around your body tissues.  The end result for you is added pain and discomfort.

   While there are many medical causes for edema ranging from heart disease to high sodium levels, you can expect it to be present at and around a surgery site due to the trauma involved. In this case, the edema needs to be absorbed and eliminated by your body through your lymphatic system before the uncomfortable effects subside.

    To support your lymph system so your body eliminate this build up, we recommended patients use our recipe for "Lemon Tea."  Besides reducing edema, Lemon Tea also helps patients flush out the woozy effects of anesthesia and pain medications. Over time your body should naturally carry these excess fluids and chemicals away through your lymph system, but during trauma and other times, your lymph system needs support. You can assist youreslf by using Lemon Tea, thus decreasing your pain and discomfort as well as helping you to feel better and stay healthier overall.

   Lemon Tea may also be helpful to those during their first menstrual cycle after surgery for the same reasons: it will decrease the breast pain associated with monthly bloat because you've supported your lymph system in removing excess fluids. It is also useful in general for monthly bloat and many of our female patients use it religiously years after learning about it.

   This recipe contains no actual tea, just simply water, fresh lemons and a natural sweetener of your choice. Additionally, for our purposes, this is primarily a recipe to use after your surgery. While many women use it to help them reduce bloating during their periods on a regular basis, it is important that you not use it a few days prior to your surgery. You could experience very painful acid reflux upon awakening from anesthesia if it's used within a few days of your surgery. Also, if you are queasy after your surgery, wait until this feeling subsides to start using Lemon Tea.

   Lemon Tea really does work: You will be making frequent trips to the bathroom as your body eliminates the stored-up fluids. We recommend you drink this earlier in the day and not at bedtime, as drinking it at bedtime would most likely mean you would have to get up several times in the night.

   To prepare it, fresh lemons are the first choice, but juicing them sometimes can be hard right after your surgery. If you don't have anyone to help you, you can buy Minute Maid frozen lemon juice in the freezer section of your grocery store. This product is wonderfully convenient, and it has no preservatives. Do not buy "Real Lemon" (ReaLemon) in the bottles or the little plastic lemons in the produce section. You can also pre-juice lemons and fill ice-cube trays with the juice and freeze, which makes for an easy alternative to hand juicing fresh lemons after your surgery. If you buy a large batch of lemons, store them in the fridge in a large zip style plastic bag. They will stay fresh for weeks!

  If you dislike or are allergic to lemons, our alternate suggestion would be to keep your water intake at 10-12 glasses of water per day. This also will assist in flushing out your surgery medications as well as reducing edema, which will make you more comfortable -- it just will take more time. Ten to twelve glasses of water a day is definitely plenty. As with anything else, always check with your doctor first, as it is possible to drink too much water. You can create a life-threatening situation by flushing out your much-needed trace minerals by over imbibing. Balance is the key. You also could use cranberry juice, but you need a higher percentage of real juice than most of the bottled juices on the market, which are mostly sugar-laden. Read the labels. Lime juice is a nice alternative, but avoid grapefruit juice around any surgery as it can react badly with medications.


Add the juice of one lemon to 10-12 ounces of boiling water
or the juice of 1/2 lemon to 6-8 ounces of boiling water.
If you're using the Minute Maid lemon juice from the freezer section, 2 Tablespoons equal the juice of one lemon.
For frozen lemon juice 'ice cubes' that you make yourself, 1 cube should be sufficient per cup of water.

 Firmly roll the lemon with the palm of your hand on the counter to help release more of the juice before slicing it in half for juicing. You also can put it in a plastic bag and roll it under your foot to help release the juice before cutting if you have pain, mobility or strength issues.

  Sweeten to taste only with sugar, brown sugar, honey, real maple syrup or even 100% fruit juice. Stevia, available from a health-food store, is also a terrific alternative if it's something you are familiar with. We like Sweet Leaf's Stevia Liquid in Vanilla flavor.

 Do not use artificial sweeteners such as Equal, Aspartame, Sweet'n'Low, saccharin or Splenda at any time before or after your surgery. You do not want chemical additives in your body during this time, which is also why we do not recommend the 'ReaLemon' in the bottles or plastic lemons. Please read information on Splenda before assuming it's natural and safe. It is produced by chlorinating sugar and chemically altering its structure. How it interacts with surgery medications and pain medications/antibiotics is completely unknown. This is not the time to experiment.

 Usually one cup of Lemon Tea a day is plenty, along with approximately 8 additional glasses of water. We recommend using a "bendy straw" to direct it to the back of your throat in order to keep it off your teeth, as lemon juice is very acidic and can etch your tooth enamel. Be sure to gently rinse your mouth and teeth with plain water after drinking lemon tea or when using a lot of lemon juice. Since lemon juice is powerful enough to temporarily raise the enamel on your teeth, it is very important to wait an hour or so before brushing your teeth so the enamel can re-calcify. Excessive amounts of lemon juice, or Lemon Tea, are not needed and are not recommended. One to two cups per day are sufficient, and remember to take the suggested precautions for your teeth. 'Spry' or xylitol mints are also great for recalifying your teeth, especially after using lemon. Ask us if you'd like more info.

  Many people ask if they can prepare it cold instead. Yes, you can. You can make "lemonade" with cold water and pour it over ice. While some feel it works better hot, we find it really depends on what time of year it is being consumed. People with summer surgeries prefer it cold. Those with winter surgeries prefer it hot. If you're using it cold and you're not getting the water retention relief you think you should, try it hot. If you still want a greater effect, try our Citrus Recovery Juice - it's our newest addition and it works wonders.

The Power of Lemons

Lemon can aid in the clearing of infections; it has antibiotic and antiseptic properties and can aid in digestion, as well. It can also aid in weight loss and reduce cellulite.

Lemon juice is helpful during cold and flu season; it is detoxifying and it stimulates the immune system.

Lemon juice is an astringent and can reduce acne and other skin disorders when taken internally or applied directly to the skin. It can lighten skin when applied topically as well. It is helpful for oily complexions. It strengthens skin function, assists in circulation, stimulation and purification. It helps promote collagen and elastin and aids in the health of connective tissue. It also promotes shiny, healthy hair and nails.

Lemon juice is also considered a scent that promotes relaxation. It's used as a sedative, antidepressant and calmative. It is helpful with fatigue and is a stimulant to the brain and nervous system. Squeeze and sniff a freshly washed lemon rind - it's a good thing!

In our case, we've found it to be a powerful diuretic, helpful to post-op patients to rid themselves of excess IV fluids and swelling caused by surgeries. We've had a few patients even have better diuretic effects from lemon tea than their prescription diuretics, and a few have had their doctors switch them over to lemon tea permanently.

We've had some questions about limes. Limes have similar properties as lemons. We suggest using both if you're interested in using limes as well. Some members felt that lime in their water worked very well to reduce the inflammation of their incisions as well as helping with itching. It's worth a try!