We’ve all heard time and time again the importance of getting hydrated, and finding creative ways to aim for that 8+ glasses of water per day. But have you ever thought about how the temperature of said water can play on your health?
Over the past few months I’ve been slowly making discoveries about and adapting practices from ayurveda. One that initially surprised me, but then – just like everything in ayurveda – made so much sense after looking further into it, was that cold water or beverages shouldn’t be ingested. Huh?
Let me set the scene for you:
It was the middle of the day in the middle of a scorching Australian summer and I was in Byron Bay for a yoga festival. After finishing an hour of power vinyasa in the hot sun I immediately grabbed a chilled bottle of water before setting off for an introductory seminar on Ayurveda. I was curious to hear what all this ancient Hindu fuss was about.
We sat on the floor in a room while Jay Mulder, otherwise known as Eumundi Medicine Man, explained how the key principle of ayurvedic health depends on your ability to properly and efficiently digest what you ingest. He explained that balancing your digestive agni (the “fire” that drives digestion and metabolism) is the reason Ayurveda recommends such a number of practices for better digestion like spices, food combining, and eating according to body type and the season.
Jay then used the fire analogy to properly explain how to apply the philosophy to our physiology: Digestive agni can be compared to a burning fire. If the flame is very low, then it will take a long time to cook the food. In the same way, if the fire is too big, it can burn the food. If we put a huge log on a low fire, it will extinguish it.
Which brought him to the point about ingesting hot, warm, and room temperature liquids versus chilled. As I was about to take a huge gulp of my ice-cold water, he explained that essentially, I was throwing cold water on the burning logs inside me, extinguishes my digestive fire almost entirely.
So how does it all work?
When cold water hits the stomach, the body is forced to use energy in order to warm up that liquid inside your body to match that of the body’s natural temperature. This robs your body of the energy it needs to properly process what you have ingested. Instead of working to extract all the foods nutrients, your digestive system is instead working on regulating the temperature of the cold drink.
Studies also indicate that the problem with cold water is that as the liquid passes through your system, the cool temperature solidifies fats from the foods we’ve eaten and thus the body in turn finds it hard to digests the unwanted fats from our stomach.
Once you get into the habit of drinking water at room temperature or warm, you will notice a dramatic improvement in your digestion and the way your body feels while eating and after the meal. I’ve even found that it curbs sugar cravings – bonus!