Some claim that drinking beverages with meals is bad for your digestion. Others say it can cause toxins to build up, leading to a variety of health problems. Naturally, you may wonder if a simple glass of water with your food could have any negative effects, or if that’s just another myth.
The basics of healthy digestion
To understand why water is believed to disturb digestion, it is helpful to first understand the normal digestive process.
Digestion begins in your mouth as soon as you start chewing your food. Chewing tells your salivary glands to start making saliva, which contains enzymes that help you break down food. Once in the stomach, the food is mixed with gastric acid juice, which breaks it down and produces a thick liquid known as chyme.
In the small intestine, chyme is mixed with digestive enzymes from the pancreas and bile acid from the liver. These further break down the chyme, preparing each nutrient for absorption into the bloodstream.
Most of the nutrients are absorbed as the chyme travels through the small intestine. Only a small portion remains to be absorbed once it reaches your colon.
Once in the bloodstream, nutrients travel to different areas of your body. Digestion ends when the excess materials are excreted.
Depending on what you eat, this entire digestive process can take 24 to 72 hours (1).
Do liquids cause digestive problems?
Drinking enough fluids daily offers many benefits. However, some people claim that having drinks with meals is a bad idea. You may have come across this question quite often. In fact, this is a very common question that most people have. Some doctors suggest that you should not drink water during meals.
Instead, you should wait an hour or so, and then drink water. Some others suggest not drinking water before eating. With so many suggestions and tips, which one should we follow? When exactly should we drink water?
Let’s solve this mystery with an Ayurvedic perspective.
When do we drink water or when are we supposed to drink water? Obviously, when we are thirsty. Thirst is a natural urge, and when it occurs, it must be served, regardless of whether you are in the middle of your meal, or before or after it. Similarly, we eat food when we are hungry and we urinate or defecate only when there is a need to. The sole purpose of all this is to maintain the body’s circadian rhythm.
Drinking water after food: good or bad?
Is it good to drink water after eating? Many doctors advise against drinking water between meals. But Ayurveda has a contradictory fact. Ayurveda suggests that you drink water between meals.
When you drink water before eating, it weakens Agni, that is, the force of digestion. Since water is a coolant, it dilutes gastric juice, and this is directly opposite to the body’s digestive force. Therefore, Ayurveda firmly believes that you should not drink water a few hours before meals. Drinking water before meals is also said to cause weakness and emaciation.
Now, when you drink water immediately after eating, it directly affects the quality of food plus the body’s digestive strength. Regardless of the foods you eat, drinking water adds a cooling effect and you are likely to become obese if you follow the practice regularly. Therefore, Ayurveda does not support the practice of drinking water right after a meal.
The third option, that is, drinking water during a meal is quite beneficial according to Ayurveda. By doing so, it moistens the food you eat and helps break the food down into smaller, fine particles. And if you are eating something oily or spicy, it also quenches your thirst. Therefore, it is an ideal and healthy habit to have water between meals. But that doesn’t mean you should drink a full glass of water to quench your thirst. Try to drink a minimum amount of water during meals. Otherwise, your stomach will be full of water and you will eat less food in comparison.
Even if you want to drink water during the meal, make sure the water is at room temperature. Drinking very cold water can reduce digestive fire, rendering digestive enzymes inactive and leading to the build-up of toxic waste in the body. This also produces toxic ailments like acid reflux or a hiatus hernia. Also, avoid consuming soda or coffee while eating your meal.
Therefore, drinking water after meals immediately is not advisable. Once you are done with your meal, wait about half an hour and then drink water. This will quench your thirst and also give you a feeling of fullness. After an hour or two, you can drink as much water as possible as the digestion process will be over by then.
The next question that arises is in the case of people who are prescribed medications that must be taken before a meal. If drinking water before meals is not a healthy habit, how can those people take medicine?
Do you remember that your doctor suggested you take medicine ‘half an hour before meals’? Well the answer is there. Since you should not drink water just before meals, it is suggested that you take the medications half an hour before meals. Also, be sure to drink water in a limited amount.
We hope this article has clarified your doubts and the information is useful.