According to experienced practitioners of Ayurveda, drinking ice cold water can be bad for you. But do the results of Western studies say the same thing?
Ayurveda and the possible side effects of drinking cold water
Sahara Rose, an Ayurveda expert and author of the modern Ayurvedic cookbook “Eat Feel Fresh,” explains that this belief originates from Ayurveda. Since the human body’s internal temperature is 98 F, Ayurvedic practitioners advise that you should drink water with a similar temperature for better absorption.
Rose adds that drinking ice cold water requires your body to use up more energy to increase the temperature of the water to match the internal organs. However, this may leave you with “less energy for healing and mental function.”
Ayurvedic practitioners like Rose suggest drinking only warm water or tea to “keep digestion at its optimal state.”
Several studies suggest that drinking cold water can affect your body in different ways.
- In a 1978 study in the journal Chest, researchers observed 15 participants and found that consuming cold water “made nasal [mucus] thicker and more difficult to pass through the respiratory tract.” Meanwhile, the volunteers who consumed chicken soup and hot water reported that they were able to breathe more easily.
- In a 2001 study in Cephalalgia: An International Journal of Headache, scientists discovered that consuming cold water can worsen some health conditions. The researchers found that drinking cold water may trigger migraines in people who already experience this type of headache.
- A separate study in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility showed that pain related to achalasia – a condition that limits the body’s ability to pass food via the esophagus – can be aggravated when the patient drinks cold water while eating.
Western science’s take on the cold water debate
Dr. Amy Shah, who studied at Columbia University and Harvard University, suggests that there is only a handful of scientific data concerning the benefits of drinking warm water. However, she notes that consuming warm water is recommended in various cultures.
Shah posits that, from a scientific point of view, drinking cold water may constrict the blood vessels and affect absorption.
On the other hand, consuming warm water makes the vessels more dilated. This is one reason why doctors advise patients who have a cold to drink hot tea. Drinking hot tea helps your blood vessels dilate, which allows mucus to travel faster out of the nasal cavities.
Shah believes that Ayurvedic practitioners may have a point. After all, there is much to discover about gut health and the immune system, particularly with the traditional medical model.
She advises that warm water offers another benefit: It is the perfect medium for steeping herbs, spices, and teas, all of which can boost your digestive and gut health. (Related: Is warm water more beneficial to your health than cold water?)
If you want to keep your digestion balanced, Rose suggests drinking a soothing tea made with some cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and fennel.
Whether you love drinking ice cold water on a hot day or you prefer warm water, doctors highlight the importance of daily hydration. Stick to a method that works for you, especially if it makes you drink enough water regularly.
However, if you have issues with your digestion or gut health, consider drinking either room temperature or warm water for one or two weeks to see if your condition improves.