Updated: Jul 18
Taking care of your health can be as simple as becoming more conscious about the way you consume water. A simple and concise guide on the 3 best ways to make the most out your daily water consumption.
Tip #1 - Avoid drinking too much water when eating
I recall talking to a functional medicine doctor about her childhood in Romania. I asked her about the main differences between her life here in the U.S and Bucharest. Her response was simple and quite honestly, not at all what I thought she would say. She said, "we would never drink water at the same as our meals while everyone here in the U.S does, and the worst thing is they don't know the effect that's having on their digestion".
As it turns out, drinking too many liquids while eating, can water down stomach acid and hinder proper digestion.
The research seems to point out that your stomach would ideally maintain an acidity level of 1 to 2 on the pH scale, which helps break down proteins, stimulates the release of digestive enzymes, aids in the absorption of vitamins like B12, and breaks down food so it is easily digested.
However, there are some dietitians out there that recommend drinking a lot of water before eating because that is supposedly going to suppress your appetite - and while that could be true in some cases, even if you eat much less, you won't be able to fully digest that food, which will inevitably lead to bloating and a slower digestion process given that you risk diluting your stomach's reservoir of hydrochloric acid, which is essential to break down food properly.
Robyn Youkilis, author of the book Go With Your Gut, recommends not drinking a half hour before meals and up to an hour after meals. If you absolutely must, she says, take small sips only to wash down food.
If you are someone who is regularly very conscious about the food you consume but still feel like you are frequently bloated after meals, give this practice a try. You might find that perhaps you don't have a food sensitivity but rather you're watering down the stomach acids that would allow you to properly digest food.
Supplements like digestive bitters are powerful digestive aids because they emulate the effects of hydrochloric acid naturally present in the gut.
Other ways to promote a healthier digestion are chewing slower, incorporating more bitter foods and acids (mustard greens, pickled onions, broccoli, cauliflower, apple cider vinegar) as well as being more present when eating - this will lead to bile and digestive enzyme production.
Tip #2 - Hot or warm water over cold water
This one meets at the intersection of traditional Chinese & western functional medicine.
In Chinese medicine, everything is classified according to more yin or more yang (more cold or more heat). The aim is to find a balance between the both. Hot water is oftentimes used as a way to get rid of excess cold and humidity from the body as well as promoting blood circulation.
In addition, warm water has been found to be objectively better for your digestive system as shown in a randomized controlled trial of patients having gallbladder surgery where they showed how giving patients warm water helped them to pass gas on an average of 8 hrs faster than the control group. Gallbladder removal is linked to a plethora of digestive problems.
Cold water has been shown to alter the digestive system’s microbiome and has also been shown to slow down esophageal motility which means thing aren’t moving as fast as they should through the intestines. Conversely, hot or warm water especially first thing in the morning can help kickstart the digestive system as well as flushing toxins by promoting bowel movements, increasing blood flow and reducing painful muscle contractions. That’s why we often drink hot water when we have a sore throat or when experiencing menstrual cramps.
Warm water for women's health
Functional and traditional Chinese medicine also agree that warm food is beneficial for women's hormonal balance and fertility given that proper digestion is essential to reproductive health. The reason for avoiding iced liquids and foods being that cold has the action of constricting, slowing and shrinking. This can oftentimes lead to painful periods, clots in menstrual blood, delayed or missed cycles and even in some more extreme cases infertility.
Most Functional Medicine doctors are aware that completely eliminating cold drinks and food, especially during the summer months is quite unrealistic, so most doctors recommend having a diet mainly consisting of warm/hot liquids and more cooked foods than cold. A good rule of thumb is the 75%/25% rule. 75% warm versus 25% cold. Plus, if you’re going to drink cold liquids, try to do this in between meals as this won’t disrupt digestion as much.
Tip #3 - Hydrating better
We all know the importance of drinking water and staying hydrated - otherwise you'll experience fatigue, headaches and in some extreme cases kidney problems. However, there is also the possibility that perhaps we're over-consuming water and depleting the body of crucial minerals.
Drinking high amounts of filtered water (around 1 gallon & up) will likely not fully hydrate you but rather just make you take lots of trips to the bathroom. Research is showing that drinking too much water can lead to diluting out important electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium.
Electrolytes need to be in balance in order to maintain healthy blood, heart rhythm, muscle function and other important functions. When lacking crucial electrolytes, complications like restless legs, muscle cramping, weakness and the feeling of chronic dehydration are common.
I really want to emphasize that if you're someone with a very active lifestyle and are drinking a gallon of water a day (especially during the summertime) doesn't mean that you're immediately demineralizing your body. Plus, the research shows that over-consuming water constitutes over one gallon of filtered water a day. Even if you're drinking much less than that, you can still benefit of mineralizing your body with electrolytes. As with anything regarding functional medicine, the approach must be personalized and according to your daily habits and needs. However, if you constantly experience headaches, chronic fatigue and the feeling of being dehydrated, including electrolytes throughout your day can make all the difference.
what can you add to remineralize your water?
- It can be as simple as small pinch of sea, celtic or kosher salt
- lemon juice (optional to also add a pinch of salt)
- a little shot of apple cider vinegar
As a final note
The purpose of this article is to present you with 3 simple ways to make the most out of your water consumption to enhance hydration and improve digestion, not to overwhelm you or make you feel like there's yet another thing to worry about.
As always, I urge you to be your own advocate and take what works best for your body and your specific needs. Our purpose is to bring informed opinion articles as well as awareness to products and practices that might enhance your daily life. Please feel free to reach out to our team with questions or just to let us know if you have tried and seen any benefits from our recommendations. We always love to hear from our community!
Çalişkan N, Bulut H, Konan A. The Effect of Warm Water Intake on Bowel Movements in the Early Postoperative Stage of Patients Having Undergone Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Gastroenterol Nurs. 2016 Sep-Oct;39(5):340-7. doi: 10.1097/SGA.0000000000000181. PMID: 27684632.
Chevalier C, Stojanović O, Colin DJ, Suarez-Zamorano N, Tarallo V, Veyrat-Durebex C, Rigo D, Fabbiano S, Stevanović A, Hagemann S, Montet X, Seimbille Y, Zamboni N, Hapfelmeier S, Trajkovski M. Gut Microbiota Orchestrates Energy Homeostasis during Cold. Cell. 2015 Dec 3;163(6):1360-74. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.11.004. PMID: 26638070.
Eckelkamp, S. (2021, February 19). The surprising reason you shouldn’t chug water with your meals. Prevention. https://www.prevention.com/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/a20456813/why-you-shouldnt-drinking-water-with-meals/
How is warm water better for health?: Dr. Maryam health. Dr. Maryam Acupuncture and TCM Clinic Inc. (2022, January 18). https://chinesemedicineclinic.com/warm-water-better-health/
Are you over-hydrated?. Are you over-hydrated? - Gundersen Health System. (2023, June 14). https://www.gundersenhealth.org/health-wellness/eat/are-you-over-hydrated