Hot Water Versus Cold Water Consumption

Hot Water Versus Cold Water Consumption

The Longstanding Debate

The consumption of hot water versus cold water and whether cold water is harmful to the digestive tract has been a longstanding debate. The differences are reflected in the Eastern and Western medicine approaches while revealing their philosophy and understanding of the human body. In ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine, for example, drinking warm or hot water is the best option. In Western medicine, ingesting cold water and its detrimental effects is not as defined. It is agreed, however, that drinking enough water and staying hydrated is vital for maintaining optimal bodily functions including proper digestion, metabolism, waste reduction, stable body temperature, organ, and tissue health.


Eastern Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, drinking cold or iced water rather than hot water with food creates an imbalance. In fact, the ancient Chinese ascertained that a lot of chronic conditions were a result of an imbalance in internal body temperature and energy (Qi). Finding balance within the Yin/Yang concept when applied to foods and liquids, the nutritional properties are divided into three categories; warm, cool, and neutral. (Reference: Naturalis Balance)

According to TCM Dr. Ling’s article 8 Reasons To Drink Warm Water, the average temperature of a child or adult is approximately 37 degrees Celsius. Consistent use of cold fluids over many years initially affects the metabolism and digestion but then eventually influences other organs and their functionality. The 8 reasons why people should drink warm water (37 – 55 degrees Celsius) to hot water (55 – 75 degrees Celsius) or other fluids like tea and soup are:

  • Protects internal organs and promotes proper blood circulation
  • Assists with internal disharmony patterns related to a cold imbalance within the body
  • Relief of various symptoms
  • Conserves wasted body energy as organs can’t immediately process fluids below 37 degrees Celsius
  • Controls appetite, protects organ functions, increases energy level
  • Helps hydration and functions of organs since cold contracts and slows organ function
  • Balances external/internal body temperature following exercise
  • Alleviates constipation in children and adults


Ayurvedic Medicine

Similarly, to Traditional Chinese Medicine, in the philosophy and practice of Ayurvedic Medicine, the consumption of cold water is not advised.  In this article 7 Ayurvedic Tips to Drink Water that You Didn’t Know!, how water is consumed is equally important to overall health which has been followed for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. According to Dr. Vasant Lad, a leading authority in his field and author of The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies: Based on the Timeless Wisdom of India’s 5,000-Year-Old Medical System, Dr. Lad explains the principles behind the science of Ayurveda by describing the three mind-body types vata, pitta, and kapha and combinations thereof. Then he explains the imbalances that often result in illness as a result of the body’s “state of imbalance” and offers suggestions on how to correct the imbalance. Water, he suggests, is the “manifestation of consciousness.” Water also pervades the body and subsists within the plasma, cytoplasm, serum, saliva, nasal secretion, cerebrospinal fluid, urine, and sweat. Without water, whether you choose to drink it hot or cold, the cells will die. Dr. Lad defines Ayurveda as “the art of daily living in harmony with the laws of nature.”

The 7 Ayurvedic tips to drinking water are:

  • Drink water sitting down rather than standing since your muscles and nervous system are more relaxed
  • How you consume water depends on your dosha type but sip water gradually not all at once
  • Drink at room temperature or warmer and avoid ice water since it decreases blood supply to organs
  • Only drink when you’re thirsty
  • Know your body’s thirst indicators like dry mouth, the color of urine, to avoid dehydration
  • Drink water in the morning (called Ushapan in Ayurvedic medicine) on an empty stomach as this helps to flush out toxins
  • Store water in silver and copper receptacles since it positively charges the water


Western Medicine

Studies on Hot Versus Cold Water

According to Western medicine, there is very scant evidence suggesting that drinking cold water is bad for the digestion or body in general. Whether you drink cold or hot water is irrelevant when flushing toxins out of the body since drinking cold or hot water can help digestion and prevent constipation. The key is not in the temperature but to drink enough water to flush out the toxins.

According to the article in MedicalNewsToday, Is drinking cold water bad for a person?, a small study was done in 2013 entitled The effect of water temperature and voluntary drinking on the post rehydration sweating. The object of the study was to explore the effect of water temperature and voluntary drinking on the extent of drinking-induced sweating. Six people were chosen to take part in this study where dehydration was induced by performing mild exercise in a hot and humid chamber.  To rehydrate, the participants were allowed to drink water with a temperature range of 5, 16, 26, and 58 degrees Celsius on four separate days. The sweating rate was measured on the forehead before and after drinking. Also, blood samples were taken to measure plasma osmolality.

Here is the conclusion of this study:

“When dehydrated subjects drink water with different temperatures, the sweating response is influenced both by the water temperature and the volume of voluntary intake. The sweating response in cold water differs significantly compared to other water temperatures. Water temperature of 16°C, as in cool tap water, is the most optimum point for acquiring hydration in dehydrated athletes or other subjects.”

The results of the study revealed that when the ingestion of different water temperatures occurred, it affected the sweating response of the participants as well as how much water was taken in. Therefore, the best water temperature to ingest was cool tap water at about 16 degrees Celsius since they drank more but sweated less and drinking water at this temperature was the best action to take for rehydrating dehydrated athletes.

Though this particular study focused on drinking water with different temperatures, it did not measure the internal effects of drinking cold water on the digestive tract and how it can affect the gut in the short-term or long-term as Eastern medicine practices suggest. Although other minor studies were mentioned in the MedicalNewsToday, article Is drinking cold water bad for a person? Also mentioned were other conditions where drinking cold water is not advisable.

Additionally, check out the article What are the benefits of drinking hot water? which offers the other side of the story. The benefits of drinking hot water include: healthier digestion; detoxification; improved circulation; weight loss; reduced pain; fights colds and improves sinus congestion; encourages consumption of other drinks like tea or coffee; and reduced stress.

Whether you choose to drink hot or cold water and fluids, the general consensus in Eastern and Western medicine is that drinking an adequate amount of water is necessary to maintain overall homeostasis in the body for optimum organ functionality. Whether you choose to believe in either the Eastern or Western medical models, dehydration can lead to imbalances in the body that will lead to detrimental effects in the short term or long term if unchecked. This is why water is a restorative essential element of life.



Is drinking cold water bad for a person?

What are the benefits of drinking hot water?

Dr. Mee Lain Ling
8 Reasons To Drink Warm Water

7 Ayurvedic Tips to Drink Water that You Didn’t Know!

The effect of water temperature and voluntary drinking on the post rehydration sweating.

Naturalis Balance
Warm and Cool Foods: Teachings From Traditional Chinese Medicine

The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies: 
Based on the Timeless Wisdom of India’s 5,000-Year-Old Medical System

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