As a follow-up to my previous article on hydration, I’d like to address the health factors related to consuming hot (warm) or cold water:
Like everyone else, I enjoy iced water or tea on hot summer days, but is it the healthiest? Well, it depends. If you’ve been exercising or doing some other outdoor activity which increases your body temperature, then yes, cold water is the best. It is absorbed quickly and helps to lower your internal body temperature. It also helps to reduce inflammation and help your muscles recover and repair faster. And of course, it’s refreshing!
But according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic (India) medicine, water is best consumed hot/warm. Doctors and other health professionals in these traditions recommend drinking warm water first thing in the morning upon awakening. There are many health benefits associated with drinking warm water. It can help to decrease stress, improve blood circulation, improve your nervous system by removing accumulated toxins; it can activate glands associated with sweating to remove toxins; it can help with nasal congestion by acting as an expectorant; it can aid in fat loss by temporarily increasing the metabolic rate (due to increased body temperature); and perhaps most important of all, warm water is good for constipation as it causes contractions in the intestines, which aid in elimination.
Warm water aids in digestion overall, and in fact, it’s best to drink warm water (or tea) while eating, as opposed to anything cold. I admit, I’ve had more than my fair share of iced tea while eating (probably an ocean full!), but the reason why the cold is not the best for the digestive system is twofold: it slows the digestion process because the body has to expend energy to warm it, and secondly, the cold can cause a hardening of any oils consumed, resulting in fat deposits in the intestines. In fact, it’s really best to not drink anything cold for several minutes before eating, to give your digestive system time to return to normal internal temperature!
Warm water can also help to alleviate joint pain (because of its lubricating action), as well as cramped muscles and headaches.
Finally, regarding your skin, cold water is good for increasing blood circulation in your skin, aiding the elasticity, while warm water pulls the circulation inward, and can reduce the natural oils on the skin. In some cases, though, this can be beneficial, as warm water is good for acne.
Overall, my best advice is if you have some health issues (digestive, cramps, etc.) where drinking warm water could be beneficial, then it’s certainly worth a try. If you’re an avid exerciser, are participating in warm weather activities, etc., then always re-hydrate with fresh, cold water (and like I’ve said before, stay away from the sugary sports drinks). And follow your body’s signals and desires—if you’re feeling good and you wish to enjoy iced tea with lunch or dinner, then there’s no harm in that!
(Personal note: Years ago, I remember my mother telling me how her mother used to drink hot water. Grandmothers always know best!)