- As summer heats up, it's easy to grab for ice-cold water
- But for your digestive health, Ayurveda and other Eastern medicine traditions caution against it
- Instead, try drinking water throughout the day at room-temperature and not with meals
I remember traveling with my uncle the summer I turned twelve. It was squelching hot yet he insisted we drink tea at every lunch. I thought he might just be playing up his British side. After all, we were in London and he lived there most of the year.
After expressing my confusion, and preteen pushback, he explained that drinking a warm beverage on a hot day would help stimulate the body’s response to sweat and would provide a refreshing and cooling after effect. We had an agreement that I would always try everything at least one time before rejecting it so I was glad to play along.
Years later my yoga practice led me to learn more about Ayurvedically inspired approaches to diet and hydration. This holistic approach to wellness from India teaches the power of agni or the digestive fires. Agni is the heat that stimulates the digestion of food, promotes healthy bowel movements and good assimilation of nutrients. Additionally, agni is said to also be the fires that help us assimilate or digest our experiences in life. To help activate these fires, Ayurvedic practitioners encourage people to drink warm water before each meal.
As summer heats up, we can find ourselves eating lighter meals and less quantities of food as a natural response to feeling overheated. We might find that we gravitate toward more uncooked, raw foods or even have less of an appetite.
So, to help the digestive process both physically and emotionally, consider drinking a warm cup of water before each meal. While improving digestion, you might also experience the cool-down side effect. While it’s important to stay hydrated, especially throughout the summer, it’s also worth considering how and when you choose to ingest water or other hydrating beverages.
Growing up, my stepdad always insisted on luke warm water at the dinner table. Absolutely no ice. This made me crazy. Who wants to drink luke warm water with a hot meal? I loved the refreshing feel of a cool beverage but he explained his belief that cold drinks slowed the digestion process. Ayurvedically the suggestion would be to separate your cold drinks from your meals.
Maya Tiwari, author of The Path of Practice: A Woman’s Book of Ayurvedic Healing writes, “avoid drinking water or other fluids with [your] meal. The liquid douses the digestive fire and makes the process sluggish. Taking water or fluids after the meal has the same counterproductive effects and promotes lethargy and weight gain.”
Instead, try drinking water throughout the day. Begin the morning with a large glass of water or lemon water. Make sure to drink 16 - 24 ounces before your first cup of coffee or meal. Then, continue hydrating throughout the day focusing on the times between meals.
It’s often said that hunger signals can sometimes actually be dehydration signals so increasing your water intake might help support your metabolism. But most of all, supporting healthy digestive fires helps to support your inner life from an Ayurvedic point of view. Being better equipped to digest your daily experiences helps to lessen reactivity, improves your ability to listen both to yourself and others.