Most of us have heard it a hundred times: drink eight glasses of water a day to stay healthy and hydrated. And while hydration is genuinely important for our health, if you’re guzzling all that water with your meals it can actually have a negative impact on your digestion.
It’s true that the entire digestive system works more efficiently when it’s well-hydrated, but this doesn’t mean it should be flooded with cold water right when it’s working to digest your last meal. Too much water during meals can interfere with natural levels of acid and bile needed in the stomach to properly digest your food. In particular, too much cold water during meals can slow digestion and may cause cramping in sensitive individuals.
Tips for Drinking Water with Meals
The general rule of thumb is to avoid drinking water from about 15 minutes before you eat until at least one hour after you eat. But it’s all too common for people to go to extremes with this advice. Avoiding any and all liquids before, during and after meals is rarely needed to see improvements in digestion. Instead, apply these simple tips for drinking at mealtime:
1. Think small sips. You don’t have to forego water during meals altogether. Instead, simply opt to take small sips of water during your meal. This is great for cleansing the palate and maintaining hydration without flooding your digestive system with massive amounts of water just when it’s getting down to business. You can also add a squeeze of lemon or a bit of apple cider vinegar to your water to help aid the digestive process.
2. Choose warm over cold. Iced drinks may be particularly problematic during meals, especially for those with existing digestive issues. If you’d like to have something to sip on during meals, warm liquids are more friendly for digestion. Warm tea or homemade broth are excellent to accompany your meal, and can actually aid digestion rather than impair it.
3. Hydrate before you eat. If you frequently find yourself thirsty during and after your meals, it may help to make a habit of drinking a glass or two of pure water about 15 to 30 minutes before you eat. This can prevent the urge to drink too much water while your stomach is working to digest your meal.
4. Stay hydrated during the rest of the day. Drinking during meals can be a difficult habit to break. However, it’s easier to do if you keep yourself hydrated the rest of the time. Begin your day by drinking a glass or two of pure water and then make a habit of repeating this between meals. Soon you’ll be well-hydrated and won’t crave large amounts of water during your meals.
5. Think moderation. There is no reason to become dogmatic about drinking during meals. Some people find it makes an enormous difference to avoid drinking a lot of liquid during a meal, while others find it has little effect. Others note that simply avoiding ice water or not drinking quite so much water during meals is enough to ease their digestive woes. It will depend on the individual how much of an impact this has on his/her digestion, but it’s worth considering if you have problems with gas, bloating or pain after meals.
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