You may have heard that drinking warm or hot water is “good for you”. This advice has been suggested in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for thousands of years.
But why? Could there be physiological differences in the way the body responds to drinking cold versus drinking warm?
The average internal core body temperature of a healthy child or adult is around 37 degrees Celsius. If this temperature is raised by two degrees, the body shows clear signs of distress that we call “fever”.
Using the same principle, TCM suggests we create the opposite effect in the body when we constantly drink iced, refrigerated, or even room temperature fluids. However, signs of distress do not show up in the body as readily as fever, but rather occur over many years, first affecting metabolism and digestion before manifesting negative effects in the health of other organ systems.
In TCM, drinking cold includes any fluids less than 37 degrees Celsius, and creates the basis for unwanted symptoms, pain and chronic diseases to develop.
With this in mind, consider the following 8 reasons to regularly drink WARM (37 – 55 Celsius) to HOT (55 – 75 Celsius) water (but not so hot to cause sweating or burn your tongue).
1. Helps preserve and protect the internal organs, and promotes smooth flow of blood circulation. Drinking refrigerated 3 degree Celsius fluid is like putting your organs into a freezer. Cold has the effect of contracting, slowing and shrinking.
In regards to the body, cold blocks the meridian channels, slows and even congeals blood circulation, and diminishes organ functioning to less than optimal ability.
The expression “brain freeze” from drinking cold or iced drinks is a clear example of this principle.
2. Remedies internal cold patterns of disharmony. Drinking cold can lead to an imbalance in internal body temperature.
Clinically, this may lead to internal cold syndrome which may present as: cold hands and feet, Raynaud’s phenomenon, painful menses in women, varicose veins, weak appetite, poor digestion, abdominal pain, bloating, loose stools, weight gain, chronic fatigue, depression, arthritic pain or chronic pain.
While eating hot spicy foods (especially ginger, cumin, cardamom, nutmeg) may sometimes resolve internal cold, drinking sufficient hot water is the simplest remedy. If still not remedied, then tailored TCM treatments are an effective option.
3. Relieves many different types of symptoms. Drinking room temperature or iced water does not properly cool the body when feeling hot, like after eating hot spicy foods. It often only leads to cold interior that pushes internal heat to the body’s surface, or to a pattern of lower cold (in the abdomen) and upper heat (in the chest). Resulting symptoms can include hot chest, headaches, restless sleep, hotness or sweating at night, irritability, thirst, low energy, sluggish digestion, abdominal gas or cramps, and loose stools.
Simply drinking hot water on a regular basis can help relieve many of these symptoms.
4. Saves the body wasted energy. Organs cannot immediately metabolize fluids that are below 37 degree Celsius core body temperature. This includes 22 degrees room temperature water. So the body is forced to work harder, wasting energy in order to make cold drinks warm enough for the body to use. This energy could have been better spent on healing illness, increasing immunity, etc.
5. Controls appetite while simultaneously protecting organ functions and increasing energy level. Drinking cold or room temperature water suppresses appetite because it contracts the muscles of the gastrointestinal tract causing sluggish digestion. It also causes the body to burn more calories than drinking warm because the body has to work harder to maintain its core body temperature. These are often the reasons why many weight loss programs say drinking cold water helps with weight loss.
BUT from a TCM view, the resulting sustained contraction and reduced circulation from drinking cold only damages the digestive organs, leading to weight gain and digestive disorders in the long term.
6. Helps keep organs hydrated and functioning optimally. Dehydration of organs can occur from long-term drinking cold/cool water. As the cold contracts and slows organ functioning, many people unconsciously become averse to drinking water because they drink cold.
Dehydration may not show up however until you start to drink warm or hot after years of drinking cold or room temperature water. Then you may be more thirsty after drinking warm as the internal organs are activated to “wake up” from their cold-induced slumber. Expect thirstiness to last 15-30 days or more.
7. After physical exercise, helps properly balance the body’s external and internal body temperature. Drinking room temperature or iced water after exercise tends to shock the organs and does not aid in helping the body to properly and naturally cool down. This is because during exercise, internal body heat moves to the body’s surface causing sweating and hot exterior sensations, while in fact the interior has become cooler.
So drinking cold aggravates the already-cold interior. Rather, drinking warm is advised (but not so hot that it induces more sweating), so the body’s surface cools down naturally, and the interior organs are protected by the warm fluids.
8. For children with stomachaches or constipation, drinking plenty of warm water is the #1 easiest and healthiest solution.
Coffee, green and black teas do not count. Caffeinated drinks have a diuretic, not a hydrating effect. Boil tap water and drink hot/warm (i.e. do not take warm water directly from the tap). For flavour, add lemon juice and/or honey to hot water, or buy a selection of caffeine-free herbal teas. And when you eat out, don’t be shy to ask for hot water!
In hot, tropical climates, the body’s Qi already flows more superficially than in those living in colder, damper climates. So it is often enough to drink body core temperature or warm (37 – 55 Celsius) as opposed to “hot” (tea temperature closer to 75 degrees).
To determine if this tip could improve your health, simply experiment with it for 5 to 15 days, paying close attention to, and listening to how your body responds.