Could Cold Drinks Impact Your Digestion And Your Health? Discover The Evidence-Based Truth

You probably know a thing or two about making healthy choices when it comes to choosing beverages. Hopefully you never drink sodas or sweetened drinks and you only consume certain items– like wine, beer or coffee– in moderation.

But have you ever considered the impact of beverage temperature on your digestive process? Do you add ice cubes to your drinks during meals?

Today we’re going to explore the surprising effects of drinking iced water and other chilled beverages during meals on both your bones and your overall health.

Let’s get started!

A Relatively Recent Craze

Did your mother or grandmother ever tell you that ice water is bad for you? I know mine did. Perhaps people of their generation could offer that perspective because until recently, it was not common to have ice cubes readily available.

It’s easy to forget that freezers, refrigerators and ice makers are relatively new inventions. Before that, ice blocks had to be delivered to be stored in the ice box. But the ice was used for keeping food from spoiling, not for cooling water just to drink in a few minutes.1

Many ancient cultures and even not-so-ancient traditions emphasize the consumption of hot beverages as healthful aides to digestion.2 Some people have attempted to attribute that practice to the necessity of boiling water to be sure it wasn’t contaminated. When it was far more common to die from a water borne illness, they probably noticed that if you only drank hot tea you were less likely to drop dead.

But studies have established that this inherited wisdom reflects more than pre-technological taste preferences, or our ancestors’ incomplete understanding of germs and illness.

Cold Water Slows Down Biological Processes

Like so many truths that surround natural health, when it comes to what temperature of liquid is the best for your digestion, the evidence-backed data corresponds with common sense.3

Think about what cold does to other parts of your body. If blood is rushing to an injury, causing inflammation and swelling, we apply cold to slow everything down. If you put cold water on your skin, it tightens up and your pores close.

Now think about when heat is applied. If you want to stimulate circulation to a sore muscle, you might apply a heating pad, or take a hot bath. If you splash warm water on your face, your skin loosens and your pores open.

Your Insides Work Much The Same

The joys of eating delicious and fresh food are only topped by the youthful energy of a healthy body. But if you’re drinking iced drinks, your digestive system, is going to do what any living organism will do when likewise doused: it will shrivel with shock and attempt to warm itself back up.

It’s remarkable that our body is so capable of regulating its temperature. If you eat something above or below the body’s ideal digesting point (about 100 degrees Fahrenheit) it will immediately set to cooling it down or heating it up.

The problem is that this isn’t what we want our body to be focusing on when we’re providing it with healthy foods to digest and process. We want it to focus on breaking down our food and extracting from it the nutrients that we need for building our bones and maintaining our health.

An Inner Equilibrium Is Ideal For Digestion

Those who follow the Save Our Bones Program consume bone-healthy meals that fit the 80/20 rule for balancing alkalizing and acidifying foods. This nutritional goal serves to maximize your body’s ability to break down food by creating an ideal pH balance for the enzymes that carry out digestion.3

Your kidneys and other systems work to achieve and maintain the pH balance, so when you throw the balance off by eating too many acidifying foods or by exposure to chronic stress (to name a few examples), one consequence is that your body has to expend energy attempting to rectify its pH instead of carrying out other important processes.

The temperature of your digestive tract functions very similarly. The reason your body works to maintain that 100 degree status quo is because that’s the ideal temperature for your enzymes to interact with the food they are supposed to help digest.

The explanation for that is simple physics. As you probably know, temperature is actually a measure of heat energy, gauging how quickly the molecules in a substance are moving or vibrating.

If the contents of your digestive tract are cold, then they aren’t moving around as much, so the enzymes are simply not bumping into as much of the contents of your digestive system. This results in impaired and incomplete digestion. The biggest detriment to drinking icy cold liquids during meals is as simple as that!

Misinformation Abounds

You might have read an overreaching article about how drinking iced beverages is good for you because it burns calories; or about how humans didn’t evolve to drink hot liquids because for thousands of years early humans didn’t know how to make fire. I will address these misleading ideas so you’ll understand why they don’t hold up.

Forcing Your Body To Heat Up Liquids Isn’t A Good Way To Burn Calories

Of course your body has to use energy to heat up cold liquids, and as we know, calories are quite literally a measurement of energy. So while it’s true that your body is burning calories to return to the ideal temperature for digestion, we have to analyze whether that’s a useful way to use energy.

This is where it’s important to remember the value of considering the whole body and whole health. If a solution causes more problems than it solves, then it isn’t really much of a solution. If drinking iced beverages prevents you from getting the nutrients your bones and your body needs, then you’re confounding the goal of eating in the first place.

The most effective way to burn calories is by exercising on a regular basis, not by slowing down the digestive process.4

Live In The Here And Now

If anyone tries to tell you that warm beverages are antithetical to our evolutionary history, remind them that nowadays, we are living many decades longer than our ancestors did a few hundred years ago, not to mention a few thousand years ago.

If that’s the argument for drinking chilled water, you’d do well to remember that there were no ice machines in antiquity. Room temperature distilled water is the best option, no matter what century you’d like to emulate.

And What Happens Next

The other end of the equation for under-digested food also has an impact. The undigested food residue that lingers in your digestive system can be toxic and acidifying, both of which have a deleterious impact on your bones.

For your body, the stress of constantly attempting to correct the temperature of your stomach contents can quite literally wear you out. An overworked digestive system leads to fatigue, and because the cause is coming from such a seemingly innocuous source, it’s unlikely you or anyone else will be able to explain it.

Making Existing Problems Worse

Cold beverages can also cause flare ups of certain health conditions. One study found that for asthmatic children in China, a glass of cold water exacerbated their symptoms.5 And another looked at the impact of chilled water on headaches in women.

That study found that:

“…headache caused by drinking cold water is common in women.”6

Women with a history of migraine were twice as likely to experience a cold-induced headache than other women.

A Better Alternative

I recommend drinking distilled water served warm or at room temperature with a few drops of lemon juice. If you want something different, enjoy warm tea or coffee in moderation. Avoid excessive amounts of black tea, which contains bone-harming fluoride. Instead try an herbal tea, such as chamomile, lemongrass, or hibiscus tea, to name a few.

If you occasionally crave soda, don’t worry, because there are plenty of bone-healthy DIY drinks you can make at home in just minutes. If you haven’t yet, then check out the post titled ‘Crave Soda? Here Are 5 Bone-Healthy Alternatives’, where you’ll find delicious recipes.

It never ceases to surprise me how many culturally accepted norms turn out to be harmful. Take for example the widespread fluoridation of tap water.

Trying to shift away from unhealthy habits can be a bit overwhelming. That’s one of the reasons why I created OsteoCleanse™: to provide you with a simple and powerful starting place to build your bones more efficiently and to improve your well-being.

OsteoCleanse™ is a seven day process that helps your body get rid of toxins (including osteoporosis drugs) and lightens the load on your kidneys and liver, helping you to achieve an alkaline pH and improving your digestion.

Till next time,

References:

1Barbara Krasner-Khait. “The Impact of Refrigeration.” History Magazine. Web: http://www.history-magazine.com/refrig.html
2http://www.acumedic.com/pdf/staffuploads/463_regulateyourdigestion.pdf
3http://www.indiana.edu/~nimsmsf/P215/p215notes/LabManual/Lab12.pdf
3University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Interview with Dietician Andrea Tappe. http://uamshealth.com/healthlibrary2/medicalmyths/doescoldwaterburnmorecalories/
4Lin YZ, Hsieh KH. “Asthma induced by ice water ingestion in ethnic Chinese asthmatic children: a challenge.” Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 1997 Feb;8(1):11-6. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9260213
5Mattsson P. “Headache caused by drinking cold water is common and related to active migraine.” Cephalalgia. 2001 Apr;21(3):230-5. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11442559

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28 comments. Leave Yours Now →
  1. Gilbert January 24, 2017, 1:55 pm

    Thanks for the information Vivian, appreciate the information you’ve provided!

  2. Margo January 17, 2017, 5:55 pm

    Hello, Vivian! I only enjoy water and seltzers with ice cubes; room temperature or moderately cold aren’t thirst quenching. Is it okay to enjoy drinks with ice cubes [people ingest gelato] IN BETWEEN meals and cut out the icy liquids during meals and snacks?
    [J] Margo [Graf]

  3. Margo January 17, 2017, 5:49 pm

    Hello, Vivian! I drink a lot of water as well as Polar and Poland seltzers; I highly prefer ca. 3 ice cubes per very tall glass. This has been the only way I enjoy drinks that are not hot, like herbal teas. I can certainly refrain from the icy liquids during meals or with food. However, is it really harmful to have icy drinks [e.g. people ingest gelato] ? Room temperature or moderately cool liquids don’t quench my thirst and I have never enjoyed them.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA January 18, 2017, 8:05 pm

      Hi Margo,

      It would probably be more harmful if you were to forego drinking water because it’s not cold. Maybe if you gradually reduce the coldness it would help.

  4. Regina January 14, 2017, 12:30 pm

    You mentioned not drinking too much black tea. What about green tea or white tea? Also, would decaffeinated teas be better?

  5. Mona January 13, 2017, 11:16 pm

    Many Asian cultures only drink warm water or water at room temperature! Ideally you should drink water 30 minutes before meals which makes you eat less. When you want to put out the fire, you douse it with cold water and the action stops…same thing applies to your digestion..by drinking cold beverages you’re slowing down the action of digestion which results in under cooked or undigested food! Very important to drink warm liquids after child birth as all your pores ( the bones are fragile at this stage too ) are open and ready to catch any germs + you’ll prevent your stomach from protruding in the postpartum period

  6. jeanne January 13, 2017, 9:47 am

    What about smoothies that use frozen berries?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA January 13, 2017, 5:03 pm

      Hi Jeanne,

      Maybe a cup of hot herbal tea would be a good accompaniment to the smoothie! 🙂 It would also be a good idea to sip a cold smoothie slowly and allow it to warm up in your mouth before swallowing.

  7. shulamit sendowski January 12, 2017, 9:58 pm

    Thanks!

  8. betty s January 12, 2017, 8:50 pm

    Vivian, I order your Densercise and I was wondering what I could do for the one I don’t do very well. Most I can. I’m 81 and in good health. Thanks, Betty

  9. Denise January 12, 2017, 7:41 pm

    I have a T score of -3.4 (left hip) and I’m told to take Reclast. I’m 53 and have been on Pulmicort inhaler for 13+ years. I was told that inhaled cortiosteroids have no effect on my bone mass. Well, I think otherwise. What do you think and what has research shown? The big question is what do I do now? I have also been D deficient for years and suffer from GI issues with malabsorption. Thanks.

  10. Olla January 12, 2017, 6:41 pm

    Seeing protein in ur urine is a sign of what?

    • Mona January 13, 2017, 11:19 pm

      Proteinuria can be a sign of kidney disease. Check with your Doctor.

  11. Angela January 12, 2017, 4:32 pm

    Thanks for your knowledge shared to the world. I suffer from joint pain /inflammation and constipation but from motherly advice and common sense I decided to drink warm water / healthy food I’m getting better every day. Thank God for people like you.

  12. June January 12, 2017, 3:27 pm

    Another thing about iced water told to me by a Russian doctor is that it can make a sore throats very much worse.

    Its easy for me because I absolutely loathe drinking cold water. In a restaurant I have to remember to say ‘no ice’ or send it back. I don’t even like eating ice cream!

  13. Felicia January 12, 2017, 1:34 pm

    I’m realizing now that I read this that when I drink during meals my stomach sometimes hurts right after eating. I could not figure out what on earth causes that, and now I think it could be that when I drink very cold drinks, my stomach hurts. I’ll start drinking room temperature and I think my stomach won’t hurt. thank you, Vivian!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA January 12, 2017, 2:15 pm

      I imagine you were shocking your digestive system, Felicia. Here’s to pain-free meals in the future!

  14. Juli January 12, 2017, 12:49 pm

    Does food temperature have a similar effect? Are we better off to eat soup then, than a cold salad? What about for an older dog with digestive issues – could she benefit from having her food warmed slightly, I wonder?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA January 12, 2017, 2:15 pm

      Interesting, Jull! Few foods are ice-cold, but presumably the same principle would apply. And when you think about it, dogs would never eat refrigerated food in nature, so room temperature or slightly warm food might help!

  15. Helene January 12, 2017, 12:37 pm

    I’ll start tapering down on adding ice cubes in my drinks. I never heard of those bad side effects of drinking cold drinks. A real eye opener!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA January 12, 2017, 12:49 pm

      That’s a good idea, Helene – as I mentioned to Micke below, a gradual adjustment might be easier.

  16. Micke Gehman January 12, 2017, 11:42 am

    What a dilemma. I find that when I’m thirsty room temperature or warm water doesn’t quench my thirst only cold water does.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA January 12, 2017, 12:48 pm

      Maybe you could gradually reduce the temperature of your water, Micke. That might help your body adjust to the warmer drinking water.

  17. Christine January 12, 2017, 10:42 am

    Hmmm… I just turned off my ice maker… Thanks for the good (and common sense) advice!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA January 12, 2017, 11:03 am

      You are welcome, Christine. I am glad you found this helpful!

  18. Karina January 12, 2017, 10:15 am

    What an interesting article, Vivian! I really thank you for all the research you do and then you give us the information here. Happy 2017 to you and your family!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA January 12, 2017, 11:03 am

      You are welcome, Karina! Happy 2017 to you and yours. 🙂

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